With the rapid spread of the Coronavirus (COVID 19), the United States has taken several measures to close its borders and ground international flights to keep the public safe. This means that at least some foreign nationals admitted under the VWP have been unable to depart before their periods of admission expired under the VWP. As you may be aware, the VWP allows citizens or nationals of certain participating countries the ability to travel to the United States for a temporary period of 90 days or less without having to obtain a United States visa. One of the downsides to the VWP is that no extensions of stay are allowed.
Thankfully, a little-known provision in the law known as “Satisfactory Departure” provides relief to VWP aliens who have found themselves “stuck” in the United States.
What is Satisfactory Departure? How does it help me?
VWP entrants who were unable to depart the United States, before their period of admission expired, due to the ongoing Coronavirus travel restrictions, may request “Satisfactory Departure,” from either their local United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office or from a Deferred Inspection Site with Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
These agencies have been authorized to grant these individuals a period of up to 30 days (in excess of the period of VWP admission) in which to depart the United States. As long as the traveler leaves within that 30-day window, he or she will not be considered to have violated U.S. immigration laws by overstaying.
Additionally, on April 13, 2020 USCIS announced that individuals under VWP who have already been granted a 30-day period of Satisfactory Departure and continue to be unable to depart the United States during that window of time due to the Coronavirus, can request an additional grant of 30 days of satisfactory departure from USCIS. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has sent a letter to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Ports of Entry asking them to also grant requests for subsequent periods of satisfactory departure. At this time additional requests for satisfactory departure must be made with USCIS.
Requesting Satisfactory Departure at a Local USCIS Office
We have received information that local USCIS offices are facilitating remote requests for Satisfactory Departure and local offices are adjudicating Satisfactory Departure requests.
If you are a VWP entrant who was unable to depart the United States before your period of admission expired due to the novel Coronavirus, you should request Satisfactory Departure either from your local USCIS office or at a Deferred Inspection Site at a CBP port of entry as outlined below.
First let’s discuss the procedure for requesting Satisfactory Departure with USCIS:
- The Satisfactory Departure requestor (VWP alien) should contact the USCIS Contact Center indicating that they wish to request Satisfactory Departure. The phone number for the USCIS Contact Center is 800-375-5283.
- The USCIS Contact Center representative will ask limited questions to determine if the requestor appears eligible (e.g. admitted visa waiver, applying timely).
- The USCIS Contact Center representative will then instruct the requestor to send an e-mail to them with “Satisfactory Departure” written in the subject line and to include an image of their passport biographic page(s), reason for requesting Satisfactory Departure, and any additional contact information. The email should include the following:
- Date and place most recently entered the United States on a visa waiver;
- Reason for requesting Satisfactory Departure;
- Contact information;
- An image (attachment) of the biographic page(s) of their passport.
- The USCIS Contact Center will then forward that e-mail to the USCIS Field Office located nearest to the requestor.
- A designated “Satisfactory Departure officer” at the USCIS Field Office will review the documentation and then process the request and notify the applicant of the decision by creating a Service Request Management Tool (SRMT) number and emailing the applicant.
Requesting Satisfactory Departure at a CBP Deferred Inspection Site
At the moment, the following CBP ports of entry have established procedures for requesting Satisfactory Departure (applicants must contact their Deferred Inspection Site here).
- Albuquerque, New Mexico
- Atlanta, Georgia
- Boston-Logan International Airport—Boston, Massachusetts
- Chicago O’ Hare International Airport—Chicago, Illinois
- Denver, Colorado
- Detroit, Michigan
- Honolulu, Hawaii
- Houston, Texas
- Jacksonville, Florida
- John F. Kennedy International Airport—New York, New York
- Los Angeles International Airport—Los Angeles, California
- Memphis, Tennessee
- Miami International Airport—Miami, Florida
- Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- Nashville, Tennessee
- Newark, New Jersey
- Orlando, Florida
- Raleigh Durham Airport—Raleigh, North Carolina
- San Diego International—San Diego, California
- San Francisco International—San Francisco, California
- Seattle, Washington
- Washington DC, Dulles Airport
- Portland, Oregon
The process of requesting Satisfactory Departure from CBP varies depending on the location. For the purposes of this post we will discuss the process for the three sites located in California: San Diego International Airport, San Francisco International, and Los Angeles International (LAX).
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
Satisfactory Departure requests are being granted at this location for VWP entrants admitted through LAX, ONT and SNA airports. Travelers seeking relief should either visit the CBP Deferred Unit Office at 300 N. Los Angeles Street Room 2067 Los Angeles, CA 90012 or send an email to I94LAX@CBP.DHS.GOV.
- The Satisfactory Departure requestor (VWP alien) should visit the LAX CBP Deferred Inspection site in person or contact them by email indicating that they wish to request Satisfactory Departure.
- Deferred Inspection Office Address: 300 N. Los Angeles Street Room 2067 Los Angeles, CA 90012
- Hours of Operation: M-Th 8AM-12 PM, 1 PM-4:30 PM (Closed on Fridays)
- Telephone: 213-830-5964
- Fax: (213) 830-5939
- Email: I94LAX@CBP.DHS.GOV
- The applicant’s period of stay must expire in 14 days or less from the day he or she contacts CBP Deferred Inspection Office
- Applicants must provide passport biographical page and provide original departure flight itinerary along with confirmation of future travel arrangements to depart the United States
San Diego International Airport
- The Satisfactory Departure requestor (VWP alien) must visit the San Diego International Airport CBP Deferred Inspection site in person indicating that they wish to request Satisfactory Departure. No appointments are necessary. No email or mail-in requests are allowed. Exceptions may be made for travelers with documented medical issues that cannot appear in person.
- Deferred Inspection Office: San Diego International Airport, 3225 N. Harbor Drive, San Diego, California, Terminal 2, Curbside Entrance V
- Phone number: (619) 491-2680
- Hours of Operation: Monday through Friday 12 PM-3 PM
- Applicants must provide:
- Original passport plus copy of biodata page
- Page with ESTA entry stamp
- I-94 record
- Copy of initial travel itinerary
- Proof of cancelled flight
- Proof of residency outside the US (e.g., lease, utility bill, pay statement, etc.)
- Local address where traveler will be staying during 30-day extension period
San Francisco International Airport
San Francisco CBP may accept certain requests, at their discretion, for Satisfactory Departure for Visa Waiver Program entrants on a case by case basis only for those that were admitted through San Francisco’s jurisdiction and remain in status. Whether CBP will continue to be willing to accept requests at this location is fluid.
This office is taking a strict approach to Satisfactory Departure requests and are fearful of a potentially high volume of inappropriate requests. For this reason, please be cautious when thinking of submitting a request at this office. You may wish to apply for Satisfactory Departure directly with USCIS.
Note that these requests are for extraordinary circumstances out of the individual’s control. Supporting documentation of the specific emergency for the individual is required (i.e., flight cancellation). Requests based on an individual’s desire to stay due to health concerns will be denied. Requests based on an individual’s inability to leave may be approved. Note that the circumstances cannot be of the individual’s own making (i.e., chose to not fly on a prior flight and subsequent flight cancelled).
- Email Deferred Inspections (email@example.com) the following as minimum requirements:
1) Individual’s full name, DOB, Passport Number, I-94 number and date of issuance,
2) Reason for the request and documentation enabling validation of the request (i.e., original flight itinerary, evidence of flight cancellation or other travel prohibition, documents from Physician or other entity if not a medical issue detailing reason for delay in timely departure), and
3) G- 28. (if applicable)
We encourage all VWP entrants to apply for Satisfactory Departure as soon as possible. Failure to depart the United States at the end of your period of admission can lead to serious immigration consequences in the future. Be proactive about your situation and contact us today to help file your request for Satisfactory Departure.
For more COVID 19 related immigration updates please visit our Immigration and COVID-19 Resource Center here.