The Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has brought about a new normal for many of us. Countries have implemented travel restrictions, airlines have cancelled flights, certain borders have been closed and many individuals are under quarantine orders.
Due to these evolving changes, individuals who entered the U.S. on a B1/B2 visa or with an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) may find themselves unable to leave the United States for COVID-19 related reasons. However, remaining in the U.S. beyond your period of admission can have serious immigration implications. As such, individuals who entered the U.S. on a B1/B2 visa or with ESTA may need to request an extension of stay to avoid the immigration implications of overstaying their admission.
Extensions for B1/B2 Visas
Individuals who enter the U.S. on a B1/B2 visa are given an I-94/admission stamp, which details their visa category, date of admission, and their “admit-until date”. B1/B2 visa holders are required to depart the U.S. prior to or on their “admit-until date”. However, if they are unable to depart the U.S. by that date, they may request an extension of status with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If USCIS receives the request before their I-94 expires and the individual has not otherwise violated their status, then they may generally remain in the U.S. until USCIS makes a decision on their extension request.
An individual may also request an extension of status after their I-94 expires, however, USCIS does not typically grant these requests unless there are compelling unforeseen circumstances warranting approval. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that you speak to an experienced immigration attorney before submitting an B1/B2 visa extension request with USCIS.
Satisfactory Departure for ESTA/ Visa Waiver Program Entrants
The Visa Waiver Program allows most citizens or nationals of participating countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business without obtaining a visa for trips lasting no more than 90 days. Travelers must have a valid ESTA approval and must meet certain requirements prior to travel.
Typically, individuals who enter the U.S. with ESTA are not eligible to extend their stay beyond their period of admission. However, if an emergency prevents them from departing on time, U.S. immigration officials may, at their discretion, grant an extension entitled, “Satisfactory Departure”, for a period not exceeding 30 days. Satisfactory Departure requests are generally handled by the USCIS, however, since USCIS has temporarily suspended in-person services due to COVID-19, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is currently adjudicating these requests at ports of entry and Deferred Inspection offices. At this time, each port of entry has different procedures and requirements for Satisfactory Departure requests, so it is important that you contact an experienced immigration attorney to guide you through the process.
Lastly, it is important to note that submitting a B1/B2 visa extension request or Satisfactory Departure request after your status has expired can have serious immigration implications. For this reason, we strongly recommend that you speak with an experienced immigration attorney as soon as possible if you believe you will need an extension of status.
Wilner & O’Reilly is a multi-state law firm exclusively dedicated to the practice of immigration law. During these uncertain times, we at Wilner & O’Reilly are closely monitoring developments related to COVID-19 so that we can provide individuals with the up-to-date immigration information they need. For individualized advice on your immigration situation, please feel free to contact us. We offer free consultations at our offices in Orange, Riverside, Fresno, Sacramento, and San Francisco, California; Salt Lake City and Orem, Utah; and Boise, Idaho.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
JULIANA RAMIREZ – ATTORNEY
Juliana Ramirez is an associate attorney at Wilner & O’Reilly. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of California, Santa Barbara and her Juris Doctorate from Southwestern Law School, where she graduated in the top 30% of her class. Mrs. Ramirez is admitted to the California State Bar. Mrs. Ramirez has dedicated her legal career to the practice of immigration law. She has extensive experience assisting clients with both employment-based and family-based immigration solutions. Also, as the daughter of an immigrant, she takes great pride in providing clients with tailor-made solutions to their individual situations and counseling them through the immigration process.
RICHARD WILNER – FOUNDING PARTNER
Richard M. Wilner is a founding member of Wilner & O’Reilly, APLC and is Board Certified by the State Bar of California as a Specialist in Immigration and Nationality Law. He is admitted to practice law in the State of California and before the U.S. District Courts for the Central, Northern and Southern Districts of California, the Northern District of Texas, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court.Mr. Wilner has received the coveted Martindale-Hubbell AV Rating, the highest legal and ethical rating that one can receive from one’s peers in the legal community. Similarly, he has been awarded the title of Super Lawyer from 2007 to the present. He is best known for his work in advising Fortune 500 companies, middle and small market businesses, entrepreneurs and foreign nationals of extraordinary ability in athletics, arts, and sciences in the complex area of U.S. Immigration and Nationality Law.