17 Apr Covid-19 Pandemic US Visa & Entry Issues.
The disruptions in travel caused by COVID-19 have left many in a state of uncertainty regarding their US visa status or their ability to travel to the US. Our office is providing advice to individuals affected by travel restrictions or other issues related to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Maintaining Your US Visa Status During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The current COVID-19 crisis has developed issues that would not exist in normal times. Many people who would leave before their period of allowed stay expires must remain in the US to remain safe. Currently, there are two main forms of relief to prevent a person from falling out of legal visa status while in the US, depending on whether an individual entered the United States with a visa or visa-free under the Visa Waiver Program.
Individuals who entered the United States with ESTA authorization using the Visa Waiver Program should first check their period of allowed stay which is found in their I-94 record which indicates the date the person entered the US and their status expiry date. A person can access their I-94 Record of Entry on the US Customs and Border Protection web site. If a person’s period of stay is due to expire and they are unable to travel because of COVID-19 related issues, they may be eligible for Satisfactory Departure to maintain their status in the United States. Satisfactory Departure grants an individual an extension of 30 days during which they must make their departure from the United States. According to USCIS, if an individual who is granted Satisfactory Departure is unable to depart within these 30 days because the emergency continues they may reapply for an additional 30 day period of Satisfactory Departure during which they will not accrue unlawful presence. This is important because is someone does nothing and remain in the US for 180 days after their status expires and they then depart the US, they will be barred from re-entering the US for three years.
Those who have entered the United States with a visa may be eligible for a Change or Extension of Status to allow them to remain in the United States lawfully if their period of stay under their current visa category is coming to an end. Any individual applying for a Change or Extension of Status must make every effort to ensure that the USCIS receives their application or petition to change or extend their status on or before their current visa status expires. However, USCIS may consider COVID-19 related delays to determine whether a delay in filing can be excused due to extraordinary circumstances beyond an applicant’s control.
Traveling to the US During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Those who have been in China, Iran, Ireland, United Kingdom or in a country in the Schengen Zone for 14 days before travel currently cannot board flights to fly to the US. Please see our initial blog posting which sets out limited exceptions under President Trump’s Proclamation.
Our firm is also seeing that those who could normally travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program and have valid ESTA authorization are having their ESTA authorization canceled if they book a flight to the US to fly from one of the countries covered under the President’s Proclamation. ESTA authorization cancellations due solely to the COVID-19 Proclamations will not prevent travelers from applying for ESTA again. US Customs and Border Patrol indicates that travelers should cancel or postpone travel until they are no longer subject to the Proclamation or the Proclamations are rescinded.
If your ESTA has been canceled or you fall under one of the exceptions to the travel restrictions which we discussed on our firm’s blog and need to travel to the United States please contact our office to obtain advice on liaising with the various US government agencies to obtain entry to the US.
For further information on maintaining your visa status in the US or traveling to the US during the COVID-19 travel bank, please contact our office at email@example.com. Currently we are all working remotely so if you wish to call our office, please leave a message and we will call you back.