Can my ESTA waiver visitor from Japan extend her stay here with us until it is safe to return to Japan?

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    Many countries have introduced special rules for VISA extensions, best is to call the local immigrations and check what the rules are because they change sometimes daily and heavily depends on source and destination country as well as passport issuing country Mar 5, 2020 at 6:25
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    @Betty Weir Your question title asks one thing, while your actual question is different. Related question travel.stackexchange.com/questions/73937/…
    – Traveller
    Mar 5, 2020 at 7:19
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    How long has she been in the US, and how much would she plan to stay? If she was planning to stay a week and will stay for 2 months instead, other than the possibility of additional questioning (trivially resolved) next time, it shouldn't be an issue. If she was already planning to stay 3 months and will now stay a year, then no.
    – jcaron
    Mar 5, 2020 at 12:07
  • @Betty Weir If your visitor is considering extending her stay up to the maximum 90 days allowed under the VWP, before doing so she should check that she has adequate health insurance for that length of stay, for both Covid-19 and any other sickness/dental medical needs in general. travel.stackexchange.com/questions/154644/…
    – Traveller
    Mar 6, 2020 at 10:09
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    That's another question, but IMO Japan will be much safer than the U.S. very soon, given what the current U.S. administration has been doing... It might be in their best interest to return to Japan ASAP.
    – xuq01
    Mar 6, 2020 at 18:36

2 Answers 2


Someone who entered on the Visa Waiver Program cannot apply for Extension of Status (i.e. extend their stay on VWP) or Change of Status (i.e. change to another nonimmigrant status, e.g. B2 visitor). However, there is something called "satisfactory departure" which can be granted to VWP visitors who cannot leave within their 90 days of admission due to an emergency like hospitalization or natural disaster in the US, to allow them to stay for an additional period of at most 30 days.

This USCIS page says you can try contacting the USCIS contact center to request satisfactory departure:

Flexibility for Visa Waiver Entrants. Visa Waiver Program (VWP) entrants are not eligible to extend their stay or change status. However, under current regulations, if an emergency (such as COVID-19) prevents the departure of a VWP entrant, USCIS in its discretion may grant up to 30 days to allow for satisfactory departure. Please see 8 CFR 217.3(a). For those VWP entrants already granted satisfactory departure and unable to depart within this 30-day period because of COVID-19 related issues, USCIS has the authority to temporarily provide an additional 30-day period of satisfactory departure. To request satisfactory departure from USCIS, a VWP entrant should call the USCIS Contact Center.

The CBP has also announced that they are granting satisfactory departure:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced today that Visa Waiver Program travelers who have been granted satisfactory departure may apply for an additional 30-day extension of their admission period if they remain unable to depart the United States because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).


Visa Waiver Program travelers may seek satisfactory departure by contacting:

  1. Any local CBP Port of Entry or Deferred Inspection Site; or
  2. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Contact Center.

Travelers should be prepared to provide their passport number when submitting their request.


No, they cannot extend their stay in the US beyond 90 days, which is the maximum allowed on ESTA/VWP.

I also suspect she will soon be safer in Japan than the US, but that's another story...

  • 1
    There is some provision for extending VWP visits in cases of medical need, but that would apply if the visitor were (for example) hospitalized, not in a case like this. Other options for a VWP visitor would include asylum or TPS (but the latter is made available on a country-by-country basis, not individually).
    – phoog
    Mar 5, 2020 at 15:14
  • @lambshaanxy You may well be right, if this media item is anything to go by qz.com/1810869/…
    – Traveller
    Mar 5, 2020 at 15:57
  • Thank You. We really hate to see her go back at this time. The airline she was going to be taking is not going to that airport, due to the virus. She has been here on two other visits and returned to Japan before the 90 days was up in case something should cause a delay. She would be returning after the 20th of March. This time, her own family there has warned her to stay here longer. We would be more than willing to accommodate her here for another 30 days in hopes that warmer weather would cause the coronavirus to disappear. But we will abide by the rules if this isn't possible.
    – Betty Weir
    Mar 6, 2020 at 12:51

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