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I was admitted to the US as a visitor for a period which expires soon. Until tonight, I had solid plans to return to Europe soon, prior to the expiration of the visa entry, but that is no longer an option. I do not wish to overstay or do anything that would cause problems with future admissions or visa applications. However, I can't go back to Europe because of new travel restrictions put in place by the US government (/resulting flight cancellations).

My passport still has years of validity left.

What is the best course of action?
Is there any official guidance on this subject?

I am a little concerned that contacting officials to explain the situation would just lead me to be flagged for prompt enforcement action, but I don't want future problems.


Related: Basically the same question, but for someone stuck in China and Ukraine.


Update: OP now planning an escape to Canada. The question still stands, though.

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    Why is it no longer an option to return to Europe? What specific restriction prevents it? Were you admitted under the visa waiver program or with a B visa? – phoog Mar 12 at 2:45
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    @phoog Q1-2: bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-51846923 / whsv.com/content/news/… In a televised address [about 90 minutes ago], [US President Trump] said all travel between Europe and the US would be suspended for the next 30 days. Q3: Does it make a difference? I feel like one version would be closed as a duplicate of the other, and there are probably folks wondering this in both classes, so it's better to stay general. – WBT Mar 12 at 2:47
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    The order suspends entry, not exit, if I read the DHS page correctly. There have been repatriation flights eg from China in similar cases. – Traveller Mar 12 at 6:00
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    @Traveller if airlines can't get flights in, I don't think they're likely to be sending flights out. – WBT Mar 12 at 12:44
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    @WBT another question here is from a spouse of a US citizen wanting to fly to the US from Germany in a few days. The flight has not yet been cancelled. The ban on travel from Europe does not yet look like an impediment to flying to Europe. Capacity will probably be reduced, but it may not be eliminated. – phoog Mar 12 at 13:10
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The Proclamation suspends entry to the US of people who have been to the Schengen Area within the last 14 days, other than US citizens and permanent residents, and immediate family of US citizens and permanent residents. It does not affect exit from the US to the Schengen Area, and it does not suspend flights between the US and the Schengen Area (though some airlines might cancel some flights between the US and the Schengen Area due to lower demand due to the people banned).

There can still be direct flights flying from the Schengen Area to the US, as long as they are carrying only US citizens and permanent residents, or their immediate family members. And those flights can carry people back from the US to the Schengen Area. As a case in point, Air China still runs a small number of direct flights between the US and China in both directions, even though a similar ban has applied to Mainland China since Feb 2.

And of course, you can always find itineraries through a 3rd country airport outside the Schengen Area, which will likely be less affected by cancellations than direct flights.

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  • What about people transiting through the Schengen area? Does the ban apply to someone traveling on (e.g.) Air France from Dakar to the US? What about flights from (e.g.) Singapore to the US with a stop non Frankfurt? Would passengers not leaving the plane be affected? – phoog Mar 12 at 13:12
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    @phoog That is a different question, which requires a new answer. It does not appear to apply to the OPs question. – 0 0 Mar 12 at 13:22
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    How many flights realistically will there be, though, if nobody's allowed in from the Schengen area who's not a US citizen/PR? Seems unlikely for there to be many flights... – Joe Mar 12 at 13:39
  • @OO perhaps so. I am merely seeking a clarification of the statement in this answer that "hhh"; if that clarification is not relevant to the question at hand, perhaps a link to the proclamation would be sufficient. – phoog Mar 12 at 13:44
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    @AleksG My guess is not for long. Even they aren't allowed to carry passengers that have been to Schengen (i.e. any British resident who has been skiing recently), so there won't be much inbound traffic as they also cannot sell flights to people from the continent. In Italy BA had no qualms leaving people stranded, to avoid empty inbound flights. – Marianne013 Mar 12 at 16:53
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+500

The procedure for getting extra time in the US is different depending on whether you entered under a B visa or under the visa waiver program (VWP).

Most European visitors will have used the VWP. In that case, there is a regulatory provision for an extension of up to 30 days called "satisfactory departure" (8 CFR 217.3(a)):

§ 217.3 Maintenance of status.

(a) Satisfactory departure. If an emergency prevents an alien admitted under this part from departing from the United States within his or her period of authorized stay, the district director having jurisdiction over the place of the alien's temporary stay may, in his or her discretion, grant a period of satisfactory departure not to exceed 30 days. If departure is accomplished during that period, the alien is to be regarded as having satisfactorily accomplished the visit without overstaying the allotted time.

However, it is not at all obvious how one would apply for satisfactory departure. There is no information about this on the main USCIS website, and the USCIS appointment system website says

If you are inside the United States, you can no longer schedule an appointment online using InfoPass for domestic offices.

(See below in the comments for a report from Crazydre that USCIS is referring people in this situation to CBP deferred inspection centers.)

Even if you could manage a 30-day extension under satisfactory departure, it won't help if you are required to remain in the US for more than 30 days beyond the expiration of your allowed period of stay.

Visitors with B visas may apply to extend their stay. Note that the relevant date is the I-94 date, not the visa expiration date. The application is somewhat costly ($370 plus $85 for biometric services), and may not be decided before you actually leave, but filing the application before the expiration of the admission period shown on the I-94 will protect you against various negative consequences of overstaying. It also demonstrates good faith.

If you do not know your I-94 expiration date, you may look it up at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov.


Yesterday, I noted in a comment (on an answer that has since been deleted) that it might be easier to get to Canada or another country to avoid overstaying in the US. You have now edited the question to note that you intend to do just that. In that case, then, it might be useful to note that it is legally permissible for you to reenter the US quite soon after leaving, although that is subject to the discretion of the officer at the border, and the likelihood of being permitted to do so will probably be fairly small if you've just been in the US for close to 90 days (VWP) or six months (B visa).

Furthermore, there is confusion (even among government officers) about the conditions concerning "short trips" to adjacent countries by VWP visitors, so returning to the US may be more difficult for VWP visitors in this position. Such a person might be able to get a B visa while in Canada if necessary.

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  • @WBT I was referring to emory's (now deleted) answer discussing extension of status (which is expensive and not available to VWP visitors). I'll add the link to this answer since that answer is now deleted. – phoog Mar 12 at 21:21
  • Satisfactory departure can be applied for at CBP Deferred inspection centres – Crazydre Apr 19 at 13:53
  • @Crazydre what's the basis for that assertion? From the regulations, it appears that this is a function of USCIS, not CBP. – phoog Apr 24 at 17:13
  • USCIS offices are closed, and the USCIS contact centre told me people in situation are to seek out the CBP – Crazydre Apr 24 at 19:53
  • @Crazydre is that information online anywhere? I will add that to my answer but it would be nice to have a link. – phoog Apr 25 at 4:04
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The restrictions apply from midnight on Friday. It's not clear whether that means midnight between Thursday and Friday, or midnight between Friday and Saturday. Either way, there is time to get on a flight. Contact your airline.

The ban does not apply to the UK. Can you re-route via a UK airport? Some airlines are waiving change fees - contact your airline.

If you find you really can't leave before the restrictions start, contact your embassy, or contact the US Customs and Border Protection (1-877-227-5511) for advice.

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  • ’s Pass That might depend on where in Europe the OP needs to return to. Airlines have been cancelling flights from U.K. to European destinations. – Traveller Mar 12 at 6:31
  • Thank you for your answer. Unfortunately, travel insurance does not cover epidemics and last-minute flights are out-of-budget. Also in my prior experience of needing travel insurance to get out of a place quickly due to pending disaster, the insurance wound up causing a lot of additional work without even the specifically advertised benefits. – WBT Mar 12 at 12:45
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    @WBT "out of budget" is unlikely to be an acceptable excuse for the US authorities. Is a last minute flight more expensive than remaining in the US for an extra month? – phoog Mar 12 at 13:15
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    @phoog YES. If every one in OP's situation bid on the last remaining flights, then we should expect the prices to go astronomical and most of them will lose and stay in OP's position. – emory Mar 12 at 18:52
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    @emory staying for an extra month in the US could cost several thousand dollars in meals and accommodation. Obviously, it could be a lot less if the person has a free place to stay and/or access to a kitchen, but if I were in that position I'd probably pay the premium to get home. – phoog Mar 12 at 19:01
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I see such questions pop up all the time and I wonder:

Did you ask the embassy of your country and/or the US border administration? Even if they do not yet have all the answers, whatever they may answer has more weight than anything on here and can be used to defend yourself in case there are any problems with the information. Basically, if you do as the US border guards tell you, it'll be much more difficult for them to find you at fault, even if they told you wrong (that's why e-mail might be smarter than a phone call).

You are almost certainly not the only person in this situation, and they will almost certainly have a protocol to resolve the situation, if not today then in the next days.

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    When entering, the conversation with the border guards went like this: "Do you have solid plans for leaving?" "Yes, here are my plane tickets." "OK, make sure you use them. <entry stamp>" I've also seen cases where people who reach out to ICE/CBP to ask questions just make themselves easy targets for enforcement actions with severe penalties, so I'm not sure it's a good idea to contact them directly. – WBT Mar 12 at 12:41
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    In my experience, much depends on how you talk to people. You are never safe from the occasional asshole, but in general asking for advise works. – Tom Mar 12 at 16:17
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    @Martha OP is a potential visa-overstayer (through no fault of their own). I do not think poorly of them. However, this current administration has decided the law requires them to separate children from parents. So it would not surprise me terribly if the administration thinks overstayers belong in prison. – emory Mar 12 at 18:26
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    All of this discussion makes the other option offered (contacting the embassy or consulate of your country) seem much more attractive ... (I know they are not the arbiters of US immigration policy, but in contrast to US agencies, helping their nationals is part of their job) – Ben Bolker Mar 13 at 0:37
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    (looks at the top of the page... nope, not politics.se)... please don't turn this into a personal/political diatribe. – CGCampbell Mar 13 at 16:23
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I am a little concerned that contacting officials to explain the situation would just lead me to be flagged for prompt enforcement action.

Nope, on the contrary it's exactly what to do.

For Visa Waiver Program (VWP) visitors, per this government regulation (§ 217.3):

If an emergency prevents an alien admitted under [VWP] from departing from the United States within his or her period of authorized stay, the district director having jurisdiction over the place of the alien's temporary stay may, in his or her discretion, grant a period of satisfactory departure not to exceed 30 days. If departure is accomplished during that period, the alien is to be regarded as having satisfactorily accomplished the visit without overstaying the allotted time.

As such, the visitor is to go to the nearest CBP deferred inspection site (a list of which is found here) and request a "satisfactory departure" extension, bringing the passport and any documentation proving the booked flight was cancelled with no suitable alternative available within the admission period.

For visa holders, an extension of status can be requested for $370 with the USCIS.

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I had solid plans to return to Europe soon, prior to the expiration of the visa entry, but that is no longer an option.

Whenever visas or immigration are involved, never "simply assume something like this is a fact". Especially if the source is from news media of some kind, or even worse, hearsay.

Consider your conversation here: Oh, so clever ... by web-argument standards. You claim flights TO Europe are canceled, supported with links that don't say that at all. When called out on that, you "yeah-but" a wild arm-wave about deadheading aircraft, but you're not Juan Trippe, you don't know how airlines work. The problem with web arguments is they come off as cock-and-bull stories. Can you imagine having this conversation in 2021 at the immigration desk at JFK with $3000 of air tickets at risk (i.e. the wasted round trip, plus the "gotcha" price the airline will charge you for a last-minute refusal fly-back). I wouldn't want that to be my story.

  • Because if your facts are wrong, and everyone else in your situation was able to get out of the US, then it just looks like you overstayed on purpose.

  • And the IO would certainly call out why you waited so late to book the return flight.

So what you should do is disregard what you've "heard" and make every best effort to book the travel in compliance with your visa conditions. Spend at least an hour or two earnestly trying to book it. And ideally, work through a travel agent, and if the agent tries and fails, have them give you a written letter to the effect that they were unable. That letter becomes your "get out of jail free" card vis-a-vis the overstay.

I hear you're going to Canada; that's a great example of "thinking outside the box". Now, imagine the backside of that, and your assumptions about travel east were true after all. The 2021 interview goes "Wow, look at your dates. We've had thousands of people in your circumstances just overstay. Why'd you go to Canada?" "To respect your immigration laws". smile "Welcome to the USA."

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