How to Navigate Your Visa or “Non-Visa” ESTA Status During a Pandemic
“All flights are cancelled; I am here on a 90 day visa waiver; and it expires next week what should I do”? These are questions our lawyers at ScottVassell & LeeCC answer daily. We hope this short article post will reduce anxiety and allow you to safeguard your current U.S. ESTA visa waiver or temporary visa status set to expire amidst the pandemic.
It is very important to keep an eye on ‘future reentry’ to the United States versus the short-term crises. While overstaying a visa or visa waiver without acting seems plausible due to COVID-19, it should not be an option. Temporary visas are issued by the Department of State (“DOS”) at U.S. Consulates abroad. The decision by DOS to extend a visa in the future is solely discretionary with no right of appeal. It is therefore incumbent upon any individual in the United States holding temporary visa status or registered in the ESTA visa waiver program to take aggressive steps to protect your status.
ESTA Visa Waiver Program
The ESTA visa waiver program is largely administered by U.S. Customs Border and Patrol (“CBP”), a division of the Department of Homeland Security. You should seek immigration counsel’s legal advice on how to manage your ESTA visa waiver, since this is not an actual visa. Our office connects directly with a land border or with U.S. CBP at the airports to document our clients’ visa waiver dilemma. We request government approval to remain in the United States.
The ESTA program requires a foreign national to sign a “contract” to waive all rights to courts and appeals if one overstays his or her visa. In circumstances beyond a client’s control, however, we have connected with the U.S. Ports of Entry through CBP to ensure our clients do not forfeit legal rights and their ability to use the ESTA program in the future.
Temporary Visa Status
While U.S. Immigration laws allow for an individual in temporary visitor visa status (B-1/B-2, F-1, H-1B, J-1 Au Pair, etc.) to later argue why he or she overstayed their visa, the U.S. Consulate abroad may still deny reentry. It can get complicated for a temporary visitor to reenter the United States in the future. Rather, visa extensions may be obtained by hiring a U.S. immigration attorney to renew one’s visa in advance of expiration with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services.
We invite you to contact our Immigration lawyers by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us www.vasselllaw.com for our contact information conveniently listed. We offer an initial free 20 min video and in-office consultation.