Many foreign nationals have found themselves unexpectedly unable to depart the United States due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This presents a particular challenge for individuals present in the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), often referred to as ESTA, a category which precludes standard status extension options. In response to COVID-19, the US Customs and Border Protection has taken steps to facilitate the ability of VWP travelers to lawfully remain in the US beyond the allowed 90-day period of stay. This Client Alert discusses this option as well as recent tax policy developments intended to address the US tax consequences facing many VWP travelers.
The COVID-19 pandemic’s global impact does not automatically change compliance rules for immigration, tax, or any other area of law. However, the pandemic has brought about an ever-changing series of accommodations and exceptions, each with their own limits and requirements. The recent CBP and IRS guidance are perfect examples, and the longer we are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the more such developments will emerge.