Exchange Visitor Program Information on Coronavirus (COVID-19)

UPDATED 04/01/21

Presidential Proclamation 10052, which temporarily suspended the entry of certain H-1B, H-2B, J (for certain categories within the Exchange Visitor Program), and L nonimmigrants, expired on March 31, 2021. Visa applicants who have not yet been interviewed or scheduled for an interview will have their applications prioritized and processed in accordance with existing phased resumption of visa services guidance.  Visa applicants who were previously refused visas due to the restrictions of Presidential Proclamation 10052 may reapply by submitting a new application including a new fee. The resumption of routine visa services, prioritized after services to U.S. citizens, is occurring on a post-by-post basis, consistent with the Department’s guidance for safely returning our workforce to Department facilities.  U.S. Embassies and Consulates have continued to provide emergency and mission-critical visa services since March 2020 and will continue to do so as they are able.  As post-specific conditions improve, our missions will begin providing additional services, culminating eventually in a complete resumption of routine visa services.  Applicants should check the website of their nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for updates on the services that post is currently offering.

UPDATED 02/24/21

On February 24, President Biden rescinded Presidential Proclamation (P.P.) 10014 that suspended entry of immigrants who present a risk to the United States labor market during the economic recovery following the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak. For further information, please visit https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/rescission-of-presidential-proclamation-10014.html. P.P. 10052 remains in effect and is scheduled to expire on March 31, 2021. P.P. 10052 suspends the entry to the United States of certain nonimmigrant visa applicants who present a risk to the U.S. labor market during the economic recovery following the novel coronavirus outbreak. It applies to J-1 visa applicants participating in the intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, au pair, or summer work travel programs; and any spouses or children of covered applicants applying for J-2 visas. For further information, please visit https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/extension-of-presidential-proclamation-10052.html.  

UPDATED 01/26/21

On January 26, the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  will require all air passengers two years of age and over entering the United States (including U.S. citizens and Legal Permanent Residents) to present a negative COVID-19 test, taken within three (3) calendar days of departure​, or proof of recovery from the virus within the last 90 days. For further information, please visit https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/ea/covid-testing-required-us-entry.html.  

UPDATED ON 6/29/20

We share your concerns for everyone’s health, safety, and welfare as situation regarding COVID-19 rapidly evolves. Please follow the links below for the latest guidance for Exchange Visitor Program sponsors and participants. At this time, we do not have the capacity to answer all inquiries individually. Please direct all general COVID-19 questions to JVisas@state.gov.

For press inquiries, please contact ECA-Press@state.gov.

   

EXTENSION OF PRESIDENTIAL PROCLAMATION 10052 (UPDATED 01/12/2021)

On December 31, 2020, President Trump extended Presidential Proclamations 10052 and 10014 through March 31, 2021. For the text of the extension for P.P. 10052 and P.P. 10014, please see https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-suspension-entry-immigrants-nonimmigrants-continue-present-risk-united-states-labor-market/. With the extension, P.P. 10052 continues to apply to J-1 visa applicants in the intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, au pair, and summer work travel categories of exchange (as well as to applicants for H-1B, H-2B, and L-visas), and any spouses or children of covered applicants applying for H-4, L-2, or J-2 visas. For further information on P.P. 10052, please see https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/proclamation-suspending-entry-of-immigrants-and-nonimmigrants-who-present-risk-to-the-US-labor-market-during-the-economic-recovery-following-the-COVID-19-outbreak.html.

FOR PARTICIPANTS

  • Exchange Visitor Program (EVP) participants should contact their sponsor if they have any questions about the effects of COVID-19 on their EVP program.

FOR J-1 VISA APPLICANTS/SELECTEES (Updated 5/1/20)

  • Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, can the requirement for the “Statement of Need” (SoN) letter for J-1 Alien Physicians be waived?
  • Public Law 94-484, as reflected at 22 CFR 62.27(b)(6), requires that alien physician applicants provide SoN letters from the governments of the countries of their most recent legal permanent residence. Such letters must include written assurance, satisfactory to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, that there is a need in those countries for persons with the skills the alien physicians seek to acquire. SoN letters must bear the seal of the concerned governments and be signed by a duly designated official of the governments.
  • The SoN letter is a requirement that cannot be waived. While the Department generally requires SoN letters to be provided by the relevant Ministries of Health, this may not be possible at this time. Temporarily, and due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Department will allow flexibility to help applicants meet this requirement. For example, the Department will allow both electronically signed SoN letters from Ministries of Health and SoN letters issued by foreign embassies in the United States, where the relevant countries have elected to authorize their embassies to provide these statements. For, individuals applying for fellowship training for whom ECFMG already has SoN letters on file for the related specialty, it is not necessary to submit new SoN letters. For further guidance, please reach out to ECFMG at: EVSP-support@ECFMG.org.
  • On March 20, 2020, U.S. embassies and consulates suspended all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa services.
  • Routine visa services will resume as soon as possible, but a specific date at this time cannot be provided. Emergency visa services will still be available on a case-by-case basis. If you have an emergency, please consult the website of the U.S. embassy or consulate where you are applying for a visa for more information.

FOR SPONSORS (Updated 7/7/2020)

EMBASSY CONTACTS (Updated on 9/28/2020)

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (Updated on 03/01/2021)

CURRENT PROGRAMS

  • ON-LINE V. IN-PERSON LEARNING:  Can currently active exchange visitors participating in the Teacher, Professor, Secondary School Student, or College/University Student categories of BridgeUSA teach/take online/hybrid classes or must all courses be in person?
  • With respect to exchange visitors who are currently in “active” status in SEVIS, the Department understands that program sponsors have adjusted program activities to meet their obligations to provide for the health, safety, and welfare of their exchange participants in the context of the pandemic. In keeping with its March 11, 2020 message (https://j1visa.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/3.11.2020_Exchange-Visitor-Program-Sponsor-Guidance.pdf), the Bureau of Educational and Cultural affairs (ECA) continues to ask sponsors and exchange visitors to consult with host academic institutions to find alternative ways to maintain program objectives, including online classes or other arrangements, while preventing unnecessary exposure to COVID-19. A temporary modification along these lines of a current exchange participant's program due to exigent circumstances beyond a sponsor’s or host entity’s control does not undermine the program’s original consistency with the regulations.
  • ON-LINE V. IN-PERSON TRAININGCan currently active exchange visitors participating in the Intern or Trainee categories of BridgeUSA participate in online/hybrid training programs or must all training be in person?
  • With respect to exchange visitors who are currently in “active” status in SEVIS, the Department understands that program sponsors have adjusted program activities to meet their obligations to provide for the health, safety, and welfare of their exchange participants in the context of the pandemic. In keeping with ECA's message on March 11, 2020 (https://j1visa.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/3.11.2020_Exchange-Visitor-Program-Sponsor-Guidance.pdf), the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) continues to ask sponsors and exchange visitors to consult with host organizations to find alternative ways to maintain program objectives, including virtual training sessions or other arrangements, while preventing unnecessary exposure to COVID-19. A temporary modification along these lines of a current exchange participant's program due to exigent circumstances beyond a sponsor’s or host entity’s control does not undermine the program’s original consistency with the regulations.
  • CROSS-CULTURAL ACTIVITIES:  What should sponsors do if exchange visitors cannot meet the cross-cultural activity requirements in the regulations?
  • The Department understands that the COVID-19 situation caused a major disruption in program participation. Exchange visitors in “active” status are able to continue on programs that, as intended/designed, fully complied with the regulations – including the cross-cultural activity requirements provided that any deviation now from the original program plan is not excessive for the circumstances, and that it occurred due to factors (like the current COVID-19 situation) outside of the sponsors’, hosts’, and exchange participants’ control. Sponsors should document all such unique circumstances and must continue to monitor exchange programs to ensure they meet program objectives to the fullest extent possible during this situation. Sponsors must also closely monitor the health, safety, and welfare of each exchange visitor to determine if remaining on the exchange program is feasible. Please note that sponsors and exchange visitors who started new programs or continued programs into the 2020/21 academic year were aware at that time of pandemic conditions and the need to meet regulatory requirements; they were not surprised with a sudden change in circumstances and need for a deviation from the program plan. The Department encourages creativity in finding cross-cultural activities (e.g., virtual events) that do not put exchange visitors and their U.S counterparts’ health, safety, or welfare at risk. In addition to the general regulatory requirements, including those set forth in 22 CFR §62.10, sponsors under the Teacher category are required to collect the required cross-cultural activity report set forth under 22 CFR §62.24(h).  These reports are also required as a component of extension request submissions under 22 CFR §62.24(k).
  • MINIMUM WORK HOURS:  What should sponsors do if exchange visitors are unable to participate in their exchange programs for the required minimum of 32 hours?
  • The Department understands that the COVID-19 situation has caused a major disruption in program participation.  Exchange visitors in “active” status are able continue programs that, as intended/designed, fully complied with the regulations – including with regard to the number of hours to be worked – provided that any deviation now from the original program plan is not excessive for the circumstances and occurred due to factors (like the current COVID-19 situation) beyond the sponsors’, hosts’, and exchange visitors’ control. Sponsors should document all such unique circumstances, and must continue to monitor exchange programs to ensure they meet program objectives to the fullest extent possible during this situation. Sponsors must also closely monitor the health, safety, and welfare of each exchange visitor to determine if remaining on the program is feasible.
  • EARLY PROGRAM END:  What can exchange visitors do if their sponsors shorten their exchange programs and require them that to return home now due to the pandemic?
  • The Department is currently working with the sponsor community to protect the health, safety, and welfare of all exchange visitors to the greatest extent possible.  In some cases, this may require repatriating exchange visitors if it is safe and feasible to do so.  Sponsors are the best point of contact to address this issue, and exchange visitors should follow their guidance.
  • POST-PROGRAM GRACE PERIOD:  May sponsors allow exchange visitors to travel during the 30-day period after their program end dates when ending/shortening their exchange programs?
  • There are no changes to regulations governing exchange visitors’ 30-day grace period following their program end dates. However, sponsors should encourage exchange visitors to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and consider health, safety, and welfare implications for travel at this time.

FUTURE PROGRAMS

  • DELAY OF PROGRAM START DATE AND ELIGIBILITY:  Some categories of the BridgeUSA have maximum age limits (e.g., Secondary School Student and Au Pair) or require participants to start programs within certain time frames (e.g., interns are ineligible if more than one year has passed since their date of graduation from a post-secondary academic program).  Can the Department make exceptions and allow them to start programs at a later date?
  • The Department understands that the pandemic has caused disruptions in program participations.  However, all applicants must continue to meet eligibility requirements set forth in the program regulations.
  • ON-LINE V. IN-PERSON LEARNING:  Can applicants wishing to participate in the Teacher, Professor, Secondary School Student, or College/University Student categories of BridgeUSA teach/take online/hybrid classes or must all courses be in person?
  • The purpose of BridgeUSA is to facilitate in-person exchanges. Regulations governing the academic categories anticipate in-person interaction between exchange visitors and their American counterparts (see, e.g., 22 CFR §§62.25(a), 62.23(a), and 62.24(a) requiring participation “at” or “in” academic institutions). While these regulations do allow the Department to provide some flexibility in permitting a limited amount of virtual training, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs reminds sponsors that BridgeUSA generally requires programs to foster the exchange of ideas between exchange visitors and their American counterparts. Thus academic institutions should have reinstated partial to full-time in-person classes or be able to meet other formal in-person requirements on the date they agree to host exchange visitors.
  • ON-LINE V. IN-PERSON TRAINING:  Can applicants wishing to participate in the Intern or Trainee categories of BridgeUSA participate in online/hybrid training programs or must all training be in person?
  • The purpose of BridgeUSA is to facilitate in-person exchanges. Regulations governing the Intern and Trainee categories anticipate in-person interaction between exchange visitors and their American counterparts:  “Such training and internship programs are also intended to increase participants' understanding of American culture and society and to enhance Americans' knowledge of foreign cultures and skills through an open interchange of ideas between participants and their American associates.” (22 CFR §62.22(b)(1)(i))  While these regulations do allow the Department to provide some flexibility in permitting a limited amount of virtual training, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs reminds sponsors that BridgeUSA generally requires programs to foster the exchange of ideas between exchange visitors and their American counterparts. Thus, host organizations should have reinstated partial to full-time in-person training or be able to meet other formal in-person requirements on the date they agree to host exchange visitors.
  • STATEMENTS OF NEED FOR ALIEN PHYSICIANSDue to the COVID-19 pandemic, can the requirement for the “Statement of Need” for Alien Physicians be waived?
  • Public Law 94-484, as reflected at 22 CFR §62.27(b)(6), requires that each alien physician applicant provide a Statement of Need (SoN) from the government of the country of their nationality or last legal permanent residence. Such statement must provide written assurance, satisfactory to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, that there is a need in that country for persons with the skills the alien physician applicant seeks to acquire, and that the physician will return to their home country upon completion of training in the United States. SoNs must bear the seal of the concerned governments and be signed by a duly designated official of that government.The SoN is a requirement that cannot be waived. While the Department generally requires SoNs to be provided by the relevant Ministries of Health, it recognizes that this may not be possible at this time. On a temporary basis and due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Department will accept either electronically signed SoNs from Ministries of Health or SoNs issued by foreign embassies in the United States, where the relevant countries have elected to authorize their embassies to provide these statements. For individuals applying for fellowship training for whom ECFMG already has SoNs on file for the related specialty, it is not necessary to submit new SoNs. For further guidance, please contact ECFMG at: EVSP-support@ECFMG.org.
  • TWO-YEAR HOME RESIDENCY REQUIREMENT:  Can the two-year home residency rule be waived for exchange visitors who return home early due to COVID-19?
  • Administration of the two-year home residency requirement falls under the purview of the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Refer to the following website for directions on how to apply for a waiver:  https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/study/exchange/waiver-of-the-exchange-visitor/how-to-apply-waiver.html.

SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENT PROGRAMS

  • VIRTUAL VETTING AND MONITORING:  Given pandemic-related restrictions on in-person contact, may local coordinators comply with in-person vetting and monitoring requirements for the Secondary School Student Program through virtual communications?
  • The host family vetting and exchange visitor monitoring regulations in 22 CFR §62.25 require in-person contact (e.g., initial interview, orientation, first month’s contact, second home visit).  During the pandemic, these in-person activities may be severely limited as a result of stay-at-home orders, social distancing requirements, and other health-related situations.  A temporary modification of these in-person requirements as necessitated by the exigent circumstances of the pandemic do not undermine the program’s original consistencies with the regulations.  Therefore, temporarily, and to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of exchange visitors as program regulations require, the Department will allow virtual, real-time communications for vetting host families and monitoring the well-being of exchange visitors among host families, exchange visitors, and local coordinators during this crisis when in-person contact is not safe. Even a home tour can be conducted using virtual technology. If exchange visitors remain in homes long enough to require second home visits, having exchange visitors conduct virtual tours of their homes could fulfill the second home visit requirement. Sponsors are reminded that contact with exchange visitors during the first month following a new host family placement (including a change in host family) is required. Sponsors must adhere to all other aspects of the vetting and monitoring requirements.For example, all family members residing in a home must be present for a virtual interview. Sponsors must maintain monthly contact with exchange visitors to confirm their health, safety, and welfare, and that their programs continue to meet the objectives. Additionally, as discussed further below, sponsors must obtain criminal background check reports on all residents 18 years or older.Sponsors who utilize virtual technology for conducting interactions with exchange visitors and/or their host families are required to fully document all uses of virtual technology to meet requirements, including digitally saving video files. For host families that have not previously and successfully hosted for a sponsor, the Department recommends an additional level of approval (e.g., by a regional coordinator or headquarters staff) of both the placement of the exchange visitor and the sufficiency of the technology used as a substitute for in-person activities. Such approval should be maintained in exchange visitors’ files.When conditions permit the return to in-person contact, the Department expects sponsors to revert to the traditional in-person method of vetting host families and monitoring placements.
  • CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECKS:  Can sponsors forgo criminal background checks if, e.g., county offices are closed and it is not possible to conduct manual searches?
  • Sponsors continue to be required to conduct character reference checks and criminal background checks, as specified in the regulations. The regulations generally do not identify specific requirements for criminal background reports themselves, except that for certain programs they must include a search of the Department of Justice's National Sex Offender Public Registry (which is online). This requirement remains in effect.
  • HOST FAMILY PLACEMENTS:  Due to the COVID-19 situation, does a sponsor have the flexibility to place two exchange students who are from the same country or more than two exchange visitors in a fully vetted host family home or can they place exchange visitors with distant relatives?
  • No. Sponsors are not permitted to initiate new placements of exchange students from the same country or with the same native language with a single host family.

FORMS DS-2019S AND SEVIS

  • ORIGINAL FORMS DS-2019:  The cost of shipping original Forms DS-2019 to exchange visitors is particularly burdensome given sponsors’ increased costs and decreased revenue streams. During the crisis, could the Department reconsider allowing sponsors to digitally send Forms DS-2019 (signed in blue ink and scanned)?
  • If exchange visitors need Forms DS-2019 for visa application issuance or applications for entry to the United States, sponsors are advised to print Forms DS-2019, fully execute them with original signatures in blue ink, and transmit them in accordance with routine requirements.  During the pandemic, if exchange visitors do not need the forms for those two formal processing tasks, sponsors may electronically transmit to exchange visitors their updated and fully executed Forms DS-2019 (reflecting new program dates if/as needed). The latter approach applies only during the pandemic in order to reduce the sponsors' burden of reprinting and transmitting original forms. Please note, however, that sponsors should inform exchange visitors that electronically transmitted forms will not be sufficient for visa application issuance or application for entry to the United States, and that exchange visitors anticipating such formal processing requirements should request their sponsors to send them original Forms DS-2019.
  • SEVIS STATUS FOR REPATRIATED EXCHANGE VISITORS WHO WISH TO RETURN TO FINISH PROGRAMS:  For exchange visitors who return home and wish to return to the United States to complete their programs, what actions should sponsors take in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)?
  • Please refer to ECA communication dated March 16, 2020 regarding exchange visitor SEVIS records in “initial” or “active” status. Specifically, “[s]ponsors may also keep an exchange visitor’s SEVIS record active until the exchange visitor is able to return to the United States to continue with his or her original program objectives. Exchange visitors should be mindful of the validity dates of their J-1 visas; they may need to renew their visas before they return to the United States.”

SPONSOR OBLIGATIONS

  • APPLICATION FOR REDESIGNATION: Does the Department of State plan to postpone or waive the requirement to apply for redesignation or to pay the associated redesignation fee due to the financial hardship that sponsors may face due to COVID-19 and/or the suspension of certain programs pursuant to the recent Presidential Proclamation?
  • No. The regulations do not allow for the Department to waive the requirement for sponsors to submit a complete application for redesignation (see 22 CFR §62.7). As per §62.7(a), sponsors must file for redesignation no more than six months and no fewer than three months before the designation expiration date set forth in their most recent letters of designation or redesignation. A complete application includes confirmation of payment of the required non-refundable application fee through pay.gov (see 22 CFR §62.7(b)(3) and §62.17).
  • WAIVER OF FIVE PARTICIPANT REQUIREMENT: Can sponsors pause their exchange programs due to financial hardship resulting from COVID-19?
  • Yes, the Department  will consider requests submitted by sponsors that, pursuant to 22 CFR § §62.8(a), seek a Department waiver, for up to one year, of the requirement that they have no fewer than five actively participating exchange visitors during the annual reporting cycle. Please note, however, that sponsors must keep their designations current throughout any such pause in program. Please contact the Office of Private Sector Exchange Designation to discuss this option.
  • SPONSOR ANNUAL REPORTS: Will the Department allow extensions for filing annual reports required by 22 CFR §62.15(a)?
  • No. The Department requires all sponsors to submit annual reports on an academic, calendar, or fiscal year basis, as indicated in their letter of designation or redesignation.  The Department does not foresee any circumstances that would alter the upcoming deadlines.  Annual report narratives should explain program highlights as well as difficulties, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sponsors are encouraged to provide data and/or narratives on the number of exchange visitors who had to shorten their programs or those who had difficulties with repatriation.
  • INSURANCE COVERAGE DURING EXTENSIONS:  Are sponsors required to extend insurance for exchange visitors whose programs are extended beyond the original program end dates? If so, who is financially responsible for the extra insurance?
  • Yes, sponsors must require that exchange visitors maintain insurance coverage while participating in an exchange program, from the start to end date of their programs.  Insurance coverage during program extensions should be funded in the same manner as it was funded during exchange visitors’ initial programs.
  • ENDED PROGRAMS:  Are sponsors responsible for exchange visitors whose programs have been extended but they are no longer pursuing program activities, seeking visa status change, and/or updating sponsors with their whereabouts?
  • Sponsors are responsible for exchange visitors who are in “active” status.  As always, they should end in SEVIS the programs of exchange visitors who are no longer pursuing program activities or fail to update sponsors with their whereabouts. To the extent possible, sponsors should assist exchange visitors who are stranded in the United States at their programs’ end due to travel restrictions or border closures.

TRAVEL (Updated 4/1/2021)

  • REPATRIATION:  What should sponsors do if exchange visitors want to return home, but their travel plans are complicated by a lack of commercially available flights or their countries have travel restrictions?
  • The Office of Private Sector Exchange (Office) has already granted a number of extensions beyond maximum program duration in order to facilitate exchange visitor repatriation or change of status.  Sponsors should encourage exchange visitors to contact their respective embassy for assistance. Many embassies have special communications on their websites and social media links for their citizens.  ECA maintains a listing of Embassy contacts on its website:  https://j1visa.state.gov/covid-19/.  For travel inquiries and up-to-date information on travel restrictions, exchange visitors should visit https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/COVID-19-Country-Specific-Information.html for country-specific Embassy information. Otherwise, exchange visitors should contact their sponsors directly for program specific questions and to keep them apprised of your travel plans.If exchange visitors continue to experience difficulties with travel, sponsors should contact the appropriate branch the Office of Exchange Program Administration: IMPORTANT: Exchange visitors must keep their U.S. sponsors notified of all travel plans.
  • REPATRIATION:  What should exchange visitors do if they are unable to return home within the 30-day grace period following their program end dates due to lack of commercial air flights or border closures?
  • Please refer to ECA communication dated February 7, 2020 for guidance, specifically the section on exchange visitors currently in the United States. Sponsors and their exchange visitors are also encouraged to review the following USCIS website detailing special situations for extensions and change of visa status, including those individuals subject to INA 212(e): Two-Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement. Go to:  https://www.uscis.gov/i-539.All exchange visitors experiencing difficulty returning home should remain in contact with their sponsors (and sponsors should document exchange visitor records to reflect these contacts and the exchange visitors’ efforts to leave the United States).Also, exchange visitors should contact their country’s embassy or consulate in the United States for assistance.  Exchange visitors are encouraged to consult the BridgeUSA website at https://j1visa.state.gov/covid-19/ to review ECA’s list of contacts at foreign countries’ consulates or embassies in the United States.If exchange visitors continue to experience difficulties returning home, sponsors should contact the appropriate OPA branch for the exchange visitors’ categories:
  • Exchange visitors are also encouraged to retain documentation of their efforts to exit the United States before the end of their grace periods.  For additional guidance, refer to ECA communication dated February 7, 2020, specifically the section on exchange visitors currently inside the United States. Sponsors and their exchange visitors are also encouraged to review the following USCIS website detailing special situations for extensions and change of visa status, including those individuals subject to INA 212(e): Two-Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement:  https://www.uscis.gov/i-539.
  • COVID-19 TRAVEL RELATED TO PRESIDENTIAL  PROCLAMATIONS: How should sponsors advise exchange visitors to determine whether they qualify for national interest exceptions to the presidential proclamations suspending entry of travelers from certain regions or countries?
  • Exchange visitors who are seeking to apply for a J-1 visa and believe they may qualify for an NIE with respect to a geographic specific suspension of entry should contact their nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate before they attempt to travel to and enter the United States. If an NIE is approved, they may travel on either a valid visa or ESTA authorization, as appropriate. For the latest information related to Presidential Proclamations on the Novel Coronavirus, please refer to the following website:https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/presidential-proclamation-coronavirus.html.
  • More information on NIEs can be found at the following websites:

VISA SERVICES (Updated 4/1/2021)

  • RESUMPTION OF ROUTINE VISA SERVICES:  On March 20, 2020, U.S. embassies and consulates suspended all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa services.  When will such services be restored?
  • Yes, the Department  will consider requests submitted by sponsors that, pursuant to 22 CFR § §62.8(a), seek a Department waiver, for up to one year, of the requirement that they have no fewer than five actively participating exchange visitors during the annual reporting cycle. Please note, however, that sponsors must keep their designations current throughout any such pause in program. Please contact the Office of Private Sector Exchange Designation to discuss this option.
  • VISA APPLICATION FEES: For how long is a visa application fee receipt valid?
  • A nonimmigrant visa application fee receipt is valid to make an appointment one year from the date of payment. This fee is nonrefundable and non-transferrable.
  • EXPIRED J-VISAS:  Can an exchange visitor in “Active” status whose visa has expired and who departed the United States apply for another visa to reenter the United States to return and continue their programs?
  • Yes, if the program dates on the Form DS-2019 are still valid. U.S. Embassies and Consulates are phasing in resumption of routine visa services on a country-by-country basis. For more information on the phased-in resumption of visa services, please refer to the following website: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/phased-resumption-routine-visa-services.html. For country-specific travel information (including scheduling visa appointments), please refer to the following website: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/COVID-19-Country-Specific-Information.html.
  • RENEWAL OF J-VISAS: Can special exceptions be made to allow exchange visitors to renew their J-1 visas without traveling back to their home country?
  • Exchange visitors currently in the United States and actively participating on BridgeUSA programs can remain in the United States even if their visas have expired. They do not need to renew their visas if they do not plan to travel outside of the United States.
  • If exchange visitors travel outside of the United States during their current programs and after their J-1 visas have expired, they must apply for new J-1 visas in their home countries in order to re-enter the United States to continue their programs. For more information on the phased-in resumption of visa services, please refer to the following website: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/phased-resumption-routine-visa-services.html. For country-specific travel information (including scheduling visa appointments), please refer to the following website: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/COVID-19-Country-Specific-Information.html.