Exchange Visitor Program Faces Uncertainty as US Opens but Embassies Remain Closed
The coronavirus pandemic has affected day-to-day life for everyone, including foreign nationals who planned to participate in the U.S. Department of State’s Exchange Visitor Program. These programs use on-the-job training and are often planned months in advanced.
Many large organizations and companies that sponsor and host exchange visitors—who come to the United States on J-1 visas—have been left wondering if their programs will happen at all this year.
In response to the ongoing pandemic, the State Department released guidance that recommended pausing exchange programs for 60 days starting on March 12. The department said it would reevaluate every 30 days after that.
Soon after the pause in programs, the State Department announced there would be an ongoing suspension of routine visa services worldwide. Since then the agency has not provided further guidance on how or whether embassies and consulates will reopen in the near future.
This has impacted those host organizations and companies who believed that their exchange visitors would be arriving shortly after May 11, when the State Department pause was due to expire.
Programs that were set to start in May, June, and July are still facing uncertainty. Individuals who had embassy appointments have had to delay their arrival. Others who received their visas before the embassy closures are still not able to travel due to the continued restrictions on arrivals from certain countries. In other cases, countries have implemented their own strict lockdowns, which have prevented people from being able to leave their own country.