March 13, 2020
AFICE considers the health and safety of our student participants, host family members, and staff to be of primary importance. Naturally, the COVID-19 pandemic is something that we are all aware of, and we know that many in the AFICE family are concerned. We understand these concerns and we want everyone to know that we are working with the United States Department of State, who oversees all J-1 visa exchange programs such as AFICE, to bring accurate information to all participants, families, and staff. Currently, the risk of contracting COVID-19 remains low. While events are being cancelled, our understanding is that this is all being done out of an abundance of caution in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
Currently, the US Department of State is not recommending that students return home early. In fact, for college students scheduled to return in March and April, they are allowing visa extensions if the students request this. While the high school program is different, we do know that the Department of State’s goal is to make sure that neither students nor families are in harm’s way. Also, any missed school days due to school closures will not count negatively against a student’s visa status.
As it stands, we would like to make sure that all of the AFICE family is aware that there is no reason for any AFICE student to return home early due to COVID-19 concerns.
Conversely, we do expect students to be able to return to their home countries at the end of the school year in late May and early June. Even in the unlikely event that the current travel bans are still in place, there is no restriction on leaving the United States, and to the best of our knowledge all countries are allowing their own citizens to enter, regardless of travel restrictions.
Additionally, potential students can still apply to become a participant. While circumstances can certainly change in regard to the virus, we would not be able to accept late applications.
For further questions, we advise that everyone check the CDC website for the most current information and recommended actions at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/summary.html
We thank you for your patience and understanding in this difficult and trying situation.