On July 29, 2020, the Office of Private Sector Exchange sent the following email to university program sponsors, stating that:

  • DOS will "continue to accept online coursework for college and university J-1 nonimmigrant exchange visitors that remain in active SEVIS status"
  • For exchange visitors who are currently outside of the United States but continuing their programs, "Sponsors may 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."
  • Before hosting new participants, "host academic institutions should have reinstated partial to full-time classroom participation or be able to meet other formal in-person requirements"
  • "As hosting academic institutions adjust fall term structures and dates, we ask that sponsors continue to keep us apprised as requested in our March 17, 2020, guidance. Please report to the Office of Private Sector Exchange Program Administration via email ([email protected]) these individual institutions' decisions and altered modalities."

From: AGexchanges
Date: Wednesday, July 29, 2020 at 11:43 AM
To: AGexchanges
Subject: COVID-19: EVP Fall 2020 Guidance for College and University Sponsors on J-1 Nonimmigrant Exchange Visitors

Dear College and University Student Sponsors,

Thank you for your ongoing commitment to our J-1 nonimmigrant exchange visitors as we continue to navigate COVID-19 challenges together. As you know, at the onset of the pandemic, ECA encouraged sponsors, exchange visitors, and hosting academic institutions to find alternative ways to maintain program objectives, to include online classes or other arrangements where appropriate, while preventing unnecessary exposure to COVID-19.

As colleges and universities proceed with plans for Fall 2020, we understand that some continued accommodation is warranted given ongoing program interruptions and uncertainty. Any such measures must maintain program integrity while at the same time safeguarding the health, safety, and welfare of exchange visitors.

It is in that spirit that the Department will continue to accept online coursework for college and university J-1 nonimmigrant exchange visitors that remain in active SEVIS status. ECA understands that program sponsors have adjusted program activities to meet regulatory and local requirements regarding the health, safety, and welfare of their exchange visitors who are currently in "active" status in SEVIS and continuing programs that were underway when the pandemic reached the United States. 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), ECA continues to recommend that sponsors and exchange visitors consult with host organizations to find alternative ways to maintain program objectives, including online classes or other arrangements as appropriate, while preventing unnecessary exposure to COVID-19.

Please note the Department's March 16, 2020 guidance on the website, https://j1visa.state.gov/covid-19, regarding sponsor maintenance of SEVIS records for exchange visitors who are currently outside of the United States but continuing their programs:

  • Sponsors may 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.

Per our June 25, 2020 guidance, host academic institutions should have reinstated partial to full-time classroom participation or be able to meet other formal in-person requirements before hosting new participants.

As hosting academic institutions adjust fall term structures and dates, we ask that sponsors continue to keep us apprised as requested in our March 17, 2020, guidance. Please report to the Office of Private Sector Exchange Program Administration via email ([email protected]) these individual institutions' decisions and altered modalities, as they may vary according to local and state conditions.

The Department will continue to keep you informed through updates and FAQs posted to our website at: https://j1visa.state.gov/covid-19/

We appreciate your dedication to the Exchange Visitor Program.  We remain committed to work closely with you as you continue to support our exchange visitors.

Respectfully,

The Office of Private Sector Exchange