A Department of State Bureau of Educational Exchange Exchange Visitor Program page links to the latest guidance for Exchange Visitor Program sponsors and participants, and includes a Frequently Asked Questions section as well.

Go to DOS ECA Exchange Visitor Program Resources on COVID-19

EVP Guidance Documents for Sponsors

PDF documents

Frequently Asked Questions for Sponsors

EVP presents its regularly updated Frequently Asked Questions in 7 groupings:

  • Current Programs
  • Future Programs
  • Guidance for Exchange Visitors Returning to their Country of Origin
  • Visa and SEVIS Questions
  • Program Disruption
  • Secondary School Student Program
  • 3/27/2020 COVID-19 EVP Sponsor Call Q&As

Reproduced below are several key FAQs and communications from the ECA COVID-19 page. Visit that page to read all FAQs and communications.

Update to "Program Disruption" FAQs. (April 13, 2020) EVP updated its "Program Disruption" FAQs on the ECA COVID-19 page with the following:

  • What should a sponsor do if the Exchange Visitor cannot meet the cross-cultural activity requirements in the regulations?

The Department understands that the COVID-19 situation has caused a major disruption in program participation. Current exchange visitors may continue on programs that, as intended/designed, fully complied with the regulations – including with regard to the cross-cultural activity requirements – provided that the deviation 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 truly feasible.

Updates to "Current Programs" FAQs, Following Automatic 60-Day Extension of Program End Dates. (April 7, 2020) ECA updated its "Current Programs" FAQs on the ECA COVID-19 page with the following responses to questions arising out of its April 2, 2020 automatic 60-day extension of program end dates:

  • Are sponsors required to extend insurance for exchange visitors whose programs the Department extended for 60 days? Who must pay for the extra insurance?

Yes, sponsors must extend the insurance coverage and fund it as they did during the exchange visitors' initial programs.

  • Last week, the Department extended the programs of exchange visitors whose programs recently ended or are about to end. Some of these individuals are no longer pursuing program activities or updating sponsors with their whereabouts. Are sponsors responsible for these exchange visitors>

The Department recognized that its decision to extend all programs based on program end date criteria would result in the reactivation of the records of certain exchange visitors who are no longer pursuing program objectives. As always, sponsors should end the programs of exchange visitors who are no longer pursuing program activities or updating sponsors with their whereabouts. Sponsors are responsible for exchange visitors who are in Active status, and they are required to monitor programs and accurately update SEVIS daily, as necessary. The Department is working with sponsors to individually address situations that involve minors (on the Secondary School Student program) who remain in the United States either involuntarily or by choice.

  • The cost of shipping original Forms DS-2019 to exchange visitors is particularly burdensome given sponsors' increased costs and decreased revenue streams. During the crises, could the Department reconsider allowing sponsors to digitally send Forms DS-2019 (signed in blue ink and scanned)?

As noted during the conference call with sponsors on March 27th, sponsors are advised to reprint Forms DS-2019, fully execute them with original signatures in blue ink, and transmit them in accordance with routine requirements if exchange visitors need Forms DS-2019 for formal processing (i.e., visa application issuance or application for entry to the United States). If exchange visitors do not need them for formal processing, sponsors may electronically transmit to exchange visitors updated and fully executed Forms DS-2019 reflecting last week's 60-day extension. This exception, that applies only to this unprecedented situation, will 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 formal processing, and exchange visitors anticipating formal processing requirements should request their sponsors send them original Forms DS-2019.

  • Are exchange visitors in Active status able to work?

The health, safety, and welfare of exchange visitors continues to be the Department's primary concern. Sponsors must balance the needs of exchange visitors to have money to cover basic needs with the need for social distancing. Sponsors and exchange visitors must be aware of each jurisdiction's shelter-in-place (or similar) orders; working in violation of such orders is not acceptable.

  • Some interns and trainees were about to go home within 15 days of their original program end dates when the Department extended their program end dates. May sponsors increase in SEVIS the window for the early end of exchange visitors' programs?

In this situation, there is no need to wait another 60 days for the exchange visitors to go home. If the exchange visitors were prepared to end their programs early and their travel arrangements are in place with no anticipated delays or restrictions, they should leave as originally planned. The Department extended exchange visitor programs due to the volume of exchange visitors experiencing trouble making travel arrangements. Sponsors are responsible for exchange visitors who are in Active status, and they are required to monitor programs and accurately update SEVIS daily, as necessary.

DOS Implements Automatic J-1 Program Extensions for Some in Response to COVID-19. (April 2, 2020) ECA emailed exchange visitor program sponsors to inform them that DOS "will now push a two-month extension to program end dates in SEVIS on active records with a program end date between April 1 – May 31, 2020 in order to provide exchange visitors the opportunity to complete either their educational or training programs, or continue to finalize travel plans to return home." It appears from the message that this will happen automatically in SEVIS, and not require any action on the part of the sponsor or the participant. DOS also says that it will "work with sponsors to push a reinstatement and extension in SEVIS resulting in a program end date of May 31, 2020... for exchange visitors who completed their exchange programs in March but remain in the U.S. due to circumstances outside of their control (lack of flights home, etc.)." Sponsors would have to send DOS a list of participants to whom that action should be applied.

March 27, 2020 EVP Sponsor Call Questions and Answers. The Department of State Exchange Visitor Program posted the questions and answers arising out of their March 27, 2020 teleconference with Exchange Visitor Program sponsors. (March 27, 2020)

Moving Towards and Online Environment. (March 17, 2020) The Exchange Visitor Program's March 17, 2020 message states:

"In accordance with monitoring requirements, we ask that if your institution is moving towards an online environment, please report it to [email protected] using the Incident Report Form if you have not already done so. OPA is aware that as some sponsors move their operations to an online environment,their institutions are concurrently working on measures to decrease the density of their campuses (including moving exchange visitors out of university housing). If your institution is taking measures to relocate exchange visitors from campus housing, please detail this in your Incident Report and explain the options and/or resources you are providing to exchange visitors in terms of alternative housing. Please use this opportunity to remind your exchange visitors of the requirement for them to report to you within ten calendar days any changes in their telephone numbers, email addresses, actual and current U.S. addresses, and site of activity [22 CFR 62.10(d)(3)]. Please update SEVIS when necessary to reflect accurate program information including current U.S. address and site(s) of activity.

The Incident Report Form is available on the Academic Program Sponsors page on the j1visa.state.gov website.