J-1 exchange visitor program sponsors may have recently received the below email message from the Department of State  Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) Office of Academic and Government Programs, which references a March 12, 2020 announcement for ECA-funded exchange programs that announced a pause of "all ECA-funded programs that involve travel to and from countries with heightened U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Alert Level 2 (Practice Enhanced Precautions) and Warning Level 3 (Avoid Nonessential Travel) or heightened State Department COVID-19 related Travel Advisory Levels 3 (Reconsider Travel) and 4 (Do Not Travel)."

The Office of Academic and Government Programs message asks private sector programs to follow the same guidance even though they are not governed by that policy, stating:

"Although private sector programs are not specifically governed by this suspension, ECA asks all private-sector Exchange Visitor Program sponsors to follow this guidance as they make decisions regarding exchange visitors who have not yet entered the United States. ECA also encourages sponsors to continue to follow guidance for ECA-funded programs as the situation evolves, particularly with respect to future exchange visitor recruitment (e.g., for summer or fall programs)."


From: AGexchanges < [email protected] >
Date: Friday, March 13, 2020
Subject: RE: EVP Update on travel

Dear Sponsors,

This email contains important updates regarding the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation.

Yesterday, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) announced that all ECA-funded exchange program travel to, through, and/or from countries at CDC Alert Level 2 and above, or State Department Level 3 and above, are suspended for 60 days beginning March 11, 2020. As the State Department has now issued a Global Level 3 travel advisory, this suspension applies to all countries.

Although private sector programs are not specifically governed by this suspension, ECA asks all private-sector Exchange Visitor Program sponsors to follow this guidance as they make decisions regarding exchange visitors who have not yet entered the United States. ECA also encourages sponsors to continue to follow guidance for ECA-funded programs as the situation evolves, particularly with respect to future exchange visitor recruitment (e.g., for summer or fall programs).

This approach should help to protect the health, safety, and welfare of program participants and the American public, and to avoid undermining U.S. foreign policy objectives, compromising national security, and bringing the Department or the Exchange Visitor Program into notoriety or disrepute.

ECA refers sponsors to the CDC's guidance encouraging institutes of higher education to consider postponing or canceling student foreign exchange programs and President Trump’s March 11, 2020, 30-day travel ban (effective March 13, 11:59 p.m. ET) on foreign nationals traveling to the United States from 26 European countries.

ECA also encourages sponsors to provide their current exchange visitors with CDC and other official travel guidance regarding their personal travel decisions.

Sincerely,

Office of Private Sector Exchange