If an Exchange Visitor is in the United States but must go home or is stuck outside of the country and cannot return because his/her visa is expired, NSU will shorten the program using the explanation “due to emergent COVID-19 reasons.” This ends the program in SEVIS and prevents the Exchange Visitor from traveling until NSU can re-issue a new DS-2019 for travel purposes.
NSU may also 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.
NSU may need to make changes to programs with little notice, for example to comply with state or local health emergency declarations. In such situations, NSU's obligations regarding the health, safety, and welfare of exchange visitors may conflict with our obligations in the regulations and implementing guidance to provide advance notice of certain changes to exchange visitors’ situations. If that occurs, the Department would support NSU's prioritization of their health, safety, and welfare obligations.
The Department of State asks NSU and exchange visitors to seek alternative ways to maintain program objectives and/or employment, such as telework, online classes, or other arrangements, while preventing unnecessary exposure to the disease and its spread. A temporary modification along these lines for exigent circumstances beyond NSU's control does not undermine a program’s consistency with the regulations.
Exchange visitors traveling through or from affected countries should refer to guidance from the Department of State (https://travel.state.gov), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices), and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (https://www.cbp.gov/border-security/ports-entry) for travel restrictions and health notices, as well as specific port-of-entry screening processes.
The Department of State has urged NSU and other sponsors to either cancel the programs altogether or defer the start dates to a date past the current recommended 60-day suspension period and issue new DS2019s. These actions update SEVIS with the information to inform consular officers of what appropriate action to take.