COVID-19: Important Tips + Resources

for J-1 Intern + Trainee Programs

Participant Preparation for Arrival

Travel Restrictions: As COVID-19 evolves in different parts of the world, the travel restrictions applied to the U.S. or a participants’ home country may change. Prior to departure, participants should consult the website of their local U.S. Consulate, and the CDC’s website, to ensure that travel will be feasible:  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/from-other-countries.html

Testing Requirements: Starting January 26, 2021, all passengers boarding flights to the United States must hold paper or electronic proof of a viral detection COVID-19 test, conducted within 3 days prior to travel, indicating the result of “Negative” or “Not Detected”. Alternatively, if a traveler has had a “Positive” test result in the last 90 days, they must bring proof, along with “Documentation of Recovery” (electronic proof or an official letter from a licensed healthcare provider) certifying recovery and clearance for travel. Personal information on said documentation must match travel documents (ex. passport). Travelers should be prepared to show such proof to any airline or government official upon request. All visitors should, regardless of entry date, also consult the website of the Health Department of their state of arrival to determine any additional, state-specific requirements.

If a participant receives a positive test result, or experiences another unforeseen circumstances preventing travel as planned, Cultural Vistas needs to be notified immediately in order to update records for arrival accordingly.

Travel Safely: Taking precautionary steps will help participants arrive comfortably and in good health. While traveling, the following steps should be taken:

  • Wear highly protective face coverings such as N-95 or filtered masks. Many people are also choosing to travel with an additional face shield.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap at regular intervals throughout the travel experience, particularly before and after eating.
  • Travel with hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) and/or disinfectant wipes in a container 6 oz. or smaller.
  • Disinfect personal items constantly – suitcase/ bag handles, wallet, ID, credit cards, cellphone, etc.
  • Disinfect/ wash hands immediately after purchasing goods, using ATMs, etc. Wear gloves if possible.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth at all costs.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others when possible

Quarantine Upon Arrival: In the U.S., each state has their own rules for self-quarantining upon arrival. Some states do not require quarantine, while others require 10-14 days. That may be required only for international visitors, or for visitors traveling from specific states.

We acknowledge that this can be very hard when arriving to a new country, but it is wise to abide by these requirements for the sake of everyone’s health. We recommend ordering meals and groceries that can be delivered (see apps like Seamless, GrubHub, InstaCart, Amazon Fresh, among others), pack a few good books and subscribe to favorite streaming services – it is a time to be patient and relax.

Training + Quarantine Upon Arriving: If a training program is slated to begin during a mandatory quarantine period, a participant can start the program remotely. Once quarantine ends, in person training should commence. If remote training is not possible during those 10-14 days, then arrangements should be made to start on a later date and Cultural Vistas should be notified.

Social Security Number Delays: Upon arrival, after validating their visa, participants often apply for a social security number. Because this process requires participants to attend in-person appointments at the Social Security Administration office, they are now requiring that participants be in the United States, ideally quarantined, for at least 2 weeks before attending an appointment. If a Host Company requires a participant to apply for an SSN prior to beginning training, participants should plan to arrive at least two weeks before their program start date.

While in the United States

Healthy + Safe Workspace Expectations: Host companies and participants should do everything they can to ensure the health and safety of the workspace. To help facilitate this:

  • All Host Companies are expected to abide by CDC, state and federal health and safety guidelines. This includes employees’ ability to maintain adequate social distancing while in the workplace and have access to hand sanitizer/soap.
  • It is important that participants receive information from their host company upon arrival about the precautions that are in place to ensure employee health and the expected steps staff should take in the cases of COVID-19 exposure.
  • Participants should maintain a clean workspace, including disinfecting/ cleaning their desk, computer, mouse, phone, writing utensils, and drawer/ door handles daily.
  • Participants should expect to wear a mask or face-covering in the office at all times, or as dictated by local requirements.
  • Should an employee at the host company contract COVID-19, the participant may be notified if they were in contact with the individual.
  • If a participant feels unwell at all, they should be granted sick time, or the ability to work remotely, in order to take the necessary health precautions until symptoms subside and/or they can confirm they do not have COVID-19. In such cases, participants should not feel pressured to hide symptoms or work through them to stay in good standing at their company. Health and safety should be conveyed as a paramount priority.

Personal Health Precautions: Remaining healthy is key to having a fruitful experience in the U.S. Whether in the workplace or in personal life, we strongly advise participants take the following health precautions seriously.

  • Wash hands with soap regularly
  • Always wear a mask when leaving home
  • Maintain social distancing
  • Avoid touching face
  • Stay away from crowded public spaces and individuals exhibiting signs of illness
  • Avoid bringing people into the home/ going into others’ homes as much as possible
  • Disinfect personal devices/ regularly handled items daily (ex. cellphone, computer keyboard, doorknobs, sink and cupboard handles, etc.)
  • Do not share food or drink under any circumstances
  • If you learn that contact has been made with someone who might be ill, opt to self-quarantine for 10-14 days, or until testing with negative results is feasible
  • Take time for safe activities that promote positive mental health and physical activity!

Contracting or in Contact with COVID-19: If a J-1 participant contracts or comes into contact with someone who has contracted COVID-19, they should not feel ashamed or fearful that it will impact their ability to remain in the U.S.! Participants have the same rights as any other U.S. employee, have access to healthcare and such a diagnosis does not impact their immigration status. If infected or exposed, participants should:

  • Cease training in the workplace and communicate this to a supervisor immediately.
  • Self-quarantine & do not engage in public activities. If being in public for any reason is a necessity, take every precaution to not infect others.
  • Seek immediate medical attention for proper diagnosis and/or testing. Most doctors’ offices will require being notified of COVID-19-related concerns in advance of appointment arrival.
  • Notify Cultural Vistas immediately. Per federal requirements, we must notify the Department of State of any such COVID-19 encounters/cases.
  • Share the information with any housemates, colleagues or acquaintances that have been in contact with during the 2 weeks prior. This may include notifying recently visited stores, theaters, restaurants, etc.

Program Changes: Fluctuating COVID-19 cases in office buildings, cities and states may result in required adjustments to a J-1 Training Program. Most temporary changes are okay; however, Cultural Vistas must be notified immediately to ensure continued program compliance and to update necessary records if there are changes including:

  • Inability to train physically at the address listed on the DS-7002 Training Plan document. The training has moved to another location, goes remote, or is pause altogether.
  • Supervisor listed on the DS-7002 Training Plan is no longer on site with the J-1 Participant for the majority of the work week. The supervisor is not present, is now supervising remotely, or has changed.
  • Salary adjustments due to changes at the company. Salary increases due to overtime or added responsibilities, or salary decreases due to changes in funding.
  • Changes to the number of hours of employment, as demonstrated on the DS-7002 Training Plan. Participants are required to train a minimum of 32 hours per week to qualify as full-time. Business changes may pause the program completely, cause the program to move part-time, or result of J-1 participant overtime.
  • Training activities no longer match those outlined on the DS-7002 Training Plan.
  • Program date changes. Should changes in training activities, office closures, resources to support a J-1, etc. cause the program to start on a date after the one listed on the DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility Form, or end before (or after) the listed end date.

Has something else changed and you are unsure whether it is important to notify us? When in doubt, reach out!

Traveling During Program: While travel throughout the U.S. or abroad is legal on the J-1 Visa, we advise against it when possible while COVID-19 persists given fluctuating safety and travel rules. If travel is a necessity:

  • Check the travel restrictions and requirements currently in place for the given state or country. Some borders do not allow visitors from the U.S. or non-citizens, or individuals traveling from specific states; OR, there are specific travel requirements necessary for entry (COVID testing results, quarantining, etc.)
  • Check travel rules and restrictions for reentry into the U.S./ state of residence while planning travel and again before returning, in case there have been any changes.
  • Participants should take all health and safety precautions during travel, as done upon arrival.
  • As always the case for international travel, the participant must notify Cultural Vistas with travel details in order to obtain the necessary Travel Validation signature on the DS-2019 form before travel.
  • If travel restrictions change during travel, or the participant is exposed to COVID-19 and is unable to return as planned, Cultural Vistas must be notified immediately.

Important Resources

Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Visit the CDC website https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html for more information on the Coronavirus pandemic and tips on how to protect yourself.

Your State’s Health Department: Each state has their own COVID-related rules, news and resources which is provided by the health department. Find your state here: https://www.cdc.gov/publichealthgateway/healthdirectories/healthdepartments.html

Health Insurance Portal + Resources (if you are insured through Cultural Vistas)

Link to J-1 Participants’ Healthcare Zone:
https://www.envisageglobalinsurance.com/student-zone/cultural-vistas-talkspace/

In the Healthcare Zone, participants can:

Does my insurance cover COVID testing?

If participants become ill and a doctor deems it necessary to get tested for COVID-19, most standard tests will be a covered expense, regardless if it is a positive result (as long as it is not a pre-existing condition prior to the plan start date). Any type of routine testing, not based on a physician’s referral, or anti-body testing will not be covered. All follow-up testing, treatments, or related hospital expenses resulting from a positive diagnosis will be treated as an illness and receive a level of coverage associated with the participants’ selected insurance plan

For insurance questions or emergencies (24 hours):

Call: +1-877 702-6767 (Toll-free within the U.S.)/ +1-317-582-2622 (Collect call)

Email: assist@sevencorners.com

TalkSpace:

Stress of the unknown and potential isolation during this pandemic, in addition to adapting to life in a new country, can understandably impact one’s mental well-being. Participants are encouraged to utilize this free, confidential, virtual therapy service to support their mental health. TalkSpace can be accessed through the participants’ Healthcare Zone.

Contact Cultural Vistas: All participants and host companies are welcome to reach out to their main point of contact via e-mail or phone during business hours. We encourage all participants and hosts to save this contact information in an easily accessible location. General contact information includes:

Phone (9:00 AM -5:00 PM EST): 212-497-3500

E-Mail:
J-1 Interns + Trainees: train@culturalvistas.org
IAESTE Participants: iaeste@culturalvistas.org
Korea WEST Participants: koreawest@culturalvistas.org
Other (please indicate program): info@culturalvistas.org

24-Hour Emergency Line: 516-210-8591