COVID-19 Updates and Your Foreign Fulbright Status
COVID-19 is currently affecting many institutes of higher education in the United States. Your safety and well-being are the highest priority of your Fulbright sponsors and AMIDEAST. This section includes some helpful resources and information for Fulbright Foreign Student Program participants. This is a quickly evolving situation, and we will provide updated information as it becomes available.
On March 19, the U.S. Department of State issued a Global Level 4 Health Advisory - Do Not Travel which instructs all Americans abroad to either return to the United States or prepare to shelter in place. As a result of this advisory, the Fulbright Program was suspended for all U.S. participants. This program suspension applies only to American citizens currently participating in the U.S. Fulbright Program abroad. Foreign Fulbrighters on programs in the United States as part of the Fulbright Foreign Student and Visiting Scholar Programs should follow the guidance below and contact their AMIDEAST Fulbright Adviser with any questions.
- For the most current information regarding COVID-19 and measures you can take to protect yourself, please visit the website of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC recommends that you employ everyday preventative actions to avoid contracting or spreading an illness. If you or a family member is sick, you should avoid public gatherings and travel. If you are sick, contact your local healthcare provider for evaluation and treatment, and inform your AMIDEAST Advisor.
- U.S. Department of State Travel Advisories and Health Alerts
- For local resources, you should pay close attention to the local public health department in your state. For tips on how to prepare for a public health emergency, please visit ready.gov.
- Accident and Sickness Program for Exchanges (ASPE)
- ASPE Assist offers a 24-hour hotline for mental health consultation and advice if you feel at risk. (dial toll-free 1-833-963-1269, email: ASPEsupport@anvilgroup.com)
Frequently Asked Questions for Fulbright Foreign Students
Below please find the answers to questions you may have related to your Fulbright grant and COVID-19.
Continuing Fulbright students who are currently outside of the United States
I departed in the spring of 2020 to do my classes remotely from my home country. What are my next steps?
Your AMIDEAST Advisor has sent you a survey to gather more information about your current situation to better advise you on next steps.
Continuing students in the United States now:
My university is online-only in the fall 2020 semester, and I am currently in the United States. Can I continue remotely?
According to current available guidance, you should continue to engage full-time in your degree program online classes for the fall 2020 semester. You must remain in the U.S. community where your university is located and continue in accordance with your academic degree program schedule.
My school is online-only in the fall 2020 with no in-person classes, but I do not want to stay in the United States to do remote classes. Can I depart and do my program from my home country?
You cannot depart the United States to continue online classes abroad, because the Fulbright Program guidance continues to be that you stay in your U.S. community and in your full-time classes. If you chose to depart and continue online courses, your Fulbright Program will be ended, along with visa sponsorship and grant payments.
I’m in the U.S. and have just learned my university will offer a hybrid schedule (some online courses and some in-person) or a completely online schedule in the fall 2020, but I don’t want to remain here and study. Can I take a Leave of Absence?
You can take a leave of absence (LOA) for less than one academic year, but not beyond the virtual period of the university schedule. Your ASPE will not be valid during the LOA and you will receive no grant payments. Below you will find the steps for how to request a Leave of Absence from your Fulbright Program.
My school has announced a hybrid schedule and many courses are online, what is Fulbright guidance regarding how many online courses I can take?
According to current available guidance, you should follow the university enrollment guidance and your degree program plan, in consultation with your academic advisor.
Fulbright Leave of Absence:
How do I request a Leave of Absence?
We will need you to submit the following documentation in ASAP portal under the “Other” category:
Letter from your academic advisor confirming support for the plan and that the university has placed you on an academic leave of absence. They should also confirm the new program end date.
Personal statement from you that outlines your request for a leave of absence from your Fulbright Program and confirming the timeline of your planned return to your degree program.
When ready for return, your AMIDEAST Advisor will guide you next steps, at minimum:
Confirmation from your host institution about your approval to return and the academic plan and degree completion date.
Your personal confirmation of your plan for return.
I want to participate in Post-Degree Academic Training, what should I know?
If you plan to apply for approval to undertake post degree academic training (PDAT), you should first consult with your AMIDEAST advisor. Participants must follow the usual PDAT guidance, secure a position, and submit the AT request form through the ASAP portal 4-6 weeks in advance of their program completion date. Please note that not all participants are eligible to participate in post-degree academic training and you must consult with your AMIDEAST advisor to confirm eligibility. You must be in the U.S. to submit the PDAT request and begin the position within 30 days after graduation. For more information about Post-Degree Academic Training, please see the “Employment” section on our Grantee Resources page. If you have difficulty meeting the 4-6-week deadline, you should speak with your AMIDEAST advisor who will discuss your options on a case-by-case basis.
I live in an area of the United States that is under shelter-in-place orders and cannot do in-person PDAT, can I still apply?
You can request PDAT approval for a position that is remote as long as the supervisor confirms the plan for supervision and oversight in a remote environment and the intent is that the position will convert to an in-person position in the future. Your AMIDEAST advisor will guide you through these requirements. PDAT positions that are remote due to COVID-19 do have timeframe limitations and your AMIDEAST advisor can assist you with questions that you have.
If I am currently participating in an Academic Training program or would like to do so, can I work from my home country?
Academic Training must be done while you are in the United States. You cannot retain your J-1 status for Academic Training if you are outside the United States.
If my Academic Training is scheduled to finish within the next few months, what should I do?
You can either: 1) Remain in the United States and continue with your Academic Training until the scheduled end date, or 2) If you decide to return to your home country, your Academic Training and the validity of your DS-2019 and ASPE coverage will end when you depart the United States. If there is any change to the nature of your current Academic Training (i.e. your training opportunity has moved from in-person to online), please contact your AMIDEAST Advisor and they will let you know if any further information is needed.
If I complete my degree remotely from outside the United States can I return to participate in Academic Training?
J-1 visa regulations stipulate that Academic Training must occur consecutive to completing the participant’s academic program in the United States. Therefore, if you complete your program outside the United States. you will not be eligible to return on J-visa sponsorship to participate in post-degree Academic Training.
My DS-2019 is not signed for travel, should I send it in for signature?
The Fulbright program recommends against non-essential travel at this time. Many governments have put extraordinary measures in place to restrict movements across borders in an effort to contain the spread of the virus. Therefore, conditions for future travel may become more challenging without notice, including reduced air service and requirements for quarantine. If you decide to travel internationally, it is at your own risk as your travel may be disrupted or delayed.
You can still send your DS-2019 for travel signature; however, be aware that your DS-2019 may be significantly delayed in being returned to you. You should consult with your AMIDEAST Advisor when considering international travel and discuss the need for a DS-2019 travel signature in advance of mailing it to AMIDEAST.
Are there J-1 visa renewal delays at U.S. Embassies?
If your J-1 visa has expired, you should carefully consider the risks associated with international travel. Many U.S. embassies are operating on a modified schedule or have suspended non-immigrant visa services. You should check with the U.S. embassy in your home country to inquire.
Does ASPE still cover me during the COVID-19 pandemic?
If you have remained in your host country (the United States) to continue your program, the coronavirus should be covered similar to other illnesses or injuries, as listed in the ASPE benefits brochure and the standard procedures would be the same. If you have questions or concerns about your ASPE Health Benefits coverage, you should reach out to ASPE Seven Corners directly:
- Customer Service
1-800-461-0430 – Toll free
317-818-2867 – Worldwide
317-818-2809 – Collect
Does ASPE Assist still cover me during the COVID-19 pandemic?
If you are a Fulbright Foreign Student Program participant who has remained in your host country (the United States) to continue your program, you are still eligible for assistance through ASPE Assist. ASPE provides a 24-hour hotline for mental health consultation and referral services. ASPE Assist offers mental health advice, crisis support, sexual assault response, violent crime response, and advice when participants may feel at risk. Consult the ASPE brochure for full details and see the Assist contact information below.
ASPE Assist Contact Information:
Toll free: 1-833-963-1269