Updated April 1, 2021
Here at Spirit, we’re getting excited for 2021 Summer Work Travel Program, and our participants from around the world are just as eager to embark on their cultural exchange adventure in the U.S.
We have been working hard to prepare our participants with the most up-to-date information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, and our international and domestic partners have been finding new and creative solutions that will ensure our participants are safe when they arrive.
The Summer Work Travel Program will certainly look different this year, but our Host Employers are looking forward to welcoming back our participants and sharing in their cultural exchange experience. The health, safety, and welfare of our participants is always our number one priority, so we have put together the following Q&A to help Host Employers prepare for 2021.
If you are a Host Employer welcoming participants this summer, here are a few things you should know.
General Summer Work Travel Questions
Q: How realistic is it that the 2021 Summer Work Travel Program will actually happen?
Is there a current moratorium on the Summer Work Travel program? A: Presidential Proclamation 10052, which temporarily suspended the issuance of J-1 visas, expired on March 31, 2021. It is our expectation that normal J-1 visa processing will be available to Spirit participants once more COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed at U.S. consulates. Until then, visa interview availability will continue to be limited.
Overall progress is positive, but we expect government, Host Employer, and airline policies to evolve as the vaccine rollout continues and as President Biden implements new policies to combat COVID. We will post you on important developments as they occur.
Q: What are the chances that I will be able to hire the number of participants I requested?
A: Due to the uncertainties surrounding COVID, a more limited number of participants is expected for the 2021 season compared to previous seasons. Participants will be the driving force behind the placement process. They will ultimately choose where they wish to experience their Summer Work Travel Program based on wages, housing options, and cultural experience opportunities. It is suggested that Host Employers continue to be flexible in their requests regarding program dates and diversity of their participants and provide job offers that are competitive. We recommend that you continue to explore alternate plans should placement requests not be filled. Spirit will update you on any developments.
Q: Do participants require a COVID test or vaccination before they arrive?
A: On January 12, 2021, CDC announced an Order requiring all air passengers arriving to the U.S. from a foreign country to get tested no more than 3 days before their flight departs or to provide proof of having recovered from COVID-19. No vaccination requirement currently exists. Visit here for current information on international travel restrictions.
Q: Do participants need to quarantine when they arrive?
A: CDC recommendations are to get tested 3-5 days after travel AND stay home and self-quarantine for 7 days after travel.
- Even if you test negative, stay home and self-quarantine for the full 7 days.
- If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected.
Quarantine requirements are generally determined by State and local governments. Spirit recommends contacting your local authorities prior to participants’ arrivals to determine quarantine requirements.
Summer Work Travel Pre-Arrival
Q: Will Summer Work Travel participants be vaccinated before arrival?
A: Vaccination will be dependent on each country. At this time it is not a requirement by the CDC that everyone who enters the U.S. be vaccinated. Vaccines are currently limited to high risk individuals, but once widely available, the U.S. government supports equal access to all individuals, regardless of immigration status.
The USA has approved two COVID-19 vaccines and is completing final testing of several others. The vaccine has already been administered to over 100 million people in the USA. You can track the vaccine rollout here. We hope that the vaccine will be widely available in the USA by this summer. While vaccinations are generally being administered for free and without regard to immigration status, we do not yet know if there will be widespread availability to J-1 participants.
Q: Will participants be asked if they have already had COVID?
A: Per the current CDC requirements for travel to the USA, any participant who has recovered from COVID-19 will be required to show documentation before departure for the USA or show results of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 3 days of departure. Spirit also receives information regarding any other participant pre-existing health conditions, which we use to assess a participant’s qualifications for the program and to use in case of medical emergencies.
Q: Do we know if testing is readily available in their countries so they can be tested prior to flying per CDC recommendations?
A: Spirit informed all our international partners about the testing requirement, and none have indicated this will be an issue.
Q: If a student applies and receives a job offer and is then not able to travel due to the virus, are they eligible for a refund from Spirit?
A: Yes, Spirit has a generous refund policy for our portion of their fee. Last year every participant who had to cancel their program due to COVID was refunded their Spirit program fee.
Q: If we are unable to have students due to State COVID-restrictions, will Spirit help them identify a new placement?
A: Yes, Spirit will continue to work with a participant and our other Host Employers to identify alternate placements.
Q: What is Spirit doing to prepare participants for embassy visa interviews?
A: Spirit has no control over when embassies will open for visa interviews, and at this time embassy visa services are very limited due to COVID restrictions. Spirit is partnering with our international agents to prepare participants for visa interviews by providing participants with the requisite documentation such as job offers and DS forms and assisting with the scheduling of visa interviews, when available.
Q: What can Host Employers do to help participants secure visa interviews?
A: Although it is ultimately out of Spirit’s and the Host Employer’s control, there are steps a Host Employer can take to facilitate the process:
- Make timely hiring decisions
- Be flexible in your hiring requests
- Provide Spirit all required vetting documents as soon as possible. They are required to issue job offers and DS-2019 forms. These include:
- 2021 Spirit Employer Agreement
- Current Business License
- Current Worker’s Compensation Certificate
- Review Job Offers and provide feedback within 48 hours of receipt
Summer Work Travel Post-Arrival
Q: If a student tests positive, are we expected to pay participants while quarantining?
A: Spirit recommends that Host Employers work with the participants to provide financial support if they contract COVID. This support can be any combination of the following:
- Waive housing fees if housing is employer provided
- Supplement housing fees if housing is not employer provided
- Purchase food and any essential items while they are in quarantine
- Pay them the equivalent of a 32 hour work week
- Give them extra hours/shifts when they return to work, if they are physically able, so they can make up for lost income
- If they contract COVID while working, check if the Workers Compensation policy will provide for lost income or other financial losses
Q: What happens if we are faced with another government shutdown and we are having a hard time giving the Summer Work Travel participants hours?
- Work with other business in town to see if they could employ the participants on a part-time basis to make up for the lost hours
- Reduce housing/food costs if host employer is providing them
- Contact your nearest Community Support Group for additional resources
- Notify Spirit so we can look for alternative placements
Q: What is the policy if a participant tests positive for COVID-19 while here?
- Notify Spirit so we can provide support to the participant and ensure they are receiving appropriate medical care.
- The Host Employer’s policy should be based on State and local guidelines and be consistent with guidelines for American employees
Q: Do students have coverage for COVID related health care costs?
A: Spirit provides all participants with accident and illness insurance, which covers testing and treatment for COVID when prescribed by a doctor. That insurance does not cover costs associated with preventative measures like the COVID vaccine. However, the COVID vaccine is generally free from government distribution sites.
Q: What do we do about housing if a participant is quarantined for infection or exposure to COVID-19?
A: If Host Employers provide housing, they should have a plan in place for alternate housing where participants can quarantine away from other participants. Host Employers should follow CDC, State, and local guidelines, as well as doctor recommendations, regarding who needs to quarantine (just roommate, any friend who had contact in the last 48 hours, etc.) and for how long. A best practice for Host Employers is to provide free housing and food assistance during the quarantine period.
Q: Do I need to make any special housing arrangements for participants?
The health, safety and welfare of our Summer Work and Travel participants is the priority of both Spirit and the Department of State. As you evaluate housing for this summer, please consider precautions needed to provide a safe environment for participants. The CDC provided recommendations for communal and dormitory style living in its CDC housing guidelines. Spirit will focus on the most safe environments and ones that meet CDC housing guidelines.
Further questions? Contact your Spirit Representative or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.