COVID-19 Updates for Visiting Scholars (Non-U.S.)

COVID-19 Updates and Your Visiting Scholar Status

The health, safety, and security of our Fulbright participants is our highest priority. We are sorry for the disruption that Fulbrighters and many others around the world are experiencing at this time. We want to assure you that you have the full support of the Fulbright Program in navigating the challenging situation that has been presented by this pandemic.

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 a 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.
Fulbrighters on programs in the United States as part of the Fulbright Visiting Scholar and Scholar-in-Residence Program should follow the guidance below and contact their IIE Advisor with any questions.

Resources

  • 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 IIE 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 provides a 24-hour hotline for mental health consultation and advice when participants may feel at risk. Please contact ASPE Assist Services directly using the contact information below:

ASPE Assist Contact Information:
Toll free: 1-833-963-1269
Email: ASPEsupport@anvilgroup.com

Frequently Asked Questions

Below please find the answers to questions you may have related to your Fulbright grant and COVID-19.

Should I stay at my host institution or travel to my home country?

We want to assure you that you have the full support of the Fulbright Program in navigating the changing situation that has been presented by the pandemic, including the move to online coursework at many of your host universities.

We hope that you are following all guidance from your host institution and local community; and that you are able to adjust to this new online environment and complete your Fulbright Program in your host community in the United States.  If you are experiencing difficulties with remote activities or are concerned about your housing arrangements or departure dates due to rapidly changing travel restrictions, please contact your IIE Advisor to discuss your situation.

If you want to return to your home country at this time, either on the advice of your home government or because you have concerns about your own safety and welfare, we recommend that you do so.  In most cases, the Fulbright Office in your home country will support the return travel arrangements for your departure.  ECA is authorizing Fulbright Commissions and IIE to increase return travel allowances to cover extraordinary costs you may encounter in making travel arrangements and will either purchase tickets directly or reimburse you for costs over and above your travel allowance.   Please contact your IIE Advisor to discuss your individual situation.

What happens to my Fulbright Program and J-1 Visa sponsorship if I decide to return to my home country?

Due to the short-term nature of the Visiting Scholar/Scholar-in-Residence program, once you depart the U.S., your Fulbright program will be considered successfully completed and IIE will update your visa sponsorship end date to the date of final departure.
 
Note: during this unprecedented time, all Fulbright grantees, regardless if they depart early, remain on their programs, or resign from their programs, will retain their Fulbright Alumni status, and join a worldwide network of like-minded academics, teachers, and individuals. Please consider joining Fulbrighter, the official online networking platform for Fulbright alumni and grantees at https://fulbrighternetwork.com/.

Can I complete my Fulbright program research and teaching activities from my home country?

Once you depart the United States, your official program has ended.  Host institutions and Fulbright Visiting Scholar Alumni may continue engagement informally and voluntarily if both parties agree, however, such activities will not be considered to be under the auspices of the Fulbright Program.

Can I return to my home country for now and return next academic year to complete my project?

If you choose to depart the United States, your Fulbright program for 2019-2020 will be ended and you will be considered a Fulbright alumni.  You may apply for a Fulbright Visiting Scholar program award in a future year subject to the conditions of J1 visa regulations and your home country’s application and eligibility requirements.  

I am remaining in the U.S. to complete my program, what are my next steps for departure?

You will receive departure instructions from your IIE advisor. You can also review the Visiting Scholar Guide  and follow the departure guidance provided. You should plan to depart according to your program end date and grace period.

Can I still travel during my Fulbright Program?

If you decide to remain on program, we strongly recommend against any non-essential travel at this time, both within the United States and internationally.  Many governments have 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 consider your travel essential and will continue as planned, be aware of travel guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Department of State, local government officials, and airlines. You are expected to comply with any instructions regarding self-quarantine, if applicable, and must notify your IIE Advisor if you self-quarantine.  
  • You must contact your IIE Advisor as soon as possible if your travel is disrupted or delayed.
  • You should have a plan in place for any personal belongings left in the United States, should you be unable to return as planned.

If I have to cancel any previously planned travel, what should I do?

If you had submitted a Travel Notification to the IIE portal and your plans change, please email your IIE Advisor so we can update your record.

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.
Please note, the IIE office in New York is currently closed and will reopen when safe to do so based on local guidance. If you feel you urgently need a travel validation signature on your DS-2019 form, please contact your IIE Advisor to arrange a DS 2019 signature.

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 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
Worldwide: +44-20-3859-4463
Email: ASPEsupport@anvilgroup.com
 
How can I reach IIE in an emergency?

Please contact your IIE Advisor if you anticipate a disruption to your Fulbright Program. You may also call or text the after-hours Fulbright emergency line at 212-984-5332. You must leave a message with your name and contact information for your call to be returned. We wish all of you a continued successful exchange experience.