MANILA – The Philippines has issued a temporary moratorium on the participation of Filipino nationals in the United States Exchange Visitor Program (EVP) amid the current coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
The Philippine Exchange Visitor Program (EVP) Committee, in an advisory, cited the “urgent nature and life-threatening implications” associated with the health crisis that continues to affect citizens and economies worldwide.
It also noted the “numerous concerns and requests for assistance” of Filipino J1 visa holders who were stranded due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“The moratorium takes place immediately after the publication of EVP Resolution No. 01-2020 on 25 May 2020, and shall remain in place for one year, or until six months after travel restrictions, as provided by the Inter-Agency Task Force (for the Management of) Emerging Infectious Diseases, are lifted or accordingly revised, whichever is longer,” read the advisory posted on the page of the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC on Tuesday.
During the moratorium period, the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, as EVP Committee Secretariat, will hold in abeyance the registration of Filipino nationals for EVP.
The processing of requests for the No Objection Statement (NOS) is likewise suspended.
Meanwhile, the committee clarified that the moratorium does not equate to a total ban on Philippine participation in the EVP.
“Those with active programs will continue their participation in their programs, especially those with proven existence of adequate mechanisms that ensure the protection and safety of participants,” it said.
The committee assured it would closely coordinate with the US Embassy in Manila to assess and address the concerns of Filipino exchange visitors, including “possible exemptions” for certain EVP categories.
As of June 21, the Philippine Embassy and Consulates in the US have received more than 600 requests from J1 visa holders, particularly interns and trainees, for return tickets, temporary accommodation, food, and other basic needs after their programs were prematurely terminated due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
More than 300 have also returned to the Philippines at their own expense while some have opted to stay, risking overextending their visa stay.
“They have all complained of lack of support from their agencies, sponsors, and host institutions. The pandemic thus highlighted the need to institute further mechanisms to ensure the safety and welfare of Filipino participants in the EVP,” the advisory read. (PNA)
Photo Credit: Philippine News Agency