Where can I get help?

If you are ever unsure of who to contact for help, please contact your EVS advisor or call the UFIC emergency phone at 352-538-5558.  We are here to support you in whatever way we can, and we can also direct you to other resources.

UF Health has collected many wellness resources, from groceries to entertainment.

If you need J visa or other immigration-related help:

If you need medical help, or information:

EVS cannot provide any medical advice, but we can refer you to official sources and medical professionals who can help you.

If you feel unwell, please call your primary care doctor first. 

If you cannot contact them or do not have a primary care doctor, please call:

Your doctor or the health department will help determine what you need to do next, including where to go if you need to visit a specialized clinic or hospital.   Calling ahead will help keep you and others safe and prepared, and make sure you are able to get the care you need.

If you feel you are in immediate, physical, life-threatening danger, call 911.

If you need mental health support and resources:

If you need help with U.S. health insurance:

You may contact UFIC’s insurance specialist, Maryshelly Quinones, at 352-273-1542 or scholarinsurance@ufic.ufl.edu.  Please understand she cannot answer specific questions about COVID-19, but she is a U.S. health insurance expert.

If you need other types of help:

IMPORTANT: Do not accept any advice about employment, taxes, or immigration.  Verify any information about these topics with your EVS advisor.

Is EVS still open?

Yes.  As of March 27, 2020, Exchange Visitor Services has moved to remote services until further notice. 

EVS staff are available by phone, email, and/or video call during normal business hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday).  Emergency in-person services are available by appointment only.

EVS will continue to provide essential J visa services, including:

  • Processing new DS-2019s
  • Amending current DS-2019s
  • Individual advising (by phone, email, video call, etc.)
  • General phone and email support

As of March 26, 2020, only people with essential business are allowed on campus.  This includes essential staff, people with appointments with essential staff, and people who live in on-campus housing.  Please keep your Gator1 ID card visible (e.g. in a lanyard) while on campus.  If you need an emergency appointment, please contact your EVS advisor.

EVS staff will be available and continue to support you even if UF temporarily shuts down. We are here for you!

What happens if UF shuts down?

EVS and UF will send out official announcements with detailed information about any changes, including resources to support you through this situation.  EVS staff will remain available and continue to provide remote support by phone, email, video call, etc. 

Please maintain frequent communication with your UF faculty sponsor and your EVS advisor.

We understand a temporary shutdown at UF — even a partial one — may be disruptive to your J-1 program objectives.  It may limit access to important equipment, resources, locations, and working relationships with your colleagues and UF faculty sponsor.

However, the U.S. Department of State has given UF some limited flexibility to support exchange visitors.  As of this message, EVS is not recommending any visitors return to their home countries.  Neither is UF nor the U.S. government. 

You are allowed to return home if you want, but you are not required to leave the U.S.  You have the right to remain in the U.S.  Please be aware there may be delays to re-entering the U.S. if you travel internationally.

If you decide to remain in the U.S., your immigration record will remain active and secure with EVS. This is also applies to any J-2 family members and their immigration records. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your EVS advisor.

As a reminder, your J-1 program has not been canceled unless you receive written notice (e.g. email, letter) from your host department confirming that information.  Otherwise, you may continue your normal J-1 program activities.

You can find the latest information and announcements from the UF International Center and the University of Florida online.

What does the stay-at-home order mean?

The stay-at-home order, also called a safer-at-home or shelter-in-place order, is part of larger public health and safety efforts.  It means you should stay home and leave only for essential activities.

Find the latest city and county emergency orders online.  If you are outside Alachua County, please visit your city or county’s emergency management website for area-specific updates.

  • Avoid physical proximity/contact with anyone from outside your home.
  • Take precautions whenever you are around anyone from outside your home.
    • Maintain at least 6 ft. (2 m.) distance between people.
    • Wear a face mask.  Wear gloves if you have them.
  • Minimize trips outside your home and online orders.
    • Plan trips and orders in advance.
    • Go shopping no more than once a week.
    • Complete as much as you can in the same trip/order.
  • Avoid public transit if you can. 
    • This allows people who are most reliant on public transit to travel with fewer disruptions and risks.

What are essential activities?

Essential activities are tasks necessary to maintain health, safety, and functioning of yourself and your household.

This includes:

  • Seeking emergency help
  • Seeking medical care and supplies (e.g. doctor’s office, pharmacy, etc.)
  • Purchasing groceries and household goods (e.g. dish soap, diapers, etc.)
  • Performing an essential, non-remote jobs (as confirmed by your supervisor)

You must minimize time spent in public areas and outside your home, even when performing essential activities.  Do not go to public places just to “browse” or spend time outside/around other people.

Can I go on campus?

Maybe.  As of March 26, 2020, only people with essential business are allowed on campus.  This includes essential staff, people with appointments with essential staff, and people who live in on-campus housing.  Please keep your Gator1 ID card visible (e.g. on a lanyard) while on campus.  If you need an emergency appointment, please contact your EVS advisor.

Can I go outside?

Yes, with some restrictions.  As of April 23, you may spend some time outside in open spaces as long as you follow CDC public health and safety guidelines.  This includes maintaining at least 6 ft. (2 m.) distance from others and limiting group sizes.

All public areas of assembly are closed.  Currently, some large, open-air portions of public nature parks remain open.  Park visitors must follow all posted or staff instructions, in addition to all CDC public health and safety guidelines.

Where can I find more information about…?

TRAVEL

Should I return to my home country?

As of this message, EVS is not recommending any visitors return to their home countries.  You are allowed to return home if you want, but you are not required to leave the U.S.  Please be aware there may be delays to re-entering the U.S. if you travel internationally.

If you decide to remain in the U.S., your immigration record will remain active and secure with EVS.  This is also applies to any J-2 family members and their immigration records.

If you decide to return to your home country, please contact your EVS advisor and host department as soon as possible.  We will support you through this process.

What should I do if my home country’s borders are closed?

Your options will depend on your plans and circumstances.  Please contact your home country’s embassy or consulate, as well as your EVS advisor for help.

If your J-1 program is ongoing and you want to remain in the U.S., you may do so.

If your J-1 program is ongoing and you want to return to your home country, you have two primary options:

  • Complete an Out Of Country Form.  This option is available if you intend to return to the U.S. and your current J-1 program.  It will keep your record active while you are outside the U.S.
  • Shorten your J-1 program.  This option is available if you will not or cannot return to the U.S. It will end your J-1 program early. 
    • If you leave the U.S. more than 14 days earlier than the end date on your DS-2019, you and your host department must officially shorten your J-1 program.
    • Department administrators must submit an amendment request to shorten a J-1 program.
    • Visitors do not need to remain in the U.S. while these requests are processed.  You may make the request from outside the U.S.

If your J-1 program is ending soon and you are leaving the U.S., you do not need to complete any check-out process or other additional actions.

If your J-1 program is ending soon and you cannot return to your home country, contact U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to request an extension of your grace period.  If at all possible, make your request before your J-1 program ends.  Include any information about your home country’s border closures in your request.

Scroll down to “Guidance for Exchange Visitors Returning to Their Country of Origin” for the most recent information.

What should I do if I can’t return to my home country because of COVID-19?

Your options will depend on your plans and circumstances.  Please contact your home country’s embassy or consulate, as well as your EVS advisor for help.

If your J-1 program is ending soon, contact U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to request an extension of your grace period.  If at all possible, make your request before your J-1 program ends.  Include any relevant information about travel restrictions in your request.

Scroll down to “Guidance for Exchange Visitors Returning to Their Country of Origin” for the most recent information.

Can I still travel?

Maybe.  EVS cannot guarantee any current or future travel conditions, especially for international travel.  Non-essential travel can increase health risks for yourself and others, and is highly discouraged.

  • International:  As of March 19, 2020, the U.S. Department of State has issued a Global Level 4 Health Advisory for all international travel.  Many countries have active travel advisories and/or restrictions.  Non-essential travel is highly discouraged and travelers may experience unexpected delays.
  • Domestic:  Currently, many states (including Florida) have issued stay-at-home orders and/or other travel restrictions.  Non-essential travel is highly discouraged and travelers may experience unexpected delays.

Please check all of the latest health advisories and travel regulations before you travel.

J PROGRAM AND VISA STATUS

How will COVID-19 affect my ability to participate in the J-1 program?

Guidance and regulations are changing rapidly, and depend greatly on your plans and circumstances.  If you have specific questions, please contact your EVS advisor.

  • If you are an active J-1 or J-2 visitor inside the U.S., you may continue your normal J-1 program activities.  Please contact your EVS advisor if you must travel internationally, work away from your normal site of activity, or have any other specific questions or concerns.
  • If you are an active J-1 or J-2 visitor outside the U.S., please contact your EVS advisor if you have concerns about re-entering the U.S. or need to complete an Out Of Country Form.
  • If you are an initial J-1 or J-2 visitor inside the U.S., please do the following:
    • Confirm you have U.S. health insurance that complies with UF and J visa requirements.
    • Complete and submit your online check-in application in the ISSS portal.
    • Communicate with your UF faculty sponsor and host department to tell them you have arrived in the U.S. and are allowed to begin your J-1 program activities.
    • Continue to monitor your UF email for important updates.
  • If you are an initial J-1 or J-2 visitor outside the U.S., please contact your EVS advisor and host department for assistance.

As of March 20, 2020, the U.S. Department of State has suspended routine visa services in all countries until further notice.  For more details, please see the U.S. Department of State announcement.

If you are affected by these suspensions, please contact your EVS advisor and host department immediately.

Is my J-1 program canceled?

Unlikely.  Your J-1 program has not been canceled unless you receive written notice (e.g. email, letter) from your host department confirming that information.  Otherwise, you may continue your normal J-1 program activities.

Can I choose to cancel my J-1 program?

Yes.  EVS can cancel a J-1 program if you and your UF faculty sponsor have agreed on cancellation.  We need written proof of this agreement (e.g. email, letter, etc.) to complete the process.

What happens to the EVS processing fee if a J-1 program is canceled because of COVID-19?

If a J-1 program is canceled because of COVID-19, the visitor’s EVS processing fee can be deferred or potentially refunded.

If you intend to still participate in your J-1 program in the future, a deferred fee can be used for the future submission instead.  The fee may be deferred whether or not a DS-2019 has been processed.

  • If you do not intend to participate in your J-1 program in the future, you may request a refund if and only if EVS has not yet processed the DS-2019.  We are unable to issue a refund after the DS-2019 has been processed.

Can my J-1 program be deferred?

Yes.  EVS can defer programs as far into the future as is necessary, provided you and your UF faculty sponsor have agreed on the new start date.  Department administrators must submit an amendment request to defer a J-1 program start date.

Can my J-1 program be shortened?

Yes.  If you will be leaving more than 14 days earlier than the program end date on your DS-2019, you must officially shorten your J-1 program.  Department administrators must submit an amendment request to shorten a J-1 program.

Note:  Visitors do not need to be in the U.S. while their request is processed.

Can my J-1 program be extended?

Likely.  EVS can extend programs up to your J-1 visa’s maximum duration, provided you and your program sponsor agree and can show appropriate funding and continuing program activities.  Department administrators must submit an amendment request to extend a J-1 program.

Maximum Duration for Common J Visa Categories

  • Research Scholar/Professor: 5 years
  • Short-Term Scholar: 6 months
  • Student Intern: 12 months

If your J-1 program is ending soon and you cannot return to your home country, contact U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to request an extension of your grace period.  If at all possible, make your request before your J-1 program ends.  Include any relevant information about travel restrictions in your request.

Can I amend my J-1 program more than once?

Yes.  EVS can amend a program as many times as necessary to adapt to the situation.   However, some restrictions do apply if you have already received your J-1 visa.  For more information, please contact your EVS advisor.

How do I complete my check-in and orientation process?

All new visitors must do the following within 30 days of their DS-2019 program start date:

  1. Confirm you have U.S. health insurance that complies with UF and J visa requirements.
  2. Complete and submit your online check-in application in the ISSS portal.
  3. Communicate with your UF faculty sponsor and host department that you have arrived in the U.S. and are allowed to begin your program activities.
  4. Continue to monitor your UF email for important updates.

After you complete these steps, EVS staff will validate your immigration record.  This means your visa status will be active and your record will remain in good standing.

In-person orientation sessions are suspended until further notice.  EVS will directly contact you with information about completing your in-person orientation session at a later date. 

What if I need to obtain or renew my visa?

Your solution will depend on your plans and circumstances.  If you have specific questions or concerns, please contact your EVS advisor.

As of March 20, 2020, the U.S. Department of State has suspended routine visa services until further notice.  For more details, please see the U.S. Department of State announcement.

  • If you are currently inside the U.S.:  A visa is an entry document, and you may remain legally inside the U.S. with an expired J visa if you have a valid passport and J-1 program.
  • If you are currently outside the U.S.:  Please contact your EVS advisor and host department for help immediately.

 If you cannot renew your visa because your J-1 program is ending soon, and you cannot leave the U.S., contact U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to request an extension of your grace period.  If at all possible, make your request before your J-1 program ends.  Include any relevant information about your situation in your request.

What if I need to renew my passport?

Please contact your home country’s nearest embassy or consulate for help.

If they are unable to help you or your home country currently does not have an embassy or consulate in the U.S., please contact your EVS advisor.

How can I receive my DS-2019 or other document(s) from EVS?

You can have a physical copy of your DS-2019 or other document(s) mailed directly to you. Contact your EVS advisor with your mailing address, and they will ship your document(s) to you via USPS. 

Please note that if you are outside the U.S., or need something urgently, you may need to provide an international or expedited waybill.

Work and Leave

What if I can’t work at my normal site of activity (e.g. working from home, alternate location, etc.)?

You are allowed to work from home or another location other than your normal site of activity as needed by the current COVID-19 situation.

This is okay, but you must have department approval AND notify your EVS advisor.  We will work with you and your host department to make any necessary adjustments.

Once you receive department approval, email the following to evs@ufic.ufl.edu:

  • Full name
  • UFID
  • Address of your alternate work location
  • How your supervisor is communicating with you and how often
    • e.g. By phone, email, Zoom conference, etc.
    • Include any relevant phone numbers, email addresses, etc.

As always, your U.S. address must be current and up-to-date with EVS.  You must report any changes to your U.S. home address or phone number to your EVS advisor within 10 days of the change.

What if I can’t work remotely?

As of March 24, 2020, only essential personnel may continue to work on campus.  If you are unsure if you qualify as on-campus essential personnel, please contact your supervisor.

If you cannot work on campus or remotely, you may qualify for up to 10 days of Emergency Paid Sick Leave.  This leave may also be referred to as ESD leave.

What Is Emergency Paid Sick Leave/ESD leave?

Emergency Paid Sick Leave/ESD leave is paid time off (PTO) available to eligible UF employees whose ability to work is affected by COVID-19. 

  • ESD leave can only be used if you cannot work because of underlying COVID-19 issues.
    • If you can work from home and complete your normally scheduled hours, you cannot use ESD leave for that time.
  • ESD leave is available to use between March 24, 2020 and December 31, 2020.
    • It can be retroactively applied as far back to March 24.
    • It can be used in small increments or all at once.
  • The amount of available leave is based on your Full Time Equivalency (FTE).
    • e.g. 1.0 FTE = 80 hours, .50 FTE = 40 hours, etc.
    • ESD leave for part-time employees is based on the average number of hours worked between January 1, 2020 and March 13, 2020.

Who is eligible for UF ESD leave?

Eligible UF employees include faculty, staff, OPS, postdocs, graduate assistants, and student workers whose ability to work is affected by COVID-19.  Eligibility begins upon hire.

You may be an eligible employee if:

  • You cannot work at your normal UF work location
    and
  • You cannot work from home because of the nature of your work or lack of proper equipment.

You may also be an eligible employee if:

  • You can work at home but must take off time to care for children whose daycare/school is closed because of COVID-19.  (Children must be age 18 or younger.)
  • You (or someone you care for) are in quarantine or have COVID-19.
  • You are experiencing a “substantially similar condition” as specified by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

For more information, please review the UF Human Resources’ Working through COVID-19 page and the UF COVID-19 Faculty and Staff FAQ section.  If you have additional questions, please email humanresources@ufl.edu.

What if I need more than ESD leave?

If you need more than the 10 days of ESD leave, you may request additional leave and support through several emergency sources.

Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act

As of April 1, 2020, the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act allows eligible UF employees to use additional benefits through the Family and Medical Leave Act.  This is also referred to as EFMLEA leave, and it allows for up to an additional 10 weeks of paid leave.

UF COVID Leave Donation Plan

As of April 6, 2020, the UF COVID Leave Donation Plan allows UF employees to donate or request additional leave through a UF Sponsored Pool.  This leave plan is separate from the Sick Leave Pool and Aid-A-Gator, and is meant to support employees who have exhausted other leave options.

Aid-A-Gator

Aid-A-Gator is an emergency grant program available to support UF employees and students with unexpected financial hardships.  UF employees should visit HR – Gator Perks and students should visit the Office for Student Financial Affairs.

For more information on these options and other UF resources, please review the UF Human Resources’ Working through COVID-19 page and the UF COVID-19 Faculty and Staff FAQ section.  If you have additional questions, please email humanresources@ufl.edu.