Coronavirus (COVID-19) US Resorts Update


Date: April, 24, 2020

Here are a couple of the most recent government updates regarding COVID-19 and travel.

Presidential Proclamation : the recent Presidential Proclamation does not currently include J-1 and other non-immigrant visas in its suspension. The proclamation does state the following: Sec. 6. Additional Measures. Within 30 days of the effective date of this proclamation, the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall review nonimmigrant programs and shall recommend to me other measures appropriate to stimulate the United States economy and ensure the prioritization, hiring, and employment of United States workers. We are closely following advice from the Alliance for International Exchange, and will be in touch regarding advocacy efforts.

Travel Ban Between the US and Mexico : the travel ban between the US and Mexico has been extended until May 19. The US embassies in Mexico are accepting emergency appointment bookings for non-Immigrant visas. We are encouraged to hear a few participants have been granted May appointments, and encourage you to reach out to us if you hear of participants whose appointment requests have been granted.

Date: April 2, 2020

Dear friends,

These are extraordinary times which have led to unprecedented challenges for the hospitality and the cultural exchange industries. We also understand that the circumstances create doubt about the season ahead for many of our partner resorts. Amid the uncertainty caused by the spread of COVID-19, I’ve been heartened by the many notes and calls of support we’ve received at Resort Leaders.

I am writing to keep you updated on our key commitments to you, our resort partners.

Ensure the safety and health of our staff and participants, and Resort Leaders.

As many of you know, we moved to remote working for all Resort Leaders staff globally. We will also work with our resort partners to navigate any new or revised local or other government regulations regarding your resort community’s health and safety for the coming season.

We want to be transparent that the current situation has necessitated an assessment of our global operations at Resort Leaders. We have worked very closely with our program and country leads to ensure that we deliver the same level of service you have come to expect, and to ensure that participants remain committed to their plans. As governmental and legislative changes occur among the many territories, we’ve continued to adjust our sails. In the meantime, you may continue to email as always and a team member will be back in touch with you. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we work through these circumstances.

Continue down the path of providing exceptional staff for your resort.

The Resort Leaders program will continue unless it is prohibited to do so by governmental or other restrictions. Among the many steps we are taking is to actively advocate alongside our cultural exchange partners to remove or limit any barriers to fulfilling the summer, including visa appointment scheduling. As always, our priority is to work with our resort partners to help deliver another outstanding experience for your guests since we know your staff are tantamount to creating that success.

Maintaining and encouraging connection among resorts, our participants and Resort Leaders.

Despite the challenging times, or perhaps because of them, it is my hope that each of us will redouble our efforts to reach out and stay connected. Being engaged with your participants, as many of you already have despite your own challenges, will go a long way to ensuring that they will join you this season. Our decision a couple of weeks ago to close recruitment globally reflects our commitment to doing the same; shifting our near-term focus to encouraging participants to stay the course.

I can’t begin to express the gratitude we feel from the notes of encouragement that we’ve received. We know all too well the sobering impact of the abrupt and stark downturn for the hospitality industry. As we’ve said from the beginning, we’re in this with you. And, having heard the same refrain from so many of our partners, please know that the message strengthens our resolve and determination. Thank you, and let’s please stay connected and stay healthy.


Michael Thompson

US Director, Resort Leaders

Date: March 20, 2020

What do the different Visa statuses mean?

Under the ‘Visa’ section of ‘my placements’ there are different status indicators that you can see for your participants.

  1. Added to template/ready to batch: country office has started the process for a participants DS2019 form (early stages).

  2. Applied for: participant’s DS2019 form is being processed by their visa sponsor.

  3. Received by sponsor: visa sponsor has printed the participants DS2019 form.

  4. Sent-by-sponsor: participant’s DS2019 form has been sent by the visa sponsor to the country office. If the participant lives where we do not have an office, the DS2019 form is sent directly to the participant.

  5. Received by Office: country office has received the participant’s DS2019 form from the US based visa sponsor.

  6. Sent-by-office: country office has sent the DS2019 form to the participant.

  7. ---- OR (blank): participant has documents outstanding and is not ready to have their DS2019 form run.

There is also a column called ‘has visa’. If this section has a green tick mark, or says the word ‘true’ the participant has confirmed they have their visa in hand. Once the arrival suspension is lifted, these participants will be ready to enter the US.

How will participants be prioritized when the embassies reopen?

Things might look different in each country. Internally, it is our goal to get the participants slotted in for their visa appointments based on the earliest arrival dates. This will only be possible if all their documents are ready to go. We are continuing to run visa paperwork and ship DS2019 forms in order to speed up the process when the time comes.

The best way to assist your participants is to continue to urge them to upload all their visa paperwork. This way, when restrictions are lifted they are ready to head to the embassy.

Are they allowed to have digital DS2019 forms?

Under current regulations, participants must have a hand-signed, printed version of their DS2019 form, which is why we carry out such a meticulous process to make sure the forms are tracked at every step.

Date: March 19, 2020


I hope everyone is settling into a daily routine in this temporary new normal, and of course, that you and your loved ones are staying healthy. It has been uplifting in this uncertain time to catch up with so many of you. This industry is resilient, and your energy and enthusiasm to forge ahead with your summers with minimal interruption has reminded us of that resilience each day. We remain determined as ever to match you with great staff for your programs, and support you however we are able. At this point we continue to look toward a successful Summer 2020.

In an effort to keep you fully updated on developments going forward, we will be posting updates to a special website which you can access here. The same websites exist in each country where we operate, so you can also see the regular updates participants are receiving.(as an example, the website for participants is here). Many of you have asked, in light of embassy closures and travel restrictions, how you can be most proactive in helping ensure a timely arrival for your staff when these bans are lifted. Below are some helpful resources and suggestions that I hope you find useful.

Ryan Brown

Resort Leaders Program Manager

How do I know if my staff member is ready to go to the embassy?

It is very important that participants have completed and uploaded all of their documents to facilitate a smooth and fast visa process. Head to your Resort Leaders profile, click on ‘My Placements’ and the gray button which says ‘Documents’. There you can see your participants’ progress on uploading their documents. You should check this for both confirmed (yellow) and placed (green) staff members. Our goal is to have everyone fully sorted with their documents when the embassies reopen, leaving the visa to be the only remaining item to take care of.

Do you know when the embassies will reopen?

We are hopeful each embassy closure will be no more than 14-30 days. Some of your staff may be seeing no availability for appointments until July. Please encourage them that Resort Leaders and their visa sponsor will be there to support them in scheduling their appointments when the embassies reopen. Our country offices and visa sponsors feel strongly about their relationships with the embassies, and it will be a collaborative effort when things are up and running to assist participants with arriving on time to your resort.

Are you taking new applications?

We have made the decision to halt recruitment worldwide so our teams can focus all their efforts on providing excellent support to our existing participants. Our goal is to ensure that participants stay on the Resort Leaders program so we have focused our energy on engaging and supporting those who are already on the program or in the process of joining the program. There are many young people who are still working through their application process and are eager to find their summer home. Feel free to continue sending staffing needs over to us.

How do you feel?

Like many of you, the Resort Leaders team is living through an ever evolving situation. We continue to be optimistic that summer will happen. Each time we touch base with you we are encouraged by your shared optimism. So, despite all of the changes and challenges, please keep in touch -- we love hearing from you.

Date: March 13, 2020

Dear friends and colleagues,

I have just concluded a call with several of our visa sponsor partners regarding Covid-19. It’s been quite a week for what is truly an unprecedented time. I write today to assure you that we are continuing to monitor the changing landscape precipitated by the spread of Covid-19. We are in close communication with our visa sponsors to ensure that we move forward with the summer as planned. While we can’t predict what will happen next, we can prepare. The top priority for us is, and will continue to be, the health and safety of our participants and our staff. Additionally, it is to continue to work closely with you, our resort partners, to adjust to any changes that may emerge.

This morning, the Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) asked sponsors to pause arrivals on all J-1 Exchange Visitors for 60 days, beginning today. We are assessing this guidance to determine next steps, and it again demonstrates that the situation continues to evolve. Because of this, we encourage you to stay informed, and we appreciate your patience as we address the changes that emerge. Please know that we will be quick to communicate directly with you any recommendations beyond those shared by the US government or our visa sponsors.

Over the past 20 years, Smaller Earth and Resort Leaders were founded and have existed in rapidly changing industries of cultural exchange and hospitality. This experience has provided us with knowledge that has always informed our innovative solutions for the hospitality industry. It is our hope that you will reach out to us to share any changes or communication from your resort as the summer nears. We remain committed to working alongside you to ensure a happy, healthy and transformational summer for young people from around the world.

Michael Thompson

US Director - Resort Leaders