Update for AFS-USA Volunteers About Shortened Hosting Programs

Update for AFS-USA Volunteers About Shortened Hosting Programs

Dear AFS-USA Volunteers,

Monday night, Tara Hofmann informed all of you about the decision to shorten the programs of currently hosted students in the US, aside from FLEX and YES Sponsored Programs students. This message is an update on our planned next steps.

Not every student in the United States will return home immediately.  If your Area Team is not on the list below, we have not yet determined a target departure  date for students in your Team. You will receive additional communications early next week, after the first group of students has returned home. Until you hear from us, students in your team will remain on the AFS Program, just as they have been to this point.

 This will not be a short-term process lasting for days—it may take weeks. We are aware that not every parent, host parent, student, or volunteer agrees with the decision that our Network has made to shorten programs and return students to their families. Every student, host parent, and natural parents/guardians will be communicated with individually when arrangements are able to be made to return the student home. AFS-USA is moving forward as thoughtfully as is possible.

The first group of students will depart this Friday, March 20. It is important to note that students in this group should be prepared to return home on Friday. If AFS in the student’s home country is able to arrange a return flight for Friday, AFS staff will inform the host family as soon as we receive the confirmation and e-ticket. If the students’ AFS partner organization cannot find an available international flight, the student will remain on the program until travel arrangements can be made. Given the fluidity of airline cancellations, we are not permitting flight arrangements that will have a student taking a domestic flight to a different international departure gateway.

The first group prioritized for departure on Friday are those students hosted in Teams within a 2-3-hour drive of an airport that allows international departures. This allows students to be driven to one of the following international airports by host parents or local volunteers: Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Seattle and Washington, DC.  AFS-USA is not arranging any domestic travel for participants to get to the gateway airport.

Area Teams in the first group prioritized for departures are as follows:

Dallas:  Dallas, Lewisville/Denton
Washington: Baltimore, Capital, Virginia
Los Angeles: California Central Coast, Greater Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego
New York: DelMarPa, New Jersey, NYC Metro and Hudson Valley, Southern New England. Some of these flights may be booked out of Newark, so families and volunteers should be prepared for that.
Chicago: Greater Chicago, Greater Illinois, Milwaukee, Waukesha and West, World Flags
Seattle: Greater Puget Sound

In Area Teams where students are departing this week:

  • Host families and hosted students will receive an additional email later tonight, with additional details for your team. Team Chairs, Support Coordinators, Associate Support Coordinators, Hosting Coordinators, and Liaisons in those Teams will be CCed on the message.
  • AFS partner offices are booking travel and communicating directly with hosted participants regarding their flight information. It is possible that the students may find out their return travel information before you do. Please remember that you can pull a departure travel report in Global link for your team. Instructions for doing so are at the end of this email.
  • We are already aware that students from Argentina, China, Latvia, and Austria will not be able to travel at this time. As we learn of other countries unable to travel, you will receive updates from AFS-USA staff. We will be informing families, students, and volunteers of these cases as they occur.
  • In addition, for all currently hosted YES or FLEX Students and their host families, the Department of State Youth Programs Division makes decisions about changes to those programs. At this time there are no changes to YES or FLEX programs.
  • Staff will be reaching out to host families to confirm they have received the student’s travel information and e-ticket.
  • Host families will be asked to drive their student to the departure airport. If the host family is unable to do so, they will be asked to reach out to their AFS liaison or to other volunteers in the team in order to make other arrangements, such as carpooling.
  • On the day of the student’s departure, we are asking that the host family or volunteer who drives the student to the airport please remain at the airport until the student’s flight has departed, in case there are any last-minute cancellations.
  • It is not possible at this time for AFS staff to know the luggage restrictions for the individual airline your student may be flying on. If there are questions about current airline luggage restrictions, please check the airline’s website.
  • International tickets are e-tickets. The flight itinerary will be available in MyAFS & Global Link, once the partner has arranged travel.

To find travel for a specific student, you can find the student in the Teams directory in MyAFS and click on the Travel Info option here:

You can also pull travel info for the whole team here by going to the Reports section of Global Link here:
In the event it is not possible for a participant to travel, AFS-USA will continue to provide support until it becomes feasible for the student to return to their family in their home country. AFS Staff and

Volunteers will remain available to assist all students who will remain with their host families until travel is secured.If you have questions at this time, please contact covid19@afsusa.org.