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SUMMER 2021 UPDATE

 

Please find below some FAQ's regarding Coronavirus, along with an updated statement. We will be updating this page regularly, so check back for further updates.

Update 17th June 2021

Update for applicants from countries that are not currently issuing visas!

There were rumours that a US travel corridor could open-up following President Biden’s visit to Europe for the G7 Summit. Sadly, there has been no such update. 

The US Embassy is still not open to non-immigrant visa processing and every day the chance of them reopening seems more and more unlikely. 

Many camps are holding out hope that things will change last minute, and they’ll still be able to welcome their placed applicants this summer. And who can blame them!? Camp will be a less enriching environment without all of you! We know the difference our international staff make to camp, especially the lives of their US co-counsellors and of course the campers! So if you are able to hang on just a little longer to see if anything does change, then that would be great!

If you do not have a placement, or cannot wait any longer we recommend that you now fast track your application to summer 2022. Click here for more information, including what to do if you are unable to fast track to summer 2022.

While the pandemic has caused a delay, it is just a delay, and Camp America will be back stronger than ever before for summer 2022 and we hope that you will be a part of it! We can assure you the wait is worth it.

Update: 8th June 2021

We’re still waiting…we know you are too, and we also know that time is running out.

The US Embassy has remained resolute in their decision not to open non-immigrant visa processing while the US travel ban remains in place, and while we know that there are many rumours circulating about the UK/US travel corridor opening up (particularly since President Biden will be here this week at the G7 Summit) there are unfortunately no concrete answers forthcoming from Governments.

So where does that leave us? Well we know that some camps will still be willing to hang on, while others will be able to place staff later in the season.

For some participants who were issued a visa in the past couple of years, the Department of State were able to offer a limited number of appointments via Mexico City – we’re in awe at the spirit of adventure that some of our returning staff have shown!  Over 100 participants elected to take this option - a number are there right now and some will leave over the next couple of weeks – this wasn’t an easy option, but we know their camps will be so pleased to welcome them back.

We have been asked about other US Embassies around the world that may offer something similar to Mexico.  We have not been informed officially of any such arrangements made with Embassies other than Mexico City and we should warn about the risks of visa refusal involved in travelling to other countries to obtain your J1 visa – many embassies will not grant visas to applicants who are not either residents or studying in the country.  If anything does change, we will let you know.

Finally, as we have said previously, we understand that waiting isn’t for everyone and if you want to discuss your options then please email us at [email protected]

For so many of you we know that this is turning into the second summer that never was…but we have to hold out hope that things will be brighter, the sun will shine again and next summer will be the one we’ve all waited for.

Mission Mexico

On Tuesday night the US State Department announced that participants who had previously been issued a J1 visa could elect to travel via Mexico City and get an in-person visa interview there (appointments can only be made by Camp America).  Participants electing to do this will be required to stay in Mexico for 14 days prior to travelling to the US.

This was certainly an unexpected development, and whilst we expect some participants will take this opportunity, it is by no means an easy (or cheap) route to camp, but at least it’s something!  Participants who are eligible for this option have been directly emailed with further details.

For those of you that are not eligible for this option – or for those previous participants that don’t wish to travel to Mexico, we are unfortunately still waiting.  As the summer looms, the pressure on the US State Department is continuing to build. In the last week a number of articles were published in the US press highlighting the issue that many camps are struggling to run without their international staff and, as the Kinsley Vs. Blinken case progresses through the US legal system, we hope that this will eventually mean that things start to shift.  All we can ask you to do right now is hold on – we will hold on with you – and as we’ve always said, if there’s a way we can get you to camp, then we will. If you know you can’t wait, then please email [email protected] to discuss your options.

Update 24th May 2021

As updates go…these are getting harder to give, but we thought we’d let you know where we are as of now.

The US is currently an ‘Amber’ list country, meaning you can travel on the Camp America programme as you will be undertaking work in the US.

However, we have still heard nothing from the US Embassy in terms of opening up for non-immigrant visas. We can’t tell you how disappointed we are – despite repeated attempts to contact them they have only reiterated their standard message that while travel bans are in-place, they will not be opening up appointments.

That said, pressure is starting to mount in the US – on Tuesday the US Senate held a committee hearing to discuss opening up international travel – and heard from a number of Companies (such as Brand USA, Vegas Tourism and others) who repeatedly spoke about the importance of a UK/US travel corridor. Additionally, the American Camping Association (ACA) has launched an advocacy drive asking camps to contact their State Senators. We know that many of our camps are struggling to find staff and a lack of international staff will impact their ability to run this summer, which will be devastating to the many campers and families who rely on them for childcare. 

Don't think we haven't been active behind the scenes; we have engaged lobbyists in the political arena to help promote the value of our programmes to public diplomacy and to highlight the importance of camp for US children this year more than any other.

We have joined a law suit filed via the ‘Alliance’ an advocacy group for cultural exchange programmes, that is contesting the United States Government over their interpretation of Presidential Order 212F. That sounds fancy, but basically we’re taking action to say issuing visas is separate from a ban on travel, so visas should be issued regardless of any travel bans in place. The case (which is known as 'Kinsley Vs Blinken' if you wish to follow it), is about to go to a summary judgement phase that should result in it progressing quickly to a decision. 

And of course you’ve been putting the pressure on too – we see your tweets to the US Consulate in London which have been keeping J1s and the urgency of reinstating processing for non-immigrant visas foremost in the mind of the US Embassy, whether they like it or not!

What does all of this mean for you? Well for now it still means waiting…and we know how frustrating it is, and believe us when we say we share your frustration.  We’re in unknown territory for our industry, but if there’s a chance to get you to camp this summer then we’ll take it, even if that chance comes later than we’d want. Our US team is working with camps to move start dates where they can, if and when it's required. 

We said a few updates ago that things were going to be last minute this year and we know that won’t be for everyone. We didn’t realise then how close to the wire we might be going, but if you can hang on, we hope you will. We can’t make any promises or guarantees, but as pressure mounts on the US State Department, and as COVID-19 cases, hospitalisations and deaths in both countries decrease, and vaccinations increase - we hope that things will start to shift. Waiting is insufferable we know…if we could give you a date that it will be resolved by we would but, that just isn’t the reality we’re having to work in right now.  We can tell you one thing…we’re not ready to give up hope just yet.  We owe that to you, our camps and most importantly the campers. 

If you are able to hang on, it’s important that you log into your ‘My Camp America’ account every day. That’s how staff (and camps!) know that you’re actively still on the programme. 

If you are unable to keep waiting, please email [email protected] to discuss your options.

As ever, as soon as we have news you will be the first to know!

Update 7th May 2021

Travel is back! Today the UK Government announced that the United States will be placed in the Amber Zone of the new traffic light system.

Amber means that applicants travelling to the US will need to quarantine for a period of 10 days (at home) when they return from the US, and take a pre-departure test, and a PCR test on day 2 and day 8 with the option for Test to Release on day 5 to end self-isolation early.

So this means that from May 17th, participants will be able to travel to the US!

However, (and if we’ve all learnt anything during this pandemic, it’s that good news is always followed by a ‘however’!!!) the travel ban into the US is still in place and although we hope this will be lifted soon, particularly as President Biden will be travelling to the UK in June, for now we’re still waiting to hear from the Embassy regarding the resumption of visa services, which they have indicated will resume in some form after both bans have been lifted.

As we have said before, this delay with the embassy opening will mean that things will likely be very last minute. There is no guarantee that the US Embassy will resume ‘business as usual’ and it is highly likely that there will be limited appointments available. However, as soon as the Embassy slots are released, we will move quickly to sort your placement (if we haven't already) and help get you booked in!

With this in mind you should ensure that you are up-to-date with the 'Next Steps' items on your 'My Camp America’ account. If your status is still at 'Applied' it will usually be because you are missing some references or your police check (or both!).  Please make contact with your referees to ensure they have received the form from us, and ask them to complete it!  With regards to your DBS/Police check, please ensure you’ve had your IDs verified. As the DBS payment is non-refundable, we won't ask you to make the payment until the Embassy has opened up to J1 appointments. 

We would also suggest that you download the NHS app as this will show your immunisations, including the COVID jab if you’ve had it. If you haven't already uploaded your medical form on your ‘My Camp America’ account, we recommend you print screen this information and include it. If you have already uploaded your medical form, your camp may also want to see this information - so it will be a good thing to have saved on your phone anyway.

We understand that many of you have May depatures. Please know that our US office will be working with camps to push back start dates where they can if required. Where camps are unable to wait, our US staff will seek to find you an alternative placement.

So, that’s it for now…once we hear from the US side of the travel ban we’ll be one step closer to summer.  We’re looking at you Mr President!

Update 15th April 2021

We know that manof you are due to start camp in May and you’re still waiting on answers...

As explained in our last update you can now travel for work, so the UK Travel Ban is no longer the issue. Unfortunately, the barrier right now is obtaining your J1 visa. Until this time, the closure of the US Embassy has created some enormous back logs and it is unclear how they plan to tackle this problem. 

Please know that we have been actively chasing the US Embassy to give us any indications of when they might allow bookings of J1 visa appointments. At the present time nothing has been forthcoming, but we have to understand that their priority is to keep their staff safe and they do have these backlogs to consider.

Just know that we share your frustrations! We have asked you to be patient and you have been. We are desperate to share more information with you, but nothing new is being released. Please rest assured that as soon as we know anything, you will! We will move quickly to give you the best chance of getting to camp and we are giving this our full attention on a daily basis.

So for now please know that we are aware of your start date, and we will update YOU and YOUR CAMP as soon as we have any more information!

Don’t forget to regularly log in to your Camp America Online account to keep up to date with any ‘to-do’ items.

Update 26th March 2021

We are aware that the US State Department has recently updated their guidance regarding expanding the Interview Waiver eligibility (which gives consular officers the ability to waive the in-person interview for applicants who had previously been granted a J1 visa within the past 48 months).  Please note this decision is taken by each individual embassy and doesn’t guarantee that participants with previously issued J1 visas will receive a visa or have the ability to travel to the US.  Whilst this step gives us reason to feel more optimistic, we are still awaiting further clarification and guidance (particularly regarding the continued travel ban – into the US) from the US State Department.  As a visa sponsor we are in regular contact with the US State Department.  

We are also awaiting clarification regarding the recent UK travel ban announcement regarding eligibility to travel outside of the UK for the purposes of a staff placement on summer camp.  When we do have an update, we will of course let you know!  Things change rapidly as Governments (both here and in the US) introduce travel rulings around the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’re always keen to ensure we’re giving you information that is verified and current.  For now, it’s still a case of hanging tight!  As soon as we know something concrete, we’ll be in touch!

 

Update 9th March 2021

We welcomed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement regarding the ‘road map’ to lifting lockdown restrictions in the UK.

We were particularly pleased to see that in April, non-essential shops will be able to reopen and thus we fully anticipate that at this time, US Embassies will be able to resume their non-immigrant visa services. 

We were also happy to hear that, following a review in April, international travel is expected to resume in May – we don’t know about you – but we can’t wait to get out there!

In a normal season (and we know that this season is anything but normal!) April, May and June are our busiest months – with participants heading to the Embassy to get their visas, getting their medical forms completed, making their final payments before heading off to the airport – and in many ways, this should be the same this year.  However, there are bound to be some changes and challenges along the way and we wanted to take this opportunity to update you on a number of important areas.

Getting set for the summer!
The Camp America staff are currently working hard to make sure applications are complete so we can run visa papers –when the US Embassies open they’re sure to be busy!  It is vitally important that you log-in to your ‘My Camp America’ account on a regular basis and check for any instructions you have been given!

Insurance
We have worked with Care-Med our insurance providers to bring you 2 additional insurance packages our Upgrade Insurance (which includes trip delay coverage for your flight back from the US) and Trip Cancellation insurance.  We hope that these will give further peace of mind.  More detailed information regarding both the Upgrade and Trip Cancellation insurance will be posted soon so please keep an eye on the Insurance page of your ‘My Camp America’ account.

Medical Forms & the NHS app
Our amazing NHS staff have been on the front-line since April last year, and as the vaccination roll-out continues, there may be a chance for some applicants to get their first vaccination shot. If you get the chance – WE STRONGLY ADVISE YOU TO DO SO!  Where possible, you should still have your Camp America medical form completed (and if you’ve had a COVD vaccine please note this on the form including date of dose 1, date of dose 2 (if applicable) and which vaccine you had), but we also ask you to utilise the excellent NHS app that is available on IOS and Android as this gives you easy access to print your medical and vaccination records – should the need arise.

COVID-related FAQs
Similar to last season, there are always going to be questions that will crop up ahead of your summer travels.  We can’t pretend to always know all the answers – but as the COVID-19 lockdown situation (particularly regarding travel) becomes clearer we will keep this FAQ page updated 

So – for now, sit tight, while we work hard behind the scenes to get you closer to a summer to remember!

The summer is just a few months away…the days will soon be longer, the sun will start shining and camp will be calling. 

Update 7th January

 

Applications are still open for 2021, at this current time we are running as usual and looking forward to placing you all at camp this summer. We will be keeping an eye on the situation over the coming months, and take into account any information that effects the program. We are hopeful that by the summer, there will be a good level of normality and the program will run as usual. We will ensure that if there are any requirements regarding travel this summer, that protocols are abided by and there will be procedures in place to keep our applicants safe. 

 

Update 10 November

 

As we draw near to the end of what has been the most unexpected and difficult year for all of us, we thought that we’d take a moment to look back, as well as look forward to summer 2021.

The Camp America team has spent the last few months apart, working from home – and we (like so many people around the globe) have missed the fun and banter of the office – where we all share a love of camp and are passionate about delivering the best summer possible to as many young people as we can.

For the US camp community, last summer proved to be a difficult time – for many, the US Center for Disease Control guidelines aimed at sleepaway camps came very late in some states, which meant a number of camps had to take the difficult decision not to open for summer 2020.  However, in true summer camp style they got creative!  Many ran as day camps, a lot went virtual and we even heard some fantastic stories about ‘drive-by’ camps!

We felt the disappointment of those who were due to head stateside for their first summer and we felt the heartbreak of those staff who were hoping to return to camp for their second, third or double digit summers!   We’ve seen so many virtual staff reunions, it’s always wonderful to see staff re-connect after camp, but it was especially great to see so many international camp staff connect online with their ‘second families’ in the US.  Camp America’s parent company AIFS’ mission is ‘to bring the world together, we feel that this still held true despite everything that was keeping us apart.

In the middle of all of it though, some camps did open their doors for residential camp – allowing their staff and campers to experience a summer of relative normality – and we were proud that over one hundred Camp America participants were able to make the journey to the US to help those camps make summer happen.  They showed us that camp can operate safely – and brought a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘living in the camp bubble!’

Looking ahead, we are encouraged by the positive news about vaccine development as well as the plan for rapid testing which will allow the world to open up again.  Many airports and airlines are busy putting plans in place to allow international travel to resume safely and of course the camps we work with are already busy making plans for the summer ahead to ensure that they deliver a fun and safe summer to their campers – and our participants will be a big part of that.

COVID is likely to be a fixture of our landscape for some time to come, but we’re confident that we’ll all find a way to navigate our lives around it, be it through vaccine or testing and we’re confident too that we’ll get back to summer in 2021 – we’ve missed it!

Update 30th October

 

Applications are open! We know there will be some Coronavirus questions regarding next summer, 2021, so we wanted to update you as best we can. Applications are now open for 2021, at this current time we are running as usual and looking forward to placing you all at camp for next year. We will be keeping an eye on the situation over the year, and take into account any information that effects the program. We are hopeful that in a year’s time, there will be a good level of normality and the program will run as it usual. We will ensure that if there are any requirements regarding travel next summer, that protocols are abided by and there will be procedures in place to keep our applicants safe. Our recruitment fairs that take place in January, will not be running in the regular format, but we are working on some exciting online fairs, to get you placed! We will continue to update you throughout the year.

Update 24th June

 

On June 22nd 2020, the President of the United States released a new Presidential Proclamation, suspending visas for foreign workers until the end of December 31st 2020. Although the proclamation is strongly focused on the HB visas (which bring workers to permanent positions in the US), it unfortunately does also currently include the J1 visa, which covers both camp counsellors and campower staff.  This was not an unexpected announcement, and those applicants who have a valid J-1 visa will still be able to travel this summer, but we know for those that were unable to attend a visa interview prior to the Embassies closing for lockdown, this will be a disappointment.  However summer 2021 is unaffected and we are excited to launch our 2021 season in July.  We have fought hard over the years to maintain the J1 visa and are committed to the positive and important outcomes that a summer spent at camp, sharing your culture with Americans can bring.  The suspension is temporary, so although times may seem uncertain, we will continue to work hard towards summer 2021, and look forward to bringing the world together at camp again! 

 

 

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