Coronavirus An Update From Wild Packs

Summer 2021 Update 

11th June 2021

Unfortunately, we are writing a very similar update to our last one. Sadly there haven’t been any changes to the situation with travel or embassies in the UK, Europe and other countries including South Africa. Travel is still prohibited and the embassies are still closed for J1 appointments.

If you are in a country where the embassy is not yet open you have a couple of different options. If you’re happy to keep holding then we are more than happy to keep you on our 2021 program and hope that we see some changes with the embassy soon (within the next week- if there are no changes soon then unfortunately you wouldn’t be able to make it to camp on time). If not then we can move your application to summer 2022.

If you’d like to move your application to 2022 please email info@wildpacks.com and our team will discuss your options with you.

We are truly devasted to be in a similar position to last summer and although are happy that some of our applicants from “open” countries will be able to experience camp this summer we are sad that many will not. Most of our staff in the office work at camp during the summer too, so we can absolutely understand the disappointment many of our applicants will be feeling.

10th May 2021

UK Applicants: Transport secretary Grant Shapps has confirmed that overseas travel can resume from May 17. The US is currently on the ‘Amber’ list, meaning that travel to the US is permitted for work reasons, but quarantine measures are in place. Please remember, that things change and countries can move in and out of various colour categories over the course of the next few months.

On arrival to England, after camp you must:

  • quarantine at home or in the place you are staying for 10 days
  • take a COVID-19 test on or before day 2 and on or after day 8

You can read more about the traffic light travel lists here 

The US embassies in the UK are both still currently closed. We will update applicants as soon as we know more.

We will continue to work with camps to discuss start dates and update applicants if it looks like their start dates will need to be pushed back.

28th April 2021

Unfortunately, we still do not have an update from the embassy in the UK regarding an open date. We hoped that the embassy would be open now, as restrictions in the UK have significantly lifted.

We have been made aware by the embassy in London that when inbound travel to the US is allowed, or when camp staff are included as a National Interest Exception, they will resume J1 non-immigrant appointments. We will keep open communication with the embassy and inform applicants of an open date when we have one.

Our program is still open and we would still encourage any applicants who have not submitted all of their documents to Wild Packs to do so ASAP. Being as organised as possible will allow applicants to be processed and hopefully attend the US embassy as quickly and seamlessly as possible.

We will continue to keep applicants updated – thanks for your ongoing patience.

16th April 2021

Unfortunately we still do not have an update from the UK embassies when they will open for J1 appointments. We are asking applicants to please keep being patient with us and know that as soon as we have concrete information we will pass that on. There has been plenty of speculation on open dates (all of which have now passed) over the last few months, that Wild Packs have decided not to share with our applicants. The reason being we will not give out information about the embassy until we hear it directly from the embassy, rather than other sources. Please be assured that we are in regular communication with the embassy and check the website daily.

Regarding the UK Government’s plans with international travel –  a planned traffic light system is to be introduced next month.  Countries will be assigned to the red, amber or green categories based on COVID risk.  Green countries (which will have no isolation requirement on return) will be based on the countries posing the lowest risk based on vaccination program, infection rates, the prevalence of variants of concern etc.  Taking into consideration the vaccination program in the US has been extremely successful we are optimistic the US will be added to the ‘green’ list. We will be in touch when we know more.

10th March 2021

As we get closer towards summer 2021 we are feeling positive and optimistic that travel will go ahead based on the encouraging vaccinations taking place worldwide, improvements in mass testing and developments in the U.S. Administration, who are supporters of the Bridge USA (J1) program.

As always the safety and welfare of our Wild Packs applicants is our absolute priority and we will only facilitate travel to the USA so long as if it’s safe to do so.

Timeframe

It’s very normal for most applicants to get placed and organise their visa and trip to the USA in the months of March, April, May and June. Every year we have hundreds of applicants going through the embassy in the Spring. We’re not concerned about the time frame to process visas as we can operate quickly, but would ask applicants to make sure they are as up to date as possible with their documents, to help us process you quickly.

Fees

We understand some applicants are hesitant paying their program fees due to the current climate. We are respectful of their decision and will work with applicants to make sure they are comfortable with payment dates. Please note, we cannot process visas until all program fees to Wild Packs are paid.

Flights & Travel to the USA

As always, we would urge applicants not to book flights until their visa has been approved at the US embassy.

We are not aware of any travel restrictions to the USA that require vaccination for entry. If you do qualify for vaccination, we would absolutely recommend receiving it as should any restrictions arise, this will put you in the best position to travel.

Currently the US requires a COVID-19 test (with a negative result) to be taken within 72 hours of flying to the States. If you test positive you may not be able to travel on your existing departure date. At this point, we would work closely with your camp to try and arrange an alternative arrival date. If this is not possible, we will do our utmost to find you an alternative placement. If that is not possible then we will be able to offer deferral to the 2022 summer program. Wild Packs cannot be held liable if your test comes back positive. Therefore, we would advise all participants to be responsible and follow government guidelines closely before their departure. To ensure you do not contract COVID-19 we highly recommend you isolate or reduce contact with people in the weeks before your departure.

Medical Insurance & Contracting COVID at Camp

Should you contract COVID at camp then you must follow the protocols camp will have put in place. Each camp will have its own quarantine procedures in place following guidance from the U.S. Government and their local state. These procedures may differ from camp to camp.

Should you contract COVID whilst at camp you will be covered (medically) under our insurance package, provided you were not diagnosed with Coronavirus before starting your trip.

Quarantine & Testing in the USA

Currently, if you are eligible to enter the USA, the CDC requires that you self-isolate for at least 7 days on arrival and that you take a COVID-19 test 3-5 days after your arrival. Quarantine and testing after arrival will be facilitated by your camp, and camps may choose to run COVID-19 tests throughout the summer. As we move closer to the summer we will bring you the most up to date information from our visa sponsors and the U.S. Department of State.

Restrictions at Camp inc. Social Distancing

Each camp may have their own social distancing restrictions in place. These restrictions will likely differ from camp to camp depending on their location in the United States, as each state have their own rules and regulations camps must follow. To find out more about any restrictions your camp may have in place please contact your camp directly.

Quarantining and Testing After Camp

We would recommend that you check with your local government on their quarantine restrictions and testing requirements for international travellers. This will be your own responsibility.

Currently, any U.K citizens returning home must self-isolate in the place they are staying for the first 10 days after you arrive – even if you tested negative before you arrived in England.

You may be able to end self-isolation early if you pay for a private test.

Currently, if you live in Scotland from Monday 15 February, all arrivals to Scotland from outside the Common Travel Area must book and pay for managed isolation in specific quarantine hotels to help protect against the importation of Coronavirus (COVID-19).

We are hopeful quarantine measures will be lifted by the time the majority of our participants arrive back home in August and early September. As we move closer to the summer we will bring you the most up to date quarantine information from the U.K. Government.

The Embassy

Most US embassies worldwide are currently closed to all but emergency appointments (J1 visa applicants would not be eligible for an emergency appointment). We are hopeful that embassies will start re-opening when restrictions lift closer to the summer. We will inform applicants of any changes to the state of play with the embassies as soon as we know more information.

Deferral to a Future Summer

We understand applicants may have hesitations regarding working at camp this summer. Should you not wish to work at camp this summer, and your visa paperwork has not been applied form we will happily roll your application and fees paid into a future season. Please get in touch with us for more information.

Contact Wild Packs

The Wild Packs office is still closed as we are following the government’s advice to work at home. Our staff are still working Monday to Friday, but on reduced staffing levels. We would recommend emailing info@wildpacks.com for the quickest response.

 

16th March 2020 [*updates 19th May]

On March 13th the US Department of State announced the temporary pause of international exchange programs due to COVID-19 which includes the Exchange Visitor Program (J1), the visa on which the Wild Packs program, in conjunction with our sponsors IENA and CIEE, operates. This temporary pause is expected to last 60 days.

On March 16th the London and Belfast embassies cancelled routine visa appointments – they are unable to provide a specific date on when appointments will open up again but credit from any appointments after March 16th will be valid for one year from date of purchase. Wild Packs will keep close observations on appointment availability to ensure we get the Wild Packs applications into the embassy ASAP. Other embassies across the world have also been temporarily closed. If you’re from outside of the UK and when going to book your embassy appointment are not able to then contact the office via info@wildpacks.com

If you have a departure date that falls before June 1st 2020 please contact the Wild Packs office.

If you are not due to travel before June 1st we recommend that you wait before contacting us with coronavirus related queries to ensure we have the latest information available for your travel.

Wild Packs are committed to the welfare and safety of our participants and have been monitoring the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation closely.

We are staying informed on WHO, CDC, Foreign Office and Public Health England advisories as well as updates from our US sponsors – CIEE  and IENA and camps. At this time based on the guidelines and information from the sources outlined above, the Wild Packs programme will be going ahead as planned for summer 2020.

We will continue to monitor the situation closely and provide updates if the situation is to change. It’s important to note that Wild Packs are remaining upbeat and positive about the situation, we will do all we can to get you out to camp safely this summer.

FAQs- please note we will be reviewing and updating our FAQs moving forward (*last updated 14/05/2020)

Are you still accepting applications for camp this summer? (*Updated 19/05)

Applications for summer 2021 are now open. We would normally move recruitment to the following season at this time of year, and are welcoming applications from those who want to go to camp next summer!

How are decisions being made about the program?

We are staying informed on the latest advisories and recommendations made by relevant government, health, and travel agencies. These include:

  • The World Health Organization
  • The American government
  • The Foreign Office and Public Health authority of each participant’s home country
  • Our visa sponsors IENA and CIEE

Can I withdraw from the program now due to the coronavirus?

As the program is still going ahead this summer the standard terms and conditions of your programme agreement apply, including any eligibility for a refund. We highly recommend that you continue with your application, we still have 3 months ahead of us before the summer. The Wild Packs team are diligent and effective, we’re confident we can turn your application around quickly.

What if my start date changes? 

If camp reach out to you and confirm your start date has changed please forward that email to martin@wildpacks.com. Martin is our visa manager and will make the necessary changes.

Am I able to move my application to summer 2021?

If you’re interested in diverting your application to 2021 then please email info@wildpacks.com for your options. Please be aware that if we have applied for your visa paperwork for summer 2020 this is not a straightforward switch; terms and conditions will apply.

What if I or someone else contracts the virus during the program?

If you’re unwell at camp (for any reason) camp will follow their policies and procedures, which follow the guidelines of the ACA, camps’ insurance and the state guidelines. Healthcare facilities include their own on-site healthcare facilities, local doctors/urgent cares/hospitals.

If I contract coronavirus whilst on the program, will I be covered by the medical insurance? 

Our sponsors IENA and CIEE have informed Wild Packs that applicants who have not previously been diagnosed with the coronavirus will be covered by their medical insurance.

Some applicants have asked to review our insurance policy. Our visa sponsor have not yet released this for this summer. We will let you know when it’s available and send it out to participants. If your camp requests this information please let them know we will send it on to you asap.

What about the embassy?  (*updated 19/05)

At the moment all US embassies are closed for non-urgent enquires (including the J1 visa). This includes the US embassies in London, Belfast, Dublin and other EU countries. If your appointment has been booked for a future date it’s likely that the embassy will contact you to confirm cancellation of your appointment. You will be able to use the credit from your current appointment to book another appointment at a later time once the embassy is open.

If Wild Packs are booking your appointment at the embassy then your appointment will be booked as soon as availability opens. If you are attending an embassy outside the UK, and able to book an appointment we would recommend doing so to help speed you along. Email info@wildpacks.com for more information.

The UK embassies still have not given us an open date for J1 appointments, we are in regular communication with them and will be in touch with applicants once there is an indication of an open date for us to work off.

If you are planning on attending on attending an embassy in the UK and are not based in Northern Ireland we would suggest attending the embassy in London, as travel may be easier by road and rail rather than domestic flights.

*UPDATE (19/05): The London embassy has updated us regarding the embassy fee:

If an individual has paid the Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fee to apply for a visa but has not yet attended an interview, their fee remains valid for 12 months from the date of payment.

If an applicant has attended a visa interview, then the MRV fee has already been utilized in covering the costs of processing their application and providing associated services.

In either circumstance, the MRV fee is non-refundable and non-transferable per the terms and conditions agreed to at the time of payment, which are outlined on the Visa Appointment Service website at https://ais.usvisa-info.com/en-gb/information/fee.

Should I book flights?

Wild Packs would recommend applicants do not book flights at this time- we will update applicants accordingly about booking flights.What should I do next?

Can I enter the USA? 

We assumed earlier this week that we’d hear about an entry date for J1 applicants into the USA but at the moment there is no updated date for J1 applicants who have been in the following countries 14 days prior to travel to the USA- People’s Republic of China, not including the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the 26 countries that comprise the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, excluding overseas territories outside of Europe of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or the Republic of Ireland . The original entry date of May 11th has been pushed back, without a new date being issued. We are monitoring communication from the US government on this matter and working with our sponsors to provide an update as soon as we have one.

What steps should I be taking next?

If you’ve not yet completed your application please do so! It’s a great idea to make sure as many of your documents have been submitted; you can review these on the documents page of your application. We anticipate the embassies to re-open shortly so would encourage you to make sure you’re prepared- with everything into us!

Is the Wild Packs office still open? 

Following the guidelines set out earlier as of the 25th of March the Wild Packs staff be working from home, Monday to Friday. Our HQ staff all have work phones, so can call you back from their homes for a chat! We can support applicants, deal with placements, batch visa paperwork and book embassy appointments all from home so you’ll still get the same standard of care from us.

*Please be aware that the Wild Packs phone number now diverts to one member of staffs’ mobile. If they are on a call or unavailable they will not be able to call you back unless you leave a voicemail, stating your name and number, as the diversion doesn’t display phone numbers of missed calls. If you’re calling Wild Packs please leave a voicemail if you can’t get through or email info@wildpacks.com or the email address of the staff member you’re trying to reach (see below).

Please note, in line with our Program Agreement and GDPR practices we will only communicate with the named applicant that we have on our program. If you call or email on behalf of an applicant please re-think this action and suggest to the applicant that they contact us instead.

I’m expecting my visa paperwork- will it arrive soon? 

We’ve decided for now that Wild Packs will hold on sending out any visa paperwork, and securely store it in our office. With potential staff shortages at Royal Mail and Fedex we believe that it’s too risky to send out paperwork, that may ultimately get lost if shortages occur. The Wild Packs office is locked and your paperwork will be sent to you as quickly as we can, as long as it’s safe to do so. (Update) Many areas in the USA have had ‘Stay at Home’ orders issued, whereby citizens (include our sponsors staff) are told to stay at home (similar to the measures currently in place in the UK). With this in mind, our sponsors will not be sending out visa paperwork to us (which we then send onto you) until instructed by the State that they are allowed to go back to their offices. Once lifted we have been assured documents will be sent to us securely via Fedex, which we will then send onto you.

Who to email?

General enquiries – info@wildpacks.com

Camp placements (so if you’re on review with a camp or have specific questions about a camp)josh@wildpacks.com

Documents (submissions or questions)docs@wildpacks.com

The embassyella@wildpacks.com

Applying for visa paperwork and batchingmartin@wildpacks.com

Nicola-S-100x100

Wild Packs is a great company, I have been going through them for many years for my best summers at camp. All the staff are very helpful and informative. They are always at the end of phone or an e-mail. Wild Packs are amazing,  I always recommended them to anyone who will listen.

Nicola S

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