A Program Release (PR) is when a student wishes to remain in the US after the end of the program for varying reasons (e.g., their parents will be coming to visit or they want to take a vacation with the host family). Students who successfully complete their program may remain in the US legally for up to 30 days after the end of the program/PR date (counting from the date of release). Hosted students who are terminated early from the AFS program or who choose to program release during the school year are not eligible for this 30-day grace period and are expected to leave the United States immediately.
During this 30-day grace period, participants are no longer in J-visa status, and are under the jurisdiction of the USCIS. The USCIS grants this period to allow participants to settle their affairs and to prepare to return to their home countries. Program participants may no longer continue and/or complete exchange activities, nor may they work. Although participants may travel in the United States, they should not travel beyond the borders of the United States as they may not be permitted reentry.
If students remain in the US in violation of their visa, they will jeopardize future admittance to the US and will be in violation of U.S. federal law.
Some countries do NOT allow their students to program release (CHN, GHA, JPN and more). Sponsored programs students (YES & CB) are also not able to PR.
The PR request process can be completed in two ways:
- A student/host family will let their volunteer know that the student would like to stay longer in the US.
- The volunteer will contact AFS-USA staff.
- AFS-USA staff will contact the AFS Partner country who will assist in changing the international ticket and have the natural parents sign a PR form.
- AFS Partner country will contact AFS-USA with a request from the natural parents for a PR.
- AFS-USA staff member will contact the local volunteer to confirm PR request.
- AFS Partner country will assist in changing the international ticket and have the natural parents sign a PR form.
What a Program Release entails
- Students are no longer covered under AFS medical insurance as of the date of the PR
- The students/Natural Parents are responsible for any fees associated with changing the international ticket (this varies based on country/airline).
- The student/natural parents are responsible for booking and paying for the the domestic travel to the gateway city.
- The student will not receive transit assistance at the gateway city.
Students may either release from the program
- A few days prior to the end of the program and miss End of Stay
- Attend End of Stay and then release at the EOS site , ie host family picks them back up or natural family meets them. This is a PRES – Program Release at EOS
- At Departure Day in the gateway city. The student will travel to the gateway city with the team and then release from the program. This usually only happens if the natural parents are meeting them there. AFS USA does NOT allow students to travel back to their local community on AFS arranged transportation (ie the volunteer bus from Baltimore to NY).
Sample PR letter sent by the office to student.
Given the varied parties involved in processing a program release, the process can take anywhere from a week to a month. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. Please remember that AFS-USA staff are not responsible for being the intermediary between the natural families and the partner offices. It is the full responsibility of the natural family to follow through with the sending partner to finalize all aspects of the program release.