Note: As mentioned in the COVID-19 FAQ page, independent travel (travel without the host family and/or AFS-USA Volunteer) and visits from family members and friends are not expected to be permitted in the 2021-22 cycle. International travel with the host family is also not expected to be allowed, as we cannot guarantee that the hosted participant would be permitted to re-enter the U.S. If any changes to this policy are made, announcements will be made via MyAFS News.
The AFS Participation Agreement, which is signed by all AFS participants and their natural parents, states:
Many years of experience have taught AFS that a visit by relatives and friends can negatively impact the participant's experience. We understand that AFS does not encourage visits from family members or friends during the AFS program. If family or friends plan to visit the participant, we agree to obtain consent in advance from the AFS national office in the hosting country. We also agree to abide by the hosting country regulations regarding the timing and duration of the visit. We understand that the AFS host country or host family is not required to consent to a visit. In addition, we agree not to make any lodging or other impositions on the host family during the visit.
As our world becomes a smaller place, AFS-USA realizes that many of our participants have relatives or family friends who live in the USA. Additionally, many parents and other family members may have the opportunity to come to the USA on scheduled business or holiday trips. Visits from natural family or friends from home may not have a positive effect intended. Through more than 60 years of experience, AFS volunteers, participants, and host families have learned that natural family visits are often disruptive to the participant's exchange experience. For the participant, the arrival of someone from home interrupts integration into American life, as relationships and cultural norms from home are resumed. For the hosts, it interrupts their role as parents, may confuse relationships and imposes additional hospitality burdens. Visits take the focus from the participant and burden AFS volunteer and staff support structures. In keeping with the AFS standards and the participant adjustment cycle, AFS-USA highly discourages any visits during the program.
If a natural family does plan a visit, it should be for no more than three to four days total and must be approved in advance by the Team Support Coordinator or other designated volunteer. If the participant wants to travel with the natural family during this time, the host family, Team Support Coordinator, or other designated volunteer and staff must give permission before the trip is planned and the participant must obtain a Travel Waiver. (See the article on Host Student Independent Travel Inside the U.S.)
The following information outlines the AFS-USA policy regarding natural family and friend visits. Non-adherence to the following standards may result in an early return of the participant from the AFS-USA program.
- AFS participants hosted in the USA will not be permitted to request approval for any visits from relatives or friends until after they have been on the program for five months (or for semester students, are in the final month of their program).
- AFS participants will not be allowed to travel independently to visit relatives or family friends in the USA until after they have been on the program for five months or are in the final month of their program. If an AFS participant wants to visit a friend who is on an exchange program in the USA, this will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
- All visits must be approved by AFS-USA, the participant's host family, and the local volunteers. AFS-USA recommends that approval from all three parties be confirmed prior to tickets being purchased. AFS-USA reserves the right to deny permission for a visit if a participant is having adjustment or other support problems at the time.
- Participants will not be allowed to miss school to travel with their natural parents, other relatives or friends. AFS is an educational program and all schools in the USA offer several vacation periods. (Information about school vacation schedules is easily available online or directly from the student.)
- An AFS participant traveling independently with his/her natural parents, other relatives or friends is subject to Independent Travel guidelines and will need a Travel Waiver.
- Since visits can be disruptive to a participant's adjustment and adaptation, they should last no longer than 3-4 days.
- Natural family members should not plan to stay with the AFS participant's host family, but rather are expected to arrange for their own hotel in the area.
- Natural family visits should not conflict with host family plans, mandatory school events, or required AFS events and orientations.
- Any visiting natural family member or friend must obtain travel insurance prior to departure from their home country. AFS will not manage, oversee or pay for any medical care needed by visitors.
If you have any questions regarding AFS-USA's travel policy, please check out the following articles on Help & Learning:
- Overview Travel Guidelines for AFS Students
- AFS Sanctioned Travel
- Travel Waiver Guidelines
- Host Student Independent Travel Inside the U.S.
Or contact your team’s Support Coordinator or Participant Support Specialist.