MANILA – The Philippine embassy in Washington D.C. is focusing its efforts on coordinating assistance to the stranded Filipino J1 visa holders in the United States.
J1 visa holders are work-and-study-based exchange visitors sent to the US under sponsorship, in most cases, for educational and cultural programs.
Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez said many Filipino J1 visa holders were admitted as trainees in the hospitality industry but stranded after the closure of accommodation establishments due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We’re working with the sponsors to ask them to bring them home, however, the problem is that flights are quite limited… so that’s another big problem we have to resolve,” he said in a Laging Handa briefing Wednesday.
The embassy has already made representations with the visa sponsors, local placement agencies in the Philippines as well as the State Department in crafting a “concerted and considerate” response to the J1 interns’ situation.
Since mid-March, a number of J1 interns returned home by tapping into their personal contingency funds.
In a separate statement, the embassy said those without the financial capacity to cover airfare and daily subsistence may ask for aid.
However, such requests are evaluated on a “case-to-case basis” given constraints on government resources and the thousands of distressed overseas Filipino workers who also need support.
“Rest assured that Philippine government is committed to finding long-term solutions to these issues and enhancing the protection of Filipino exchange visitors moving forward,” the statement read.
Romualdez reported that a total of 253 Filipinos in the US and the Caribbean have been infected with Covid-19, 137 of whom have died.
Of the death toll, 18 are front-line medical workers. (ia/PNA)