Which ILP Programs Are Reopening?

Are volunteers abroad right now? Are you taking applications? When are programs opening back up? We have the answers to the questions you’re asking, all in one place.

So many things have been changing for every one of our ILP countries and we know you’re pretty anxious to hear updates … While there's several things we're waiting on to help us determine when programs will be reopening, we really wanted to find a way to keep you up to speed and let you in on information that we have week to week. So we put it all in one place, mapped everything out, and are giving you a behind-the-scenes look at it all.

We have a main page complete with all of our ILP countries mapped out + some FAQs we’re sure you want the answers to. On the map, you can easily click into each country and read more about how things are looking: everything from opening borders, potential flights, visa policies, schools reopening, and what travel could look like. 

Fall 2020 has begun and volunteers in Montenegro and Ukraine are back! Right now we're making updates on that page looking towards Spring 2021, but we’ll be changing and updating the information for the Summer 2021 semester in the coming months, and for future semesters after that — as long as we need to be.  You’ll want to keep an eye on this webpage, which we’re updating often. 

We’ve been working so hard behind-the-scenes to help figure out what life is looking like for our countries around the world and when we can have ILP semesters again  — and we are so excited to share all of this hard work with you. We hope it’ll help answer some major questions and keep you more informed about the countries you already love.

Check it out here.

Volunteers Are Back In Ukraine and Montenegro!

September 24, 2020 

After careful consideration, we have decided to move forward with a program in Ukraine and Montenegro for the Fall 2020 semester! 

Volunteer groups for these two European countries departed in September which is something we’re very excited about. For months, we’ve been actively looking at each of the 15 countries we offer programs in, checking to see if they’re okay for a semester right now — and at this point, Ukraine and Montenegro are doing acceptably well on the factors we're considering. 

At this time, those are the two programs going forward with a Fall 2020 semester but we are feeling very optimistic about even more country opportunities for future semesters. We will be having full-time teaching programs in both Taiwan and Thailand, and are carefully watching our other programs and are feeling hopeful more countries will be available for Spring 2021 and other 2021 + 2022 semesters. We have a main page with all of our ILP countries mapped out + some FAQs we’re sure you want the answers to. On the map, you can easily click into each country and read more about how things are looking: everything from opening borders, potential flights, visa policies, schools reopening, and what travel could look like. 

You can also keep an eye on how things are going in-country on our Instagram page where we’ll be posting updates on our volunteers who are abroad along with info and updates. Thanks for being patient and waiting with us as we assessed the ever-changing status of the pandemic and the restrictions that have gone along with it in each country. 

School Is Back In Session In Romania

September 16, 2020 

Around 2.8 million Romanian schoolchildren are back to school as of this week! Whether that’s in-person, online, or a combination of both is determined on what the pandemic is like in a certain region. According to the article linked below, “towns with a single case per 1,000 people reported in the last 14 days will see all children back in classrooms. Those with up to three cases will see only kindergartners and a few grades back, with other classes held online. Towns with more than three cases will hold classes exclusively online.” 

The president, Klaus Iohannis made a Monday announcement letting kids know they have the “opportunity to be superheroes by wearing masks, washing their hands, and listening to their teachers”.  This week, news reports showed all ages back in school, wearing masks while meeting new teachers, sitting for lessons, or lining up in the hallways (6 feet apart). It’s a big step we’re hoping is successful for this country we love so much. 

Right now, we are also watching the orphanage where our volunteers spend their time. Currently, they’re not open to any outsiders and are only having 1-on-1 therapy and treatments. We’re hopeful to see that small group session will be opening soon. 

You can keep updated on what’s happening in Romania here and more about schools reopening here

Is It Safe To Fly On A Long Distance Flight?

August 20, 2020

As the world is slowly opening back up to travel and tourism, you can bet there are multiple studies out there to help answer this question — is it safe to head off on a long flight? 

According to a new report, the risk is small and even smaller since so many precautions have been put in place since the outbreak of the pandemic. Back in March, a German research team reported on the health status of 102 passengers who boarded a flight in Tel Aviv, Isreal to make the 4.5 hour flight to Frankfurt, Germany. This was all before more extreme lockdown measures and requirements (like passengers and crew members wearing masks or decreasing crowding in the aisles). The case takes an interesting turn when researchers realize 7 people on that flight had tested Positive for COVID-19 upon landing. And what about the other passengers on the plane, who had been on the flight with the infected passengers? 

"We discovered 2 likely SARS-CoV-2 transmissions on this flight, with 7 index cases," researcher Dr. Sandra Ciesek, of the Institute for Medical Virology at Goethe University in Frankfurt, stated in the report. Only two transmissions occurred with no attempts to prevent the spared of the virus. 

“(E)ven with no attempts to prevent spread, [the] spread was limited to only those in close proximity. Plus, nowadays with a better understanding of viral transmission, and recognizing the importance of masking and social distancing as possible, the likelihood of transmitting COVID-19 to someone on an airplane is very low," says Dr. Aaron Glatt, chief of Infectious Diseases of Mount Sinai in New York. 

The measures airlines are taking are exactly what epidemiologist Glatt reports: social distancing while on a plane (and in the airport) along with wearing a mask is going to decrease the risk of contagion while flying.

 Read more here

ISOS Says These ILP Countries Have Decreasing Or Limited Virus Activity

August 10, 2020

We’re happy to see a few ILP countries managing the virus well enough to achieve Blue or Green status, according to ISOS. 

Green status countries are those with limited activity, either with no reported cases (while still testing for the COVID-19 virus) or have a minimal number of new daily cases — maybe there are just a few sporadic or small clusters to handle. ILP countries like Uganda, China, and Thailand are all labeled as green, same with Taiwan (where ILP has  professional teaching program). 

More good news? A couple of other ILP countries are Blue, meaning they’re right on cusp of getting to Green. Blue countries have Decreasing Activity, which means they haven’t reached outbreak status, or have a moderate (and controlled) number of new cases. Blue countries are also those who have a decreasing virus trend, supporting decreasing numbers for two weeks. Nicaragua and Haiti join the list of Blue countries, as well as handful of favorite vacation spots like Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Norway, and a few more. 

These ISOS reports are maintained by a whole host of medical and health professions, citing sources and gathering data from the  World Health Organization, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individual Ministries of Health, and others. 

Get a map of each country’s outbreak status here

State Department Lifts Level 4 Travel Bans (Hooray!)

August 6, 2020 

Way back in March, the State Department had a blanket Level 4 travel restriction on every country, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Travel 4 advisory came with the warning that US citizens should avoid international travel due to the impact of the virus. We are very happy to see that that Department has returned to evaluating the situation on a country-by-country basis. 

In a recent press release, the State Department outlines the following: “With health and safety conditions improving in some countries and potentially deteriorating in others, the Department is returning to our previous system of country-specific levels of travel advice (with Levels from 1-4 depending on country-specific conditions), in order to give travelers detailed and actionable information to make informed travel decisions”. 

The department also reminded travelers to closely monitor the health and safety conditions of the country you’re wishing to visit. 

As a reminder, the State Department makes their evaluations on a whole host of elements completely independent of the virus situation. For example, China is rated at Level 4, but not due to the spread of the virus (visa and flight restrictions account for that evaluation, with additional factors). China currently has very low and limited number of virus cases.

Something else to keep in mind? There are additional factors that contribute to the State Department rating. A country may have a higher number due to a certain area of the country which is off-limits for our ILP volunteers. See how that works?

Because so many countries are handling the impact of the virus in different ways, we’re happy to see the State Department considering those factors to help make their evaluations on a country-specific level. It's certainly a step forward for the world of international travel. 

Read more here

What Does Virus Testing At The Airport Look Like For Travelers?

July 30, 2020

As more and more countries are figuring out how they will be welcoming back tourists and travelers, we’re seeing a variety of approaches. Some countries are publishing a list of approved countries who can skip a test or quarantine, while others are completely cutting off flights. Quite a few are implementing a “test on arrival” program which sounds like a good step for travelers everywhere, especially American tourists. 

Around the world, a few nations are deciding to institute mandatory testing for every traveler, while some are requiring a test only if you’re traveling from a high-risk country.  According to one article, “the idea behind airport testing is that passengers land, take a quick test and wait for the result. If it’s negative, isolation ends.”

No matter the requirements, the procedure is basically the same (using a swab test). Some airport testing units can process results in a matter of hours, while others have a 72-hour turnaround period. Russia is boasting one of the fastest tests, advertising that results will be processed within an hour, meaning the whole procedure (including paperwork) to take just 75 minutes. 

There are a handful of airports rolling out this strategy, including those in Germany, Russia, Ukraine, France, and Iceland, among others. We’re hoping to see more and more success with this strategy which would only open up more borders for travelers everywhere. 

This update is particularly pertinent for American travelers. As long as infection numbers continue to rise in our country, it seems likely that testing upon arrival will be required if you’d like to travel abroad to nations who require a test for travelers from “high risk” countries. However, it’s definitely a good update for those of us excited to start using our passports again. 


Read more here.

Flights To Russia Are Coming Back

July 27, 2020

We’ve been carefully watching things in Russia, and are happy to pass along this little tidbit (plus we have some really good updates from Delta Airlines and United to share with you).

Russia is planning on resuming a bulk of their international flights at the end of July. The country has grounded their flights for months to help stop the spread of COVID-19, so this has been a bit of a long wait for those looking to travel to Russia. According to reports, Rospotrebnadzo (who is Russia’s go-to person for the Federal Air Transport Agency) will be sending a proposal to start international flights back up, to and from 15 countries. Right now, China, South Korea, Turkey and some European countries are on that list, but “nearby every country” would be available for business aviation according to a TASS source. 

The nation initially set these flights to open up mid-July but recently announced they’ll be opening that up on July 31. We’re anxiously awaiting the final list of countries that will be approved for recreational/business travel to Russia. 

If you’re looking for more good news about airlines, you just have to look at Delta. Delta recently announced they’ll be introducing more than 1,000 new flights to their itinerary for the month of July. They’ve yet to publish their itinerary, but we’re hopeful it will include some of our favorite domestic and international routes. 

And for United? They are planning on adding 25,000 more flights for the month of August than they had in July. Look for flights to Tahiti, Hawaii, the Caribbean and Mexico, along with some favorite European cities like London, Paris, and Munich. Looks like good news for international travel all around. 

Read more herehere, and here

Russia Starts Lifting Flight Restrictions

July 15, 2020

Starting July 15, Russia is restarting flights to and from their country, which is big news considering international flights have been cancelled since March 27. 


For the most part, things are very open in Russia. We’ve been talking to our local friends who have been shopping around, visiting cafes, and even taking vacations around the country recently. All of that is good news for locals, and could be really good news for tourists. Negotiations are in the works to allow flights to countries where the virus is low (does not exceed 40 active cases per 100,000 people). According to deputy prime minister Tatiana Golikova, they’ll also be watching the daily increase of cases for these countries for the past two week — there shouldn’t be an increase of more than 1% and allowed countries should also have a transmission rate that’s less than one. 


Right now there isn’t an official list of approved countries. These flight parameters will be reciprocal, meaning Russia will need to propose the itinerary and that country would also need to agree to starting flights back up with Russia. 

Even though a few countries (including the US) aren’t likely to be included with this initial plan, we are hopeful. Russia is slowly reintroducing flights and tourism, which may be a good sign that visas will open up, and policies will be adapted to include more tourists (potentially from the United States). It’s also good news because things have been pretty quiet as far as updates for Russia goes, and we’re happy to see big changes like this being announced. 

Read more here

They’re Processing U.S. Passports Again!

July 7, 2020

Ready for something we are absolutely stoked about? You can apply and get a passport again — hooray! As of July 6, four processing agencies moved into Phase 2 which means more staff are allowed to process applications (Since March, passport operations have been severely reduced). There are only 3 Phases, so it’s a big move to upgrade to Phase 2. 

Right now, those who need a passport in the next 72 hours (or for an emergency) are still getting first priority, but more staff mean more people to sort through other applications that have already been received + new apps. 

There are still some delays, but according to the US Department of State, “applications will be processed on a first in, first out basis, beginning with the oldest applications received.” And they have a lot to process. Last week, (June 25 to July 1), agencies received 133,000 passport applications, and had 1.51 million passports waiting to be issued. They report that these numbers are pretty typical compared to last year, but having limited processing means things are going to be delayed. 

Even though things may take a minute, it’s a really good sign for travel to see passport agencies opening back up. 

How Long Until I Get My Passport? Can I Check My Status? 

The State Department isn’t publishing the projected wait time, just that you should expect delays. However, you can check the status of your passport online (or call  1-877-487-2778) if you have already submitted an application. So you know, "Not Found" means your application is in transit to one of the passport agencies and "In Process" means your application is with the Department of State and will be reviewed as staff return to work in phases. 

How Do I Apply For A Passport? 

To apply, you have to make an appointment at an acceptance facility or renew by mail now. Plan on observing strict social distancing and wearing a mask at all times when you head to one of those facilities for your appointment. That link makes it really easy to find an acceptance facility close to where you live + their contact info so you can set up an appointment. 

Another Happy Update 

This change in passport processing is really good news for more than a few reasons — as more and more passport agencies are opening up (which is determined by the State Department), we are thinking that maybe it’s a sign that the International Do Not Travel Alert is about to change, too. It’s been in place since March and hasn’t budged despite decreasing virus cases and borders opening in dozens of countries.  More and more agencies opening up mean more and more passports are being issued. There will likely be an influx of applications once the travel alert has been reduced, so we can only wonder ... is moving into Phase two a sign that they're preparing for that?

Recent statements from the US Secretary of State also sound like maybe a change is on the horizon. In a recent press conference, Mike Pompeo mentioned “I'm very hopeful that I’ll be able to travel to Europe here in just a handful of weeks” to have some in-person discussions with European leaders about the state of a few political concerns. 

Pompeo also addressed the restrictions Europe currently has on restricting travelers from US from traveling to certain countries, stating that “we’re working European counterparts to get that right”, focusing on the fact that we “want to make sure it’s science-based, health-based, that our transportation team, Homeland Security team, as well as the State Department, deliver a process and set of tools so that not only are nations comfortable opening their borders up again, but individuals who are making the choice to travel are comfortable”. 

He stated, "We need to get our global economy back going again.  There’s enormous destruction of wealth that’s created, and poverty yields bad health outcomes in many parts of the world.  We need to get our economies back going again."

Read the full press conference here.

The State Department has published a lot of helpful resources on applying for your passport so be sure to check up on the FAQ to get questions answered and get more info on the phased reopening here.  

Image via the US State Department's Passport Processing Site

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