Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Greek-teacher 2-yr J1 visa extension

In March 2010, I met with the State Department and obtained a special 2-year extension for Greek government-paid teachers in J1 visa status to continue teaching in the US to fulfill their five-year Greek government contracts, quoting humorist Bill Maher in my pitch:

Besides democracy, philosophy, geometry,  poetry, architecture and drama, what have the Greeks ever given us?

The Greek exchange teacher program has been a special project for the Cordell Hull Foundation (CHF) over the past several years.   Working closely with Georgios Vlikidis, Greek Government Education Director, and Greek Consulate General Aglaia Balta, we have advocated for talented, highly intelligent Greek teachers to work in expanded educational venues.  Most teach in New York area schools, where CHF can offer additional workshops and training during the year, primarily in teaching Greek as a Second Language.  CHF also works closely with Greek-school principals in Florida and Chicago to sponsor J-1 visas.

I was privileged to meet Deputy Greek Minister of Education Fofi Gennimata on her visit to New York City on February 21, 2011, who fully expects third-year teachers would continue being supported, and replacements sent for departing educators.  Greek government teachers are hand-picked by the Greek government to meet rigorous criteria.  They are experienced, well-educated, generous and cheerful.  Most belong to the Greek Orthodox Church.  Orthodox Priests have a hand in running some parochial schools.  They usually wear black robes and are colorful, brilliant, charismatic personalities.  They are allowed to marry and have families.

To extend Greek teachers now in their third year of J-1 visa status for 2 additional years, copies of the following are needed for each J-1 teacher:
 (1) DS-2019 form - original signed by American Embassy Consular Officer
 (2) I-94 card (both front and back sides of the card, even if the back has no writing)
 (3) Name page of passport (enlarged and light enough to read)
 (4) J-1 visa stamp in passport 

Please Xerox and enlarge the 3 passport documents, on a light setting, and fax to: 646-349-3455 - all right side up in the same direction. 

Copies of the following are needed for each J-2 dependent(1) DS-2019 forms signed by the American Embassy Consular Officer, (2) I-94 cards (both sides), (3) Name pages of the passports, (4) J-2 visa stamp(s) in passport(s).
A second offering letter is required on letterhead signed by the school principal, requesting that the teacher be allowed to continue teaching in J-1 visa status for two additional years.

An additional $233 fee is due the State Department for extension of status.  CHF submits the supporting documents above via email.  After the approval is processed, CHF generates new DS-2019 form(s) and instruction letter(s).

I would like to express my deep appreciation, on behalf of CHF, to Greek journalists Despina Syriopoulou, correspondent for the United Nations, and Alexandros Stefanopoulos of the Greek-American News Agency, for their responsible reporting, professionalism and high ethical standards publishing the accurate story of how the Cordell Hull Foundation obtained permission for Greek teachers to extend J-1 visa terms to five years.

Greek teacher salaries are paid by their government.  They spend most of their earnings in the US in contrast to teachers from other countries, such as India and the Philippines, who send half their income back to the home country.  Thus, Greek teachers contribute to the US economy as well as greatly enhance the US educational system.