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J-1 students will not get any refunds, insists Usit

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Students can still contact airlines directly to try to get a refund for their flights. Stock photo: Getty

Students can still contact airlines directly to try to get a refund for their flights. Stock photo: Getty

LightRocket via Getty Images

Students can still contact airlines directly to try to get a refund for their flights. Stock photo: Getty

Students who booked to go on the J-1 visa programme with Usit will not get refunds after the company went into provisional liquidation.

Kinlay Group, the company behind Usit, informed customers and staff in late March of the "difficult decision" to have liquidators appointed.

The company said as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, "and having explored all other possible alternatives", it was left with no option but to appoint the liquidators.

Students who had booked to travel to the United States and Canada had been left in the dark as to whether they would get their money back.

In a statement on its website, published this week, Usit said: "Unfortunately, due to the insolvency of company, the joint provisional liquidators are not in a position to pay any refunds to any category of customer or client."

The company said customer refunds "may rank as unsecured claims in the liquidation".

Ciara Ryan, a student at Waterford Institute of Technology, had booked to travel to New York for the summer.

Like many students, she was left devastated by the announcement.

She had paid €1,000 towards her accommodation in Manhattan and a €300 deposit to Usit.

"Nobody is in a position to lose out on so much money at the minute, especially not college students working two days a week who have put every cent of their wages into this," she said.

"Nearly €2,000 down the drain after months of stress of trying to pay it off."

Students can still contact airlines directly to try to get a refund for their flights.

Claims can also be made to aviationreg.ie.

While it is extremely unlikely the summer J-1 programme will go ahead given the scale of the Covid-19 pandemic, Usit said that no formal decision has yet been made by its US partners to cancel the programme.

The US Embassy in Ireland remains closed so no visa paperwork can be processed.

For students who wish to travel later on in the year when travel bans are lifted, Usit said: "Due to the scale of the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting health risks, it's very likely there will be considerable delays to the departure dates in the next 12 weeks for the graduate, intern and trainee programmes.

"We are liaising with our sponsor on how you can travel later in the year and we hope to have further information for you shortly."

Usit employed 76 people between its head office in Dublin and regional offices in Cork, Galway and Limerick.

Since the 1960s, Usit has afforded Irish students the opportunity to work abroad in cities in the US and beyond.

Irish Independent