What is the Sustainable Tourism Community of Learning and Practice?

The Sustainable Tourism Community of Learning and Practice is a joint program offered by Colorado State University’s Center for Protected Area Management and the International Programs Office of the U.S. Forest Service.  The program includes an initial 16-month intensive learning period, with virtual learning, a U.S. site visit, and project implementation mentoring.  The program also includes an ongoing community of learning and practice focused on sustainable tourism to protected areas. 

How do I apply for the Sustainable Tourism Community of Learning and Practice?

There is no official application process for participation in the Sustainable Tourism Community of Learning and Practice.  Participation is based on participants being selected by the U.S. Forest Service International Programs country program staff around the world.  If you are interested in participating in this program and are in communication with U.S. Forest Service International Programs, please let them know of your interest.  You can find out more information about where the U.S. Forest Service International Programs operates by visiting: https://www.fs.usda.gov/about-agency/international-programs/where-we-work 

How much does participation in the Sustainable Tourism Community of Learning and Practice cost?What is the Sustainable Tourism Community of Learning and Practice?

Participation in the Sustainable Tourism Community of Learning and Practice is covered by an agreement between Colorado State University and the U.S. Forest Service International Programs.  If you are selected, the costs associated with your participation in the program will be covered.  After you complete the initial 16-month program, there are no additional costs to continue to stay actively engaged with the Community of Learning and Practice.

What is the virtual portion of the program like?

The virtual portion of the program takes place from January 2023 – August 2023, pauses during the September U.S. site visit, and then continues October 2023 -March 2024.  This represents the first 16-months period of the program.  After the first 16-months, virtual participation continues as long as the participant would like to stay engaged. 

What is the US Site Visit portion of the program like?

The U.S. site visit portion of the program takes place in September.  Each year we have a new cohort participating in this one-time, U.S. site visit portion of the program.  The U.S. site visit includes spending time in and around U.S. protected areas, learning from each other, discussing leadership and systems thinking, and spending time developing your Leadership Action Plan.  The 17-day U.S. site visit is the most intensive portion of the program, but also one of the most rewarding parts of the program as well. 

I don’t have a valid US visa for the US Site Visit portion of the program, what are my options?

Some countries from Europe and Asia and Chile in Latin America have a simple online process (the Visa Waiver Program) for obtaining entry papers to the United States. Please check online or via telephone with the U.S. consulate in your country to see what the requirements are for nationals from your country. If you hold several passports, it might be cheaper and easier to enter the U.S.A. on a European passport, for example.

If you do not have a valid visa and are not from a country where the U.S. Visa Waiver Program is active, we can help you get a J-1 short-term scholar visa. You will need to contact the Center to request our help. Once you request our help, CSU will fill out the initial paperwork to obtain a J-1 U.S. visa, which is for “short-term scholars”. This means that you will be visiting the U.S.A. to take a short course, but not to get a degree. The paperwork that we need to complete is called a DS-2019 form, which our university has to fill out, not you. Once that form is ready and certified by the university, we will send the DS-2019 to you by courier (Federal Express or DHL). In order to do this, we require a physical mailing address that is not a post office box. When you receive this form from our university, you must take it with the other documents required to apply for a J-1 visa to the U.S. consulate for review during the visa interview. You must take responsibility for setting up the interview at the U.S. consulate, but you should not do so until we inform you that the DS-2019 is en route.

The criteria and costs for applying for a visa may vary from country to country, but in most cases, the process costs the U.S. $160 for the interview with the consulate and another US $220 to register in the database of the SEVIS system of the U.S. government (in the case of J-1 visas). Please check with the U.S. consulate in your country regarding the amount to pay and how and when to pay it. Here is a link to the U.S. Department of State website: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas.html.

The J-1 visa is only available for short-term students of CSU not enrolled in degree programs, and it is important to mention this to the immigration officials on your arrival in the U.S.A. In English, it is called a “short-term scholar visa.” You can explain that you are participating in a seminar/US study visit at Colorado State University on sustainable tourism and will be visiting several national parks and forests in the western United States. If you are asked by an immigration official, make clear that you are only coming to the U.S.A. for a short stay and will not be taking university courses towards a degree.

Please note that depending on your country, the time required to get an appointment at the U.S. consulate and to order a passport issued by your home country might take several months. It is important to get started soon!

I already have a multiple entry B1 or B2 visa. Can I use that to participate in the US Site Visit portion of the program?

In the past, participants have been able to attend our training events without issue when holding multiple-entry B1 or B2 visas, as long as the visas are in force for the duration of the seminar and through the day of departure.

A valid B-1 visa is designated for business or attending a conference. In fact, our seminar is coordinated by the CSU Conference Office. If you are traveling with a B-1 visa and are asked about the motive of your visit by immigration officials, it is recommended you explain that you are traveling to Colorado to attend a conference on sustainable tourism.

A valid B-2 visa is designated for visitors and tourism. However, this visa also allows you to participate in unofficial short seminars that do not include academic credits. If asked by immigration officials why you or traveling to the U.S.A., you should explain that you will take a non-credit short seminar on sustainable tourism, as well as visit (as a tourist) several forests/parks in Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Montana.

If you already have a valid business or tourist visa to the U.S.A., please let us know when you submit your detailed information in the online form and send us a scanned copy (JPEG or PDF). If you have U.S. citizenship or permanent or temporary residency, let us know, as these visa requirements do not apply to you.

What if I am denied a visa?

Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that you will be authorized a visa to participate in the U.S. site visit.  We will do everything we can to support your visa acquisition.  However, in the end, the U.S. Consulate makes the decision regarding visas.  If you do not get authorized a visa, you will still be able to remain an active member of the community and can still participate in all virtual learning and engagement activities. 

Can I participate in the program without knowing English?

The official language of the seminar is English. All materials, readings, lectures, discussions, field trips, and other activities will be conducted in that language. You must be capable of understanding lectures in English and communicating with other seminar participants in English. You will have to make a brief presentation on your own work in English as well.

What type of certification is provided for this program?

All participants receive a certificate of participation from Colorado State University, stipulating the number of days and hours of instruction. This certificate is signed by all program instructors and bears the Colorado State University, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and U.S. Forest Service logos.

How will COVID-19 affect this program?

We are hoping that COVID-19 infections will continue to decline.  That said, it is likely that we will have to continue to deal with COVID-19 infections for a long time.  We will continue to adapt our program based on the latest information and science regarding COVID-19 transmission.  This will include making decisions about vaccinations and boosters, individual and group testing, and updating guidelines for accommodations and ground transportation.  We will provide updated information about our guidelines as we get closer to the in-person portion of the program.  Participants are welcome to participate in the virtual portion of the program and not the in-person, U.S. site visit if they would prefer due to concerns regarding COVID-19.  It is possible in the future that we may need to cancel the in-person portion of the program (U.S. site visit) for a particular year, should a new variant of COVID-19 require such a cancellation.  All decisions will be made based on the best available information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.

Please note that currently, the U.S. requires that all people entering the U.S. be vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine for COVID-19. 

What if I have other questions or concerns?

If you have any more questions, feel free to contact our center training coordinator, Audrey Ramsey at protectedareas@colostate.edu