Each month, we highlight a Participate Learning staff member to get an inside look into what their day-to-day work is like. Read on to learn more about our Senior Visa Program Manager, Cia Barbash!
Originally from Finland, Cia Barbash has lived and worked in five different countries, so she can empathize with teachers who start a new life in the US
“It makes it easier to understand what our ambassador teachers go through at airports, immigration, and while completing visa applications since I have been through it myself many times,” she said.
Obtaining a visa to teach in the U.S. is often a time-consuming and complicated process. It involves trips to an embassy and ensuring all documentation is done correctly.
Cia guides hundreds of ambassador teachers through this process successfully every year, aiding them and their families with travel logistics.
This often requires preparing detail-oriented documents, such as visa applications, and sometimes hours of entering data and auditing files. Cia is always looking for ways to make this process more efficient for our ambassador teachers.
“I am really looking forward to the implementation of a new visa software program this year. It will give us the ability to further streamline the current process,” she said.
The initial visa used by Participate Learning ambassador teachers is valid for up to three years. During the third year, they may be eligible to apply for a two-year extension, for a total of five years. At the end of the exchange visitor program, ambassador teachers return to their home countries to share their experiences and continue improving student learning and building global leaders.
Cia has seen the visa process evolve since 2010 when she started this work. When extension filings were new eight years ago, she had to process almost 300 visa extensions and file them with the Department of State in a matter of days.
“It was quite a challenge to provide ambassador teachers with new visa forms, but it worked out in the end!” she reflected.
Cia loves working with our ambassador teachers and abides by one of Participate Learning’s core values: Do well, do good.