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Financial Aid deadline is February 15! But what about international travel?

The deadline for applying to PyCon 2017 for Financial Aid is this coming Wednesday, February 15th! The link to the application is on our main Financial Aid page:

https://us.pycon.org/2017/financial-assistance/

Given that international travel to the United States has become a greater risk for many in the international community, PyCon wants to make an extra stipulation this year to try to protect our Financial Aid recipients in case they are turned away upon arrival in the United States. But, first, let’s get clear about the risks and duties of those who are awarded Financial Aid.

For many people, airline tickets and nights at a hotel are never routine expenses. They are frightening blows against a bank account — large, exceptional purchases for special occasions. But what if a person becomes too ill to travel, cannot get a full refund, and the money is simply lost? What if a missed flight adds hundreds of dollars of extra expense that were not in the budget and for which they are unprepared?

While PyCon’s Financial Aid program does strive to make travel possible for a broader audience than could comfortably attend the conference on their own budget, it cannot eliminate the risks of travel. Indeed, its mechanism for delivering awarded funds — a physical check that must be collected at the conference itself — can only succeed for travelers who actually reach PyCon.

So let’s review the risks of traveling to PyCon in the hope of receiving a Financial Aid check, and then learn about the new promise that the conference is making this year:

  • Financial Aid is designed to help with travel expenses, not with your visa application fee. Financial Aid applicants have always been responsible for paying their own visa application fee, whether the visa is granted or denied. This remains true for PyCon 2017. So keep in mind that if your visa is denied, the United States will not refund your processing fee, and — as you will not be traveling — PyCon will not be giving you Financial Aid or refund your visa processing fee.
  • You should apply for your visa, if you decided to attend, right after you receive our response to your Financial Aid application.
  • As you start the visa application process, go ahead and register for the conference. You can do so without risk: we always fully refund a registration fee when a visa application is denied. We even waive our usual $25 fee for processing a cancellation — you receive back the full registration fee that you paid!
  • However, we advise you to delay any non-refundable travel purchases until after you have been granted a visa. Many applicants wait until they have their visa in hand before they even book a hotel room, and almost everyone waits until the visa arrives before purchasing airfare.
  • Beyond those guidelines, we have traditionally provided only the promise that each Financial Aid recipient, if they make it to PyCon, will receive their check. This obviously burdens each applicant with a risk: that if their travel plans go awry and they cannot reach Portland, that they will receive no Financial Aid. They will have to try cancelling their hotel room in time to receive a refund, and ask their airline if any kind of a refund is possible.
  • In previous years, PyCon assumed this risk to be a reasonable one. But we want to make a new stipulation here in 2017. First, if despite holding a visa you are denied entry upon arrival to the United States, then after you pursue and receive whatever refund your airline might be able to offer, PyCon wants to send you enough of your Financial Aid grant to cover the rest of the cost of your airfare (or the whole grant, if the airfare cost more). You will need to document that you indeed arrived in the United States and were denied entry.
  • Second: if despite holding a visa you are denied entry upon arrival to the United States, but used our registration page to book a room in a conference hotel, our staff will personally work with the hotel to make sure you do not receive a cancellation fee.
  • Third: if despite holding a visa you are denied entry upon arrival to the United States, PyCon will fully refund your registration fee. While this is more serious for our conference budget — at such a late date, we will be unlikely to be able to register someone else in your place — we have decided to put the financial safety of our Financial Aid recipients from overseas first.

We hope that these extra guarantees beyond the normal terms of our Financial Aid program will help applicants plan more confidently and will continue to make PyCon 2017 an option for as wide a slice of the worldwide Python community as possible.

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