The parent company of USIT – which arranges J1 visas for thousands of Irish students every year – has gone out of business as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the Irish Times has reported.
Kinlay Group, which owns USIT, has now gone into liquidation due to a “tsunami” of knock-on effects including a significant decrease in international travel.
Some 3,000 students have paid deposits to USIT to travel to the USA this summer on a J1 visa. Earlier this month, the US government suspended the J1 programme until May 11th as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
Kinlay Group has said that the outcome for USIT customers is “uncertain”, according to the Irish Times.
The High Court heard today that USIT Ireland Ltd is a bonded travel agent, and an “alternative route” for refunds may be found as a result.
The four companies owned by Kinlay Group owed €1.2m to pre-booking creditors. Recently implemented restrictions on international travel has led to many customers cancelling their bookings, as well as a collapse of new bookings.
In addition to USIT, a language school owned by Kinlay Group, The Language Studio, has also ceased trading. More than 100 jobs have been lost as a result.
The High Court heard that all but one of Kinlay Group’s companies have been largely profitable up until recent weeks, and that the sudden turn of events was entirely due to the “catastrophic” impact of the coronavirus, the Irish Times reported. Bookings for the J1 visa programme were up from the previous year, the court heard, and USIT had projected to generate €700,000 in earnings in the financial year ending in October 2020.
This “suddenly and dramatically changed” with the spread of the coronavirus in Europe and the USA in February and March. The company was unable to ensure that employees would be paid to the end of March.
The Irish Times reported that Kinlay Group chairman David Andrews said:“Only a short few weeks ago, both USIT and the English School were trading successfully and we had exciting plans for the future.”
“But the tsunami of effects related to the Covid-19 pandemic have left us with no business whatsoever and no possibility of overcoming these challenges.”