ISSD on Graduate Student Travel Abroad During the Pandemic

The information below highlights some of the major considerations for graduate students who are planning to travel abroad during the pandemic.

  • Effective November 8, 2021, the university’s suspension of outbound international travel was lifted. See “Updates to university travel for employees, guests, students and registered student organizations” for more details on this action.
  • Students, of all levels and programs of study, remain subject to the UW-Madison International Resources, Guidelines, and Policies(known on campus as the “International Travel Policy”). Under this policy, students are precluded from traveling to any location that remains under a level 3 or 4 S. Department of State Travel Advisory or a level 3 CDC Travel Health Notice.
  • The International Travel Policy offers a process by which waivers can be requested if risks can be mitigated effectively. This waiver is requested through the International Safety and Security Director (ISSD).  Each waiver is reviewed by the University International Travel Committee (UITC) before going to the Vice Provost and Dean of the International for decision.
    • If a student believes their desired international travel will successfully mitigate the risks identified by the U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory (levels 3 or 4) and CDC Travel Health Notice (level 3 or levels 3 & 4 for COVID-19) for their intended trip and destination(s), they may request a waiver to the International Travel Policy.
    • During the pandemic, the waiver process is abbreviated to ensure UW-Madison’s timely response given dynamic global conditions. The abbreviated waiver process is described here and should be completed in detail before submission to the ISSD: Requests for Waiver to the UW-Madison International Travel Policy under COVID-19. Each request receives the same level of detailed review as before the pandemic.
  • Employees are not impacted by the International Travel Policy but are highly encouraged to discuss international travel plans with their supervisor.
  • Unless a student is traveling under the sponsorship of a study abroad office, their well-being and success remain the responsibility of their advisor and sponsoring department. This implies an active role in the planning and execution of each student’s travel.
  • Global conditions remain dynamic; nations change their entry and public health restrictions with little warning. Travelers must frequently check requirements on the U.S. embassy website in their destination country (found easily on each embassy’s specific COVID-19 information webpage).
  • All travelers must enroll in CISI international health and medical insurance, required by a UW System policy for students and the Provost’s action for employees (effective January 1, 2022). It is very cheap and provides extensive benefits and coverage.
  • COVID-19 continues to cycle in many locations around the world, but is evolving to become a “pandemic of the unvaccinated;” however, the pandemic’s indirect impacts on all travelers will remain a real concern in every environment (e.g., dynamic travel restrictions; depleted healthcare systems; civil unrest and government responses; authoritarian government overreach; unpredictable changes to criminal trends due to economic impacts; resurgent terrorism; slower/decreased access to institutions; and social wariness).
  • If a graduate student will enroll in credits while abroad (e.g., research, directed study, readings), we recommend they register through International Academic Programs (IAP). Working through IAP’s Worldwide Graduate Research Program would:
    • Ensure the student is compliant with UW policies ref. international study;
    • Provide emergency support, including a contact 24/7;
    • Register students in CISI international health and medical insurance; and,
    • Cost an IAP program fee, which is often less than UW-Madison’s tuition.
  • See UW-Madison’s International Safety and Security website for timely information and many resources on international travel.

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