Travel Approval

The University of Minnesota encourages its students to participate in education experiences abroad. To minimize health and safety risks, University policy requires students, and faculty/staff leading students, traveling to countries under a U.S. Department of State travel warning to seek special permission from the University's International Travel Risk Assessment and Advisory Committee.

In addition, travelers may be required to submit a request for permission to travel to locations or participate in programs that pose a specific health, safety, or security concern as indicated by authorities other than the U.S. Department of State, such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), non-U.S. government authorities (e.g., Australian or Canadian authorities), and University of Minnesota authorities.

Note: Faculty and staff looking to register their international travel should go to the Travel Registry.

Who Must Apply?

University policy requires students traveling to countries under a U.S. Department of State travel warning to seek special permission from the International Travel Risk Assessment and Advisory Committee. Note that "students" include undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree students, residents, and fellows. In cases where a unit is organizing an activity, the unit or faculty/staff member in charge is responsible for ensuring all participants have approval. The easiest way to do this is to apply for approval for the program on behalf of all participants. If the answer to any of these questions is "yes," approval is required prior to travel and, in the case of unit-sponsored programs, prior to promotion of the activity:

  • Is the activity for credit?
  • Will the activity fulfill a degree requirement?
  • Is the activity financially supported, in any way, by the University?
  • Is the activity supervised, led, arranged, OR somehow sponsored by a University department or faculty or staff member?
  • Is the activity supervised, led, arranged, OR somehow sponsored by a University office, organization (band, athletic team, etc.) or Campus Life Program (CLP) student organization?

Official University Policy and Procedure

Getting Started

Students should begin by contacting the education abroad office on their campus with any questions or to receive assistance in preparing their application.

Application Procedure for Individual Students

Applicants are encouraged to apply early. The committee will not consider applications received less than two weeks prior to scheduled departure. The reason the committee asks for applicants to apply before the two-week deadline is to better assure student safety. Flights should not be booked prior to applying to the ITRAAC travel approval.

A complete application must be submitted electronically six to eight weeks before proposed travel to nunnx016@umn.edu. If electronic submission is not an option, submit hard copies to International Travel Risk Assessment and Advisory Committee c/o Kaoru Nunn at the Global Programs and Strategy Alliance.

The application must generally show the academic value of the program and how the structure of the program and safety procedures in place mitigate the concerns of the travel warning. Requests require substantial documentation. Students are responsible for working with their advisers and other appropriate individuals in their colleges/schools in preparing a written request.

STEP ONE: Prepare the following:

A. Proposal

The proposal should be written in essay or letter form and should include:

  • your degree program, major, student status, and proposed dates of travel
  • answers to the following questions:
    • What are the compelling academic reasons for the experience in the specific location?
    • What alternative sites were considered and why will they not meet academic needs?
    • Will the program count as credit toward the degree or toward meeting a general requirement for the degree?
    • How does the structure of the program (including housing and transportation and safety procedures in place) mitigate the concerns of the travel warning? It is strongly recommend that you review ITRAAC Feedback and Application Tips from Returned Travelers to learn what factors affected success of the past ITRAAC applicants' projects abroad and their mitigation strategies.
  • if travel is for research, answers to the following questions:
    • Have you received or applied for University of Minnesota IRB, IBC, IACUC approval, where relevant?
    • What have you learned regarding local equivalent requirements? For example, see worldwide IRB equivalent requirement.

B. Program overview or syllabus

Students planning independent travel should include a detailed daily plan. Students participating in a organized program should include a program overview or syllabus provided by the program sponsor along with any personal specifics for arrival, departure, etc.

C. Letter of endorsement from department chair, or academic adviser

The letter must indicate that you are in good academic standing and explain the academic fit and/or need of the activity. This letter must certify the academic value of the program but need not make any statement regarding the safety of the specific location.

STEP TWO: Submit A, B, C , and D (above) to your collegiate dean's office to request the following:

D. Endorsement from dean

Students should submit their proposal, program overview or syllabus, department chair or academic adviser letter, and the completed Dean's Endorsement Form to their collegiate dean's office. The dean is asked to return the completed form to the student when complete. The dean may nominate an assistant or associate dean to complete the form on his/her behalf.

STEP THREE: Submit A, B, C, and D along with the following items to Kaoru Nunn at nunnx016@umn.edu

E. Letter of admission from the program/activity sponsor or a letter of support from on-site partners (for students attending a non-U of M program)

It is important that students show they have relationships with on-site contact(s).

F. Safety, emergency, and evacuation plan

Students should work with program officials to obtain a copy of an existing plan or to develop documentation and procedures regarding safety, security, and evacuation. Review the Emergency Plan Guidelines for questions that must be addressed in the plan.

G. Additional materials

Students should submit any additional materials that would be useful for the committee as background in making a decision, such as any prior relationships that have been established with a site or host institution or maps of the region.

Approval Criteria

Proposals are approved by the International Travel Risk Assessment and Advisory Committee.

The proposal must be strongly linked to the student’s academic goals. The concerns raised in the proposal section of the application must be adequately addressed and documented. In the absence of a compelling case and justification, it is unlikely that the committee will approve the request.

For an individual application, it is the student’s responsibility to prepare the documentation and work with the college or school in getting the necessary information.

Note: If a proposal is approved, it is approved under the conditions at the time of approval. If a new travel warning is issued, the proposal must be reconsidered. If the program is ongoing and the country remains under a travel warning, the program must be re-approved each time an individual or group of students plans to participate.

Application Procedure for Unit-Sponsored Programs

Applicants are encouraged to apply early. The committee will not consider applications received less than two weeks prior to scheduled departure. The reason the committee asks for applicants to apply before the two-week deadline is to better assure student safety. Flights should not be booked prior to applying to the ITRAAC travel approval.

A complete application must be submitted electronically six to eight weeks before proposed travel to nunnx016@umn.edu. If electronic submission is not an option, submit hard copies to International Travel Risk Assessment and Advisory Committee c/o Kaoru Nunn at the Global Programs and Strategy Alliance.

The application must generally show the academic value of the program and how the structure of the program and safety procedures in place mitigate the concerns of the travel warning. Requests associated with sites not affiliated with a university or established sponsoring agency and requests to countries with high-level State Department warnings require substantial documentation.

1. Proposal

The proposal, a written rationale stating the need for the proposed program in the specific site, should be written in essay or letter form and should include the answers to the following questions:

  • How many students do you estimate will participate?
  • What are the proposed dates of the program?
  • Is this opportunity intended as a one-time event or a continuing program?
  • What are the compelling academic reasons for the experience in the specific location?
  • What alternative sites were considered and why will they not meet academic needs?
  • Will the program count as credit toward the degree or toward meeting a general requirement for the degree?
  • How does the structure of the program (including housing and transportation) and safety procedures in place mitigate the concerns of the travel warning?

2. Program overview and/or syllabus

3. Safety, emergency, and evacuation plan

U of M units should provide documentation and procedures regarding safety, security, and evacuation. If working through the Learning Abroad Center or education abroad office on your campus, please attach the evacuation plan you create with them. If traveling independently, please use the sample template as a model for creating your own plan.

4. Letter of endorsement from department chair

5. Letter of endorsement from dean

U of M units should submit a letter of endorsement from the dean of the college that is leading the program. If the group will include graduate students, a letter from the dean of Graduate Education is optional. This letter need not endorse the safety of the location but simply the academic value of the program.

6. Additional materials

U of M units should submit any additional materials appropriate for support of the petition. These would include any additional information that would be useful for the committee as background in making a decision, such as any prior relationships that have been established with a site or host institution.

Note: All students, staff, and faculty approved for travel by the International Travel Risk Assessment and Advisory Committee will be required to carry international health insurance approved by the University of Minnesota.

Approval Criteria

Proposals are approved by the International Travel Risk Assessment and Advisory Committee.

The proposal must be strongly linked to the unit's academic and program goals. The concerns raised in the proposal section of the application must be adequately addressed and documented. In the absence of a compelling case and justification, it is unlikely that the committee will approve the request.

Note: If a proposal is approved, it is approved under the conditions at the time of approval. If a new travel warning is issued, the proposal must be reconsidered. If the program is ongoing and the country remains under a travel warning, the program must be re-approved each time an individual or group of students plans to participate.

Program Development and Support

Faculty/staff or units/departments that are organizing a program to bring students abroad are highly encouraged to work with the Learning Abroad Center or the education abroad office on their campus for assistance with health and safety arrangements. If you do NOT work with the Learning Abroad Center or the education abroad office on your campus, you must handle these arrangements on your own:

  • seeking permission to travel to countries on the State Department warning list through the International Travel Risk Assessment and Advisory Committee
  • releases and waivers
  • medical insurance
  • emergency plans
  • more

International Travel Risk Assessment and Advisory Committee (ITRAAC)

The International Travel Risk Assessment and Advisory Committee is comprised of the Associate Vice President and Dean of International Programs (chair), the General Counsel, the Associate Dean of Graduate Education, and the Vice President for Health Sciences. The Assistant Vice President for Public Health will serve on the committee whenever a decision is being considered to cancel or suspend an education abroad opportunity for public health reasons. Decisions are made by unanimous consent of the committee members. In deciding whether to approve a program in a country with a travel warning, the Committee will consider the following factors:

  • The academic purpose of the opportunity;
  • Whether the opportunity is for undergraduate, graduate, or professional development;
  • The educational, research, or professional development importance of the opportunity in relation to the students' academic program;
  • Alternative program options and why they were not chosen;
  • The political and physical conditions in the site country;
  • Geographic location of the activity and its relation to the treat addressed by the Travel Warning;
  • Steps taken to minimise the threat;
  • The level of risk to students' health and safety;
  • Traveler experience, both in general and related to the specific country;
  • Assessments provided by OSAC, CISI, iJET and/or other resources;
  • Travel conditions and the ability to evacuate students, if necessary; and
  • The manageability of legal risk to the University.

Suspending Programs

The International Travel Risk Assessment and Advisory Committee is responsible for deciding whether to suspend an education abroad opportunity sponsored by the University when a significant health or safety concern is raised regarding the opportunity. (See University policy on Addressing Health and Safety Risks in Education Abroad.)

Reasons Programs are Canceled

Though uncommon, it is possible that a specific program, activities in a specific location (city, region, or country), or all activities abroad would need to be canceled by the University due to a health or safety concern. This concern may arise from a number of sources, including but not limited to:

  • U.S. State Department travel warnings/advisories
  • CDC or WHO travel warnings/advisories
  • Natural disasters
  • Wars or other political disturbances
  • Pandemics or other illnesses

Financial Responsibilities

The University of Minnesota does not assume responsibility for financial risks associated with participation in its study abroad programs. If the University cancels a program before departure or while the program is in progress for reasons beyond its control including, but not limited to, such things as political unrest or danger to participant safety, only those fees refunded to the University by service providers will be returned to participants. The University of Minnesota will make reasonable efforts to obtain refunds from service providers such as hotels, airlines, and dormitories but no refunds are guaranteed. Fees paid will only be refunded to program participants to the extent they are refunded to the University. The University of Minnesota assumes no responsibility for the financial losses of program participants.

Supplemental Insurance

Students, staff, and faculty are encouraged to consider supplemental insurance options to cover losses if programs or activities are canceled. Supplemental insurance is also helpful if you need to cancel your participation in a program or return early due to unforseen personal emergencies. Such insurance is not required by the University of Minnesota and must be purchased on an individual basis.

Official University Policy and Procedure

Frequently Asked Questions

 

How long does it take to get approved? When do I need to apply?

In general, the entire process takes 6 to 8 weeks after the committee receives a fully complete application. Applicants should add an additional 1 to 4 weeks to prepare their application for submission to the committee. This will depend on response time of adviser(s), dean, onsite partner(s), and other commitments and logistics. Before an application is formally reviewed by the committee, the GPS Alliance will review the application and provide feedback to applicants, which may require editing or revision prior to being forwarded to the committee. Following this, the 6- to 8-week committee review will begin.

As soon as trip planning begins Contact Kaoru Nunn at nunnx016@umn.edu to discuss the application procedure and your specific situation
10 to 12 weeks before travel Begin collecting information and approvals for your application
9 to 10 weeks before travel Submit draft of application to Kaoru Nunn for review and feedback; allow time to gather additional information and make edits to your proposal
6 to 8 weeks before travel* Submit completed application to Kaoru Nunn to be forwarded to ITRAAC committee review

 

*The committee will accept late applications in rare situations, but will NOT consider applications received less than two weeks prior to scheduled departure. The reason the committee asks for applicants to apply before the two-week deadline is to better assure student safety. Flights should not be booked prior to applying to the ITRAAC travel approval.

I’m a medical resident. Do I need to apply?

Yes. This University policy applies to all undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree students, residents, and fellows.

I’m an international student and I’m going back to my home country, which is on the Department of State’s travel warning list. Do I need to apply for travel approval?

Yes, if you are traveling for University purposes (see further explanation below), this University policy applies to all University students including international students. The University treats all students equally and does not assume that students returning to their home countries are necessarily better prepared or able to mitigate risks than others. If you are returning home for purely personal reasons (such as vacation or visiting family), then travel approval is not required.

What is traveling for “University purposes"?

Traveling for University purposes includes travel led by University faculty and staff; promoted by University faculty, staff and units; funded by the University; or where credit is awarded or degree requirements are fulfilled. Examples include work, internship, field study research, volunteering, conference/workshop attendance, athletic events, and University Campus Life activities abroad.

I’m traveling to a specific region in a country where a travel warning has not been issued. Do I need to apply for travel approval?

Yes. According to the U.S. Department of State, travel warnings “are issued when long-term, protracted conditions that make a country dangerous or unstable lead the State Department to recommend that Americans avoid or consider the risk of travel to that country. A travel warning is also issued when the U.S. government’s ability to assist U.S. citizens is constrained due to the closure of an embassy or consulate or because of a drawdown of its staff.” ITRACC routinely considers the region of the proposed travel and the region-specific information of the travel warning. In your application, be sure to address the general risks listed in the travel warning and how your travel will mitigate these risks.

I’m conducting research. Are there specific requirements for research purposes?

Contact the Office of the Vice President for Research's Institutional Review Board to check if an IRB or an IRB equivalent is required for your research abroad. The ITRAAC committee typically asks the following questions when students conduct research:

  • What is the plan for information gathering? Who will be visited? How will contacts be made? Who will be present?
  • What will the mode of transportation be in visiting the information gathering sites? Will you be alone? Accompanied?
  • Where will the information gained be stored? If on a computer, will that computer pass through immigration on the return home?
  • Do you speak the local language(s)?
  • Who will be working with you on-site?
  • Is there a letter or other documentation of an invitation from a group on-site?

Including answers to these questions in the proposal should speed the ITRAAC application review process.

What housing and transportation information do I need to provide?

If you are staying in a hotel, provide the hotel name, address, and phone number. Why did you choose this particular accommodation? Is it safe? Is it gated? Are there security guards? Is anyone picking you up at the airport? What is the mode of transportation from your accommodations to your work site? Do you plan to drive? Will you have a driver? How are your transportation choices safe? Why did you make such transportation choices? Provide detailed lodging and transportation information.

What information do I need to provide on how to mitigate concerns of travel warnings?

Applicants should carefully review the specific U.S. State Department’s travel warning and country-specific information, and in their proposals, state how to mitigate the health, safety, security issues, and concerns of the travel warnings. Even though it may obvious, clearly state what precautions you will take. For example: “I will not walk alone at night,” “I will not carry large sums of cash,“ and “I will avoid large crowds and demonstrations.”

Staying in touch with your family, U of M adviser, and on-site contacts will also mitigate concerns and risks. Do you plan to carry a cell phone? If you purchase a cell phone in the country, indicate to whom, at the U of M, you will report the phone number. Will you carry a laptop? Where and how often will you have internet access on-site? How often do you plan to report to your U of M adviser? Provide a detailed plan for communication.

Examples of mitigation strategies and plans that returnees actually conducted while abroad are available at ITRAAC Feedback and Application Tips from Returned Travelers.

Do I need to purchase CISI insurance? What does CISI cover? Where can I find information on CISI.

Students and faculty leading students to countries on the travel warning list must purchase CISI international insurance. It provides not only medical insurance but also security evacuation in the event of an emergency such as natural disaster or political unrest. You can find policy details at International Health Insurance for Traveling Outside the U.S.

How do I register my travel with the local U.S. Embassy before I leave the U.S.?

This can be done through the Smart Traveler Enrollment System (STEP). If you are not a U.S. citizen or green card holder, we recommend registering at your home country’s equivalent service, if one exists.

How do I request an endorsement from my dean?

Submit the endorsement form with your proposal, program overview, and a letter from your adviser or department head directly to your collegiate dean.

I will take a group of students multiple times to a country on the travel warning list for the same purpose. Do I need to apply each time before I go to this country?

Depending on the timing of travel and the situation in the destination country, ITRAAC may approve all travel at one time or approve the first trip and require follow-up prior to subsequent travel. Applicants returning for subsequent travel after receiving permission for one trip may simply edit and resubmit their original application to request approval for the new travel.

You may send the same application for renewal; however, in the proposal, make sure to change travel dates and check if any updates in the contact list should be made. Travel warnings and country-specific information are occasionally, at least once a year, updated by the U.S. Department of State. Review before you make changes in the proposal and the safety and emergency plan, and include any significant changes in the proposal.

I want to stay longer than I originally planned. Do I need to re-apply?

In the travel approval, ITRAAC allows some flexibility with travel dates requiring notification only if travel dates change by more than 7 days. Thus, applicants traveling and opting to extend time in the country (3 weeks for example), must simply send an email noting this and ITRAAC should approve the extension in the vast majority of situations.


Don't see your questions addressed here? Please write to Kaoru Nunn at nunnx016@umn.edu.