University policy requires special permission from the University’s International Travel Risk Assessment and Advisory Committee (ITRAAC) prior to travel in specific circumstances for students and faculty/staff leading students abroad.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who must apply?
University policy requires students traveling to locations designated as Travel Advisory Level 3 or 4 to seek special permission from the International Travel Risk Assessment and Advisory Committee.
NOTE: For purposes of this University policy, “students” include undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree students, residents, and fellows.
When a unit is organizing the education experience/activity abroad:
The unit or faculty/staff member in charge is responsible for ensuring all participants have approval. The easiest approach is to apply for approval for the program on behalf of all participants. If the answer to any of the following 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
Who is on the ITRAAC Committee?
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 Dean of the School of 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, or when concensus is not reached, by the Provost. In deciding whether to approve a program in a country with a Level 3 or 4 Travel Advisory, 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 threat addressed by the travel advisory;
- Steps taken to minimize 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, iJET, insurance provider, and/or other resources;
- Travel conditions and the ability to evacuate students, if necessary; and
- The manageability of legal risk to the University.
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 Student Travel and Education Abroad: Health and Safety.)
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 advisories
- CDC or WHO travel warnings/advisories
- Natural disasters
- Wars or other political disturbances
- Pandemics or other illnesses
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.
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 unforeseen 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
What is the timeline for submission, review, and ITRAAC approval of my application?
The timeline can vary, as it depends on response times of individuals/units involved in the review process, including the adviser(s), dean, and onsite partner(s), as well as other commitments and logistics. Once submitted to the GPS Alliance office, staff will review the application and provide feedback that may necessitate revisions on the part of the applicant. Once the application is finalized, it is forwarded to the ITRAAC for final review and action as determined by University policy.
The vast majority of applications for travel are eventually approved. However, inadequate and/or incomplete applications that do not address all of the required materials will result in revisions and potentially a prolonged approval process. Please review the process thoroughly before submitting an application.
The following schedule provides a general timeline for planning and submitting an application:
|As soon as trip planning begins||Contact email@example.com to discuss the application procedure and your specific situation|
|8-10 weeks before travel||Begin collecting information and approvals for your application|
|6-8 weeks before travel||Submit draft of application to firstname.lastname@example.org for review and feedback; allow time to gather additional information and make edits to your proposal, including any revisions necessitated by updated U.S. State Department and/or Regional Travel Advisories|
|4-6 weeks before travel|
Submit completed application to email@example.com for final review and action by the ITRAAC as determined by University policy.
Note: In order to better assure student safety, the ITRAAC will NOT consider applications received less than two weeks prior to scheduled departure. Flights should not be booked prior to applying to the ITRAAC travel approval.
Please note: Units wishing to promote an education abroad opportunity in a Travel Advisory Level 3 or 4 location must receive ITRAAC approval prior to promotion.
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
- 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 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 going back to my country of citizenship, which has been designated by the Department of State as a Level 3 or 4 location. Do I need to apply for travel approval?
Students traveling to their country of citizenship should contact firstname.lastname@example.org before beginning the ITRAAC process. Depending on the circumstances, an abridged review process may be available. If you are returning home for purely personal reasons (such as vacation or visiting family), then travel approval is not required.
Are any exceptions to the requirement for ITRAAC approval granted for travel to specific locations within a country that is designated as a Level 3 or 4 Travel Advisory?
No. All student travel anywhere within countries designated as Level 3 or 4 Travel Advisory requires ITRAAC approval. According to the U.S. Department of State, Travel Advisories “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 Advisory 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. In your application, be sure to address the general risks listed in the Travel Advisory 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? Will you have a driver? (Please note that University students are not allowed to operate a motor vehicle outside the U.S. while traveling for University purposes.) 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 advisories?
Applicants should carefully review the U.S. State Department’s country-specific information, and in their proposals, state how to mitigate the health, safety, security issues, and concerns of the country’s Travel Advisory. 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, UMN 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 UMN 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 UMN 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 On Call International insurance? What does it cover? Where can I find information about it?
Students and faculty/staff leading students to countries or regions designated as Travel Advisory Levels 3 or 4 must purchase international health, security, medical, and evacuation insurance through On Call International. It provides not only medical insurance but also security evacuation in the event of an emergency such as natural disaster or political unrest. See On Call Insurance Policy Details.
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 Program (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.
I will take a group of students multiple times to a country or region designated as Travel Advisory Level 3 or 4 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 Advisories and country-specific information are updated by the U.S. Department of State at least once each year. Review before you make changes in the proposal and the safety and emergency plan, and include any significant changes in the proposal. Contact email@example.com with any questions about subsequent travel to pre-approved locations.
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 5 days. Thus, applicants traveling and opting to extend time in the country beyond 5 days must simply send an email noting this and ITRAAC should approve the extension in the vast majority of situations.
What is the likelihood that my ITRAAC petition will be approved?
ITRAAC is an educational process designed to help students formulate a plan for their health, safety, and emergency response before traveling to high-risk international locations. It is not intended to be a barrier to travel. Students who are willing to research, plan, and accept suggestions from experienced University staff members who guide them through the process of drafting a proposal are very likely to be ultimately approved. Historically, less than 1% of completed petitions have been denied.