Travel Approval

The University of Minnesota encourages its students to participate in education experiences abroad. To minimize health and safety risks, University policy requires special permission from the University’s International Travel Risk Assessment and Advisory Committee (ITRAAC) prior to travel in specific circumstances, and applies as follows to both students participating in, and faculty/staff leading the education experience. The U.S. State Department has issued Travel Advisory Levels for all locations outside the United States. There are two types of Travel Advisories:

  • Country-wide Travel Advisories – each country in the world has a designated advisory level from 1 (Exercise Normal Precautions) to 4 (Do Not Travel). The ITRAAC process will always refer to these as “Travel Advisories.”
  • Regional Travel Advisories – select countries have within-country advisories that pertain to localities or sub-sections where higher levels of vigilance are recommended. The ITRAAC process will always refer to these as “Regional Travel Advisories.”

Check Your Destination

Prior ITRAAC approval is required when traveling to:

  • countries designated as U.S. State Department Travel Advisory Level 3 or 4; or
  • locations within countries designated as Level 3 or 4 by a Regional Travel Advisory.

In addition, under certain circumstances, travelers may be required to seek ITRAAC approval 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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), non-U.S. government authorities (e.g., Australian or Canadian authorities), and University of Minnesota authorities.

An expedited review process is available for:

  • travelers who have no intention of visiting a location designated as Level 3 or 4 by a Regional Travel Advisory within a country designated as a Level 1 or 2. Note that prior ITRAAC approval is required in the event of any itinerary changes that include travel to a Level 3 or 4 location. See "Expedited Review" below or contact Alyssa Klein at alklein@umn.edu.

Note: Faculty and staff are required to register ALL University-purpose international travel through the Faculty/Staff International Travel Registry.

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

GO SAFE icon For more information on policies, processes, and best practices engaged at the University of Minnesota, please review the information available at GO SAFE.

 

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.

If you are not working through one of the education abroad offices listed above, contact Kevin Dostal Dauer at dauer001@umn.edu directly.

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 at least six to eight weeks before proposed travel to Kevin Dostal Dauer at dauer001@umn.edu. If electronic submission is not an option, submit hard copies to International Travel Risk Assessment and Advisory Committee c/o Kevin Dostal Dauer 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 advisory. 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:

  • a header that includes the following information:
    • Your name and student ID number
    • Your degree program or student status, department/major, and college
    • The date of your application
    • The proposed dates of travel
    • Country for which this petition seeks travel approval
  • 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 advisory? 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, and C (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 Kevin Dostal Dauer at dauer001@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 travel advisory changes, the proposal may need to be reconsidered. If the program is ongoing and the location remains under a Level 3 or 4 Travel Advisory, the program must be re-approved each time an individual or group of students plans to participate.

Scope of Approval

This approval is specific to the location and dates outlined in the itinerary submitted to ITRAAC and does not authorize travel to any other Travel Advisory Level 3 or 4 countries or regions for either personal or University-purpose travel.

Application Procedure for Unit-Organized, Sponsored or Supported 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.

Note: Units who wish to promote an education abroad opportunity in a Level 3 or 4 Travel Advisory location must receive ITRAAC approval prior to promotion.

A complete application must be submitted electronically at least six to eight weeks before proposed travel to dauer001@umn.edu. If electronic submission is not an option, submit hard copies to International Travel Risk Assessment and Advisory Committee c/o Kevin Dostal Dauer 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 advisory. Requests associated with sites not affiliated with a university or established sponsoring agency 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 advisory?

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 travel advisory changes, the proposal may need to be reconsidered. If the program is ongoing and the location remains under a Level 3 or 4 Travel Advisory, the program must be re-approved each time an individual or group of students plans to participate.

Scope of Approval

This approval is specific to the location and dates outlined in the itinerary submitted to ITRAAC and does not authorize travel to any other Travel Advisory Level 3 or 4 countries or regions for either personal or University-purpose travel.

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 locations with Level 3 or 4 Travel Advisories 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 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, 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 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

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

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 potentionally 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 Kevin Dostal Dauer at dauer001@umn.edu 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 Kevin Dostal Dauer 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 Kevin Dostal Dauer 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.

Note: Units that wish to promote an education abroad opportunity in a Travel Advisory Level 3 or 4 location must receive ITRAAC approval prior to promotion.

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 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 Kevin Dostal Dauer at dauer001@umn.edu 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.  

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.

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, 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/staff leading students to countries or regions designated as Travel Advisory Levels 3 or 4 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 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.

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 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 Kevin Dostal Dauer at dauer001@umn.edu 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.


Don't see your questions addressed here? Please write to Kevin Dostal Dauer at dauer001@umn.edu.

Expedited Review

Students traveling to countries designated as a Travel Advisory Level 1 or 2 that also have a Regional Travel Advisory Level 3 or 4 must have their travel reviewed in advance. Any itinerary that involves travel into a Level 3 or 4 location, whether from a country-wide Travel Advisory or a Regional Travel Advisory, will require ITRAAC approval.

Travelers who have no intention of visiting a location designated as Level 3 or 4 by a Regional Travel Advisory within a country designated as a Level 1 or 2 will be asked to acknowledge, via email, the following:

  • their review of the Travel Advisories for any and all countries to which they are traveling;
  • their understanding that they are restricted from entering Level 3 or 4 locations; and
  • their requirement to register travel with the Student International Travel Registry.

Any itinerary changes that include travel into a Level 3 or 4 location will require advance ITRAAC approval.

For questions about the Expedited Review Process, contact Alyssa Klein at alklein@umn.edu.

Scope of Approval

This approval is specific to the location and dates outlined in the itinerary submitted as part of the expedited review and does not authorize travel to any other Travel Advisory Level 3 or 4 countries or regions for either personal or University-purpose travel.