Interim Policy for International Travel

Interim Policy for International Travel during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Updated August 1, 2021

This interim policy supersedes the university policy on International Travel Approval and any previous interim travel policy directives.

International Travel Generally

Beginning August 1, 2021 until further notice, and subject to continuing review of global health conditions, GW will allow limited international travel, prioritizing “essential” travel, defined as international travel that is necessary and required per the specific guidance herein. This guidance applies to GW-related or GW-supported travel only. For purposes of this policy, international travel is GW-related when:

  • the travel is undertaken because an individual is acting in an academic or professional capacity relevant to the person’s areas of responsibility, activities (including co-curricular and extracurricular ones), course of research, teaching, or study at GW, or
  • the travel is undertaken with or organized by any GW organization, division, department, or office, even if not for an academic or professional purpose, and/or
  •  the travel is funded to any degree by the university. 

International travel under this policy does not include personal travel or travel by GW community members returning to their home country, even if some university-related activities might be carried out while there.

Determinations of travel approval under this policy will be made by the relevant dean or vice president and will be recorded through the GW Passport online international travel registration database maintained by the Office of International Programs.  Additional details pertaining to this process are available in the “Requests for Approval” and “Required Procedure After Dean’s Approval” sections below.  Vice Presidents or deans may also recommend exceptions (i.e., international travel that does not meet the criteria below) by requesting concurrent review by the Office of Risk Management, the Office of the General Counsel, and the Office of International Programs to determine whether the travel can proceed with the university’s approval (“Exceptions Process”).

All travelers must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have an approved GW vaccination exemption to be considered for travel. To be considered “fully vaccinated,” travelers must complete the full series of the vaccination and allow for two weeks after the last dose. GW accepts any vaccine authorized for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the World Health Organization (WHO). Individuals with approved GW vaccination exemptions may face additional travel restrictions when out of the country and should investigate rules in place for the countries they visit.

Undergraduate Academic Program Travel

International travel by and with undergraduate students will be permitted only for approved programs through the schools or the Office for Study Abroad, approved programs for Study Away, or for university sponsored research projects. Other undergraduate credit or non-credit bearing experiences and research must be approved by school deans through Fall 2021. Except for these approved programs, undergraduate travel beyond Fall 2021 will not be considered for pre-approval while this policy is in place.

Graduate Academic Program Travel

International travel by and with graduate students is limited to essential travel and approved academic exchanges in countries with Level 3 or lower CDC COVID-19 Risk Assessment and Department of State Travel Advisory. Graduate academic international travel to Level 4 or “Unknown” CDC COVID-19 Risk Assessment or Department of State Travel Advisory destinations requires additional review in accordance with the international travel Exceptions Process.

Essential international academic travel for graduate students involves travel that: (1) the GW school or division deems necessary to meet a requirement for graduation or travel that is an essential part of a program; and (2) travel cannot be postponed or offered through alternative means. When international travel is an optional component of an academic requirement, the international travel is considered non-essential.   

Travel for graduate students for research purposes is evaluated separately from travel for academic study.  See the “Research-Related Travel” section of this document, below.

Faculty and Staff Travel, Non-Research

For destinations with a Level 3, Level 4, or “Unknown” CDC COVID-19 Risk Assessment or Department of State Travel Advisory, international travel for faculty and staff members should be limited to essential travel. Travel is not essential if it can be postponed or managed by alternative methods, such as online. 

International travel may be considered essential for faculty and staff:

  • when accompanying students on approved travel;
  • when avoiding or delaying travel will cause harm to the operations of the university; or
  • when avoiding or delaying travel will cause loss of existing grant funding or failure to meet contractual obligations that cannot be renegotiated or postponed.

Travel for faculty and staff for research purposes is evaluated separately from other travel.  See the “Research-Related Travel” section of this document, below.

Research-Related Travel for Faculty, Staff, and Students

For destinations with a Level 3, Level 4, or “Unknown” CDC COVID-19 Risk Assessment or Department of State Travel Advisory, research travel should be limited to “essential” travel, defined as travel that cannot be postponed or managed by alternative methods and is required to preserve the results of an ongoing research activity.

Conference-Related Travel

Conference-related travel is limited by country conditions and conference requirements, including vaccination requirements for attendees. 

Faculty, staff, and students may be approved for international travel to attend professional and educational conferences if directly involved in the conference, such as a presenter, and cannot attend the conference through alternative means.

Requests for Approval

To request approval to engage in travel, travelers should follow the process steps established by their dean’s or vice president’s office. 

Required Procedure After Dean’s or Vice-President’s Approval

If travel falls within the criteria outlined in this policy and is approved by the dean or vice president, the dean’s or vice president’s office must confirm its approval for travel with the Office of International Programs before the traveler’s expected departure. The Office of International Programs will then open a registration record for the traveler in GW Passport. This record will include documentation of the dean’s or vice president’s approval. Travelers will be required to complete any registration requirements in GW Passport prior to departure.  Travelers are required to update any changes to their approved travel plan before and during travel, for further review and approval from the dean or vice president responsible.

If travel does not fall within this policy, but has the support of the dean or vice president, the dean’s or vice president’s office may initiate additional review of the proposed travel concurrently by the Office of Risk Management, the Office of General Counsel, and the Office of International Programs.

Entry Into and Return from International Travel

Travelers will be subject to and responsible for complying with national and local laws, ordinances and restrictions in the host country and any transit countries.  For those who do travel internationally, it is possible that return may be difficult. Non-U.S. citizens and non-permanent residents of the United States may not be allowed admission to the United States regardless of immigration status. American citizens and permanent residents who have traveled may only be permitted to re-enter the United States through a limited number of airports, where they may be subject to special screening, testing, or quarantine requirements. In some cases, the university may require a traveler to be quarantined prior to returning to campus.

Considerations for Risk Mitigation Review by Dean or VP

Vice-presidents, deans, and other academic administrators may find information on risk factors through the GW Global website, which contains links to GeoBlue, the State Department Advisories, and the CDC. Risk factors that must be considered in the vice-president or dean’s review include but are not limited to:

  1. What are the GeoBlue, State Department, and CDC risk levels for the destination?
    1. What are the GeoBlue, State Department, and CDC recommended mitigation strategies for these risks? Is the traveler able to adhere to these risk mitigation strategies while abroad?
  2. What are the host laws/restrictions? Travelers will be subject to the local and national laws or ordinances of their host country and any transit countries.
    1. Are travelers required to wear face masks? Does the traveler have a supply that meets local requirements?
    2. Are travelers allowed to be outside of their lodging, and if there are conditions for free movement, what are they?  Do conditions prevent or interfere with the purpose of travel?
  3. Continuity of business operations in travel destination:
    1. Is lodging readily available?
    2. Are businesses open and operating?
    3. Is public and for-hire transportation readily available?
    4. Are flights available? Are airports operational?
  4. What are the entry and exit requirements?
    1. Are travelers from the U.S. or the transit country allowed in the host destination?
    2. Is vaccination required for entry?
    3. Is self-quarantine required upon arrival?
    4. Are temperature checks or rapid tests required upon or prior to entry? If a check is not passed, what are the consequences for the traveler?
  5. Does the traveler have any pre-existing health concerns?
  6. Is the traveler been vaccine compliant prior to travel?
  7. What is the level of support available in the host country?
    1. Are sanitation and social distancing procedures adequate?
    2. Are hospitals operating below maximum capacity?
    3. Do hospitals have necessary medical supplies, such as ventilators?
    4. Do hospitals have separate spaces for COVID-19 patients?
    5. Are U.S. or other relevant embassies in full operation and able to help citizens?
    6. Does the host country discourage foreigners from entering, due to inadequate facilities to care for local populations?
  8. Is the traveler aware of GW’s and GeoBlue’s limitations of support?
    1. GW cannot evacuate travelers from a country if they become infected with COVID-19 or, possibly, other medical conditions, depending on the national policies of the host country or insurance limitations;
    2. GW cannot evacuate travelers or reimburse for costs if flights are reduced or cancelled.
    3. GW cannot reimburse travelers for any additional fees or travel costs if travel is cancelled or in-country operations are suspended.
    4. GeoBlue cannot evacuate individuals for non-medical reasons. Medical evacuations are at the discretion of GeoBlue’s medical team and are subject to local and national laws or the discretion of the host country’s government.
    5. GeoBlue and GW will not cover preventative quarantine costs, such as hotel or meal costs for self-quarantine upon arrival in the host country or upon return.
  9. Is the traveler aware of the requirements and limitations of any external sponsoring organization?
    1. Has the sponsoring organization imposed any additional policies or restrictions related to COVID-19?
    2. Will the sponsoring organization cover expenses related to COVID-19, such as preventative quarantine accommodation costs or flight reimbursements?
    3. Does the sponsoring organization provide sufficient health, safety, and security to travelers?
  10. What contingency and risk mitigation planning has the traveler developed?
    1. If airports close?
    2. If they contract COVID-19?
    3. If the government requires extended social distancing through quarantine?
    4. For group travel:
      1. What if one member of the group is not allowed entry to the host country?
      2. What if one group member gets sick?
      3. What if multiple group members get sick?

For questions concerning proposals for international travel, contact the relevant dean or vice president.

Resources for Deans

Center for Disease Control

U.S. Department of State

World Health Organization


GW Global




Office International Programs

[email protected]

Office of Risk Management 

[email protected]

Division of Safety and Security

[email protected]