Interim Policy for International Travel

Interim Policy for International Travel during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Updated January 15, 2021

This interim policy indefinitely suspends the university policy on International Travel Approval.

Beginning as of July 1, 2020 and until further notice, and subject to continuing review of global health conditions, GW will allow only essential international travel, defined as international travel that is necessary and required per the specific guidance herein.  This guidance refers to GW-related or GW-supported travel, not personal travel. 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.

For purposes of this policy, GW-supported “International Travel” is any international travel that is funded to any degree by the university. 

A GW community member returning to their country of citizenship is not prohibited from travel, even if some university-related activities might be carried out while there.

Determinations as to the essential nature of travel under these guidelines 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.  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 Division of Safety and Security, and the Office of International Programs to determine whether the traveler can proceed with the university’s approval.

Undergraduate Travel

International travel by and with undergraduate students on university-related business or programs is considered non-essential through summer semester 2021. This includes all study abroad as well as other credit or non-credit bearing experiences and research. This policy is subject to review pertaining to international travel and study abroad after summer semester 2021.

Graduate Students, Travel for Academic Study

Essential international academic travel for graduate students involves travel for academic credit that the GW school or division deems necessary to meet a requirement for graduation, when the travel cannot be postponed or offered through alternative means, such as online or domestically. 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 & Staff Travel, Non-Research

International travel for faculty and staff members is not essential if it can be postponed or managed by alternative methods, such as electronically. 

International travel may be considered essential for faculty and staff

  • when accompanying graduate students on approved essential 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 graduate students, essential travel for research is 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

International travel to attend professional or educational conferences is defined as non-essential.

Requests for Approval

To request approval to engage in essential 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 is approved and deemed essential by the dean/vice president, the dean’s/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/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 essential travel plan before and during travel, for further review and approval from the dean or vice president responsible.

Return from Essential International Travel

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

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/HTH, State Department, and CDC risk levels for the destination?
    1. What are the GeoBlue/HTH , 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? 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 US or the transit country allowed in the host destination?
    2. Is self-quarantine required upon arrival?
    3. 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. 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 US 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?
  7. 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 14 day self-quarantine upon arrival in the host country or upon return.
  8. 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?
  9. 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]

For questions concerning this policy, contact Koren Bedeau, Senior Associate Provost for Special Projects, or review the website