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Coronavirus: International Travel Guidance for Harvard Affiliates

As outlined in the Provost's November 17 email, University-related international travel remains prohibited until further notice and should not be planned or scheduled at this time. Because there is so much uncertainty about the future course of the pandemic, the University plans to keep travel to a minimum until conditions change. Harvard also continues to strongly discourage personal international travel.

For the foreseeable future, the global pandemic will continue to affect the safety and feasibility of travel. See the International SOS country-specific restrictions, screenings, and flight operations for COVID-19 (Harvard University membership number: 11BYCA774932).

Review our international travel FAQs below for additional guidance. You should also visit and bookmark harvard.edu/coronavirus, which is frequently updated with the University's latest guidance and resources for domestic travel, health, and campus operations. We'll continue to monitor the public health situation and update our international travel guidance as needed.

International Travel FAQs

Can I travel abroad on a Harvard-related trip?

No. Harvard continues to prohibit University-related international travel until further notice, and it should not be planned or scheduled at this time.

Travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. Government restrictions and public health measures are changing rapidly. Those changes may make it hard for you to achieve the goals of your trip and return to the U.S. (or your next intended destination) to resume your academic and professional activities.

Travel is already difficult for many locations and may become increasingly difficult for others. Many airlines have suspended or reduced flights. Government authorities have enacted varying health screening and quarantine measures, which may affect public transit, public gatherings, and school schedules. Businesses may not be operating at full capacity or regular hours. More locations may be restricted without prior notice. There may be limited access to adequate medical care in the affected areas. See the International SOS country-specific restrictions, screenings, and flight operations for COVID-19 (Harvard University membership number: 11BYCA774932).

For mainland China, the E.U., the U.K, and Brazil, the U.S. government is restricting inbound travel. Upon re-entry to the U.S., American citizens and lawful permanent residents who traveled to or transited through any of those locations in the past 14 days will be subject to health screenings, and, where appropriate, a 14-day quarantine or self-isolation. With limited exceptions, immigrants and non-immigrants who traveled to or transited through any of those locations in the past 14 days will be denied entry to the U.S. Valid F-1 and M-1 visa holders from the U.K., Ireland, and the Schengen Area are exempt from the ban.

The U.S. and other governments may enact similar measures for other locations without advanced notice. Check your local department of public health website about restrictions.

What's considered a University-related international trip?

University-related international trips include activities that are part of academic or professional work at Harvard, including research, study abroad, attendance at a conference, academic study, travel with a student organization or trek, or a summer or January internship (or similar volunteer or work experience) if registered at Harvard the following term. An international trip is also University-related if Harvard is funding the trip or if it's at the request of a supervisor.

Harvard-related international travel does not include personal travel, such as vacations or trips home (for international students and scholars).

Can I petition to travel abroad?

Although University-related travel is prohibited for the vast majority, we understand that certain members of our community may need to travel for work directly and immediately related to the COVID-19 pandemic, for work that enables critical research activity, or for an extended single-country stay to undertake essential work. The Office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs (OVPIA) has established a petition process for these cases, which we expect to be rare.

At this time, only faculty, postdoctoral fellows, doctoral students, and staff may petition to travel. All other students are currently prohibited from Harvard-related international and domestic travel and cannot petition to travel at this time. Harvard’s travel guidance and petition process will evolve as the public health situation evolves. We anticipate that other students will be able to petition to travel when the global public health situation improves.

For now, petitioners must meet the criteria in one of the following three categories:

COVID-19 work

  1. The petitioner is a medical, public health, or other professional who will be traveling for work directly and immediately related to the COVID-19 pandemic; and
  2. There are no alternatives to travel.

Critical research activity

  1. The travel is essential to the survival or long-term viability of a significant research activity or academic work;
  2. The research activity is a substantial component of the petitioner’s academic or professional work at Harvard; and
  3. There are no alternatives to travel.

Extended single country stay

  1. The travel is to a single country for 90 or more consecutive days;
  2. The research or academic activities are an essential component of the petitioner’s degree program or professional work at Harvard; and
  3. There are no alternatives to travel.

If you believe you meet the criteria outlined in one of the three categories above, download the travel petition form and submit your completed form to the OVPIA at least 14 days prior to your proposed departure.

Prior to completing the form, you must discuss your proposed travel with your department chair or equivalent academic supervisor and obtain their approval.

If your proposed travel is with one or more Harvard affiliates, each person must submit their own petition.

Can I travel abroad for a personal trip?

Harvard continues to strongly discourage personal international travel. Travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19.

Government restrictions and public health measures can change quickly and without advance notice. If you travel abroad for personal reasons, those changes may make it very difficult for you to achieve the goals of your trip and return to the U.S. (or your next intended destination) to resume your academic and professional activities. If borders close while you're abroad, be prepared to stay where you are.

Many governments have placed restrictions on travelers coming from or transiting through certain locations, and many airlines are temporarily reducing or suspending flights. Government agencies and transportation authorities may enact additional restrictions without prior notice. You should weigh the current situation and risks of potential exposure, travel restrictions, and isolation/quarantine measures against your personal goals for the trip.

When considering whether to travel, think about the following:

  • Health—yours and your community’s, as well as the strength of the medical and other infrastructure in your current location
  • Access to food, water, medication, and basic necessities
  • Transportation and your ability to get around
  • Border closures, business closures, and quarantines

If you still decide to travel: remain flexible, expect travel delays, and have strong backup plans. Maintain good hygiene, practice social distancing measures, and wear a cloth face covering.

Prior to travel, make sure you:

Before you return:

Check your local department of public health website about restrictions for your return. All visitors and returning residents to Massachusetts must adhere to the Massachusetts Travel Order. All Harvard students and personnel authorized to come to campus must adhere to the University’s post-travel COVID testing and quarantine policy; Harvard requires testing and quarantine measures beyond the state’s requirements.

If you develop symptoms, notify your Primary Care Provider.

I'm currently abroad. Should I leave?

Harvard is not asking any affiliates abroad to leave; however, if you’re in a location where you can leave, you should decide whether you stay or return home.

Carefully assess your situation. Your decision to remain in country is personal, and your physical and emotional wellbeing are always the priority. You need to decide on the best course of action based on your unique circumstances. Everyone's risk tolerance varies. As applicable, consult with your Harvard School, program, or department leaders and funding sources as well as with your family and peers to make a decision. Heed the advice of health authorities in your location. Understand the current travel restrictions and isolation/quarantine measures in place that are beyond your control, and that additional measures could be implemented without prior warning. You should weigh the current situation and risks of potential exposure, travel restrictions, and quarantines against your personal, academic, and professional needs. Establish backup plans and remain flexible; the situation is evolving daily. See the International SOS country-specific restrictions, screenings, and flight operations for COVID-19 (Harvard University membership number: 11BYCA774932).

If deciding whether to travel, you need to consider:

  • Health—yours and your community’s, as well as the strength of the medical and other infrastructure in your current location
  • Access to food, water, medication, and basic necessities
  • Transportation
  • Border closures, business closures, and quarantines
  • International SOS' limitations

Even if a medical or security evacuation is approved, International SOS will be bound by the local government’s regulations and may not be able to evacuate you.

If you decide to leave:

  • Do it sooner rather than later to reduce the risk of getting stuck.
  • Work with your program and travel provider to arrange flights.
  • Maintain good hygiene, practice social distancing measures, and wear a cloth face covering while in transit.

We encourage you to act responsibly and to make informed decisions within your control.

Remember to update your itinerary in International SOS MyTrips so that you receive alerts. And if you need medical, mental health, or security advice and assistance, call International SOS at +1-617-998-0000 or connect through the Assistance App.

For those in mainland China, the E.U., the U.K, and Brazil, the U.S. government is restricting inbound travel. Upon re-entry to the U.S., American citizens and lawful permanent residents who traveled to or transited through any of those locations in the past 14 days will be subject to health screenings, and, where appropriate, a 14-day quarantine or self-isolation. With limited exceptions, immigrants and non-immigrants who traveled to or transited through any of those locations in the past 14 days will be denied entry to the U.S. Valid F-1 and M-1 visa holders from the U.K., Ireland, and the Schengen Area are exempt from the ban.

The U.S. and other governments may enact similar measures for other locations without advanced notice.

Check your local department of public health website about restrictions for your return. ​All visitors and returning residents to Massachusetts must adhere to the Massachusetts Travel Order. All Harvard students and personnel authorized to come to campus must adhere to the University’s post-travel COVID testing and quarantine policy; Harvard requires testing and quarantine measures beyond the state’s requirements.

If you develop symptoms, notify your Primary Care Provider.

How can International SOS help me in this situation?

International SOS, the University’s emergency response program, ordinarily is available to help you 24/7 during and after a medical, mental health, or security incident abroad, including certain approved medical and security evacuations. However, in light of the current COVID-19 global pandemic, it is important to understand that the presence or resurgence of COVID-19 in a given location, and border closures due to COVID-19, are not covered causes for an International SOS evacuation.

Even if an evacuation is approved, International SOS will be bound by the local government’s regulations and may not be able to evacuate you. See the International SOS country-specific restrictions, screenings, and flight operations for COVID-19 (Harvard University membership number: 11BYCA774932).

What health precautions can I take to protect myself while traveling?

Wear a cloth face covering, wash your hands often, and practice safe distancing measures while in transit.

  • Wear a cloth face covering.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Remain at least six feet from others.

Also review the CDC’s prevention guidance.

If you become ill while abroad on Harvard-related travel, call International SOS at +1-617-998-0000 or connect through the Assistance App. Case managers will advise you and connect you with appropriate medical resources.

What if I feel sick after traveling?

COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and loss of taste or smell. The wide range of reported symptoms range from mild to severe and appear 2-14 days after exposure.

Anyone with flu-like symptoms should contact their Primary Care Provider or HUHS at healthservices@huhs.harvard.edu for advice. Your Primary Care Provider or HUHS will help you determine whether to get assessment or treatment. Medical professionals are best equipped to offer advice based on factors such as how direct or indirect an individual’s contact with coronavirus was, recent travel history, an individual’s personal health history, and any symptoms that person may be experiencing.

Can I plan for summer programs and travel abroad?

Harvard continues to prohibit all University-related international travel until further notice. For the foreseeable future, the global pandemic will continue to affect the safety and feasibility of travel. Because there is so much uncertainty about the future course of the pandemic, Harvard plans to keep travel to a minimum until conditions change.

At this time, there is no one-size-fits-all guidance for summer international travel and programming. The COVID-19 outbreak is evolving daily, and we simply cannot predict what may occur in the next few months. Government agencies as well as Harvard may extend or impose new requirements if warranted by changing public health circumstances. We recognize the uncertainty of the situation and encourage you to be as creative and flexible as possible with your summer programming. For example, an individual traveler may be able to make last-minute adjustments whereas an organized program may need to manage more complex logistics and make decisions with several months lead time.

Elements to consider in your decision making include:

  • public health situation and medical infrastructure in country
  • health and safety of program leaders and participants
  • contingency plans if outbreak affects program leaders or participants
  • what your contracts and agreements with in-country partners may allow
  • payment deadlines and refund policies
  • logistics like transportation and housing if travel restrictions or quarantine measures are imposed
  • purchasing refundable flights and travel insurance
  • allowing enough time for participants to make alternative plans if needed
  • ability for program leads and participants to return to the U.S. or their next intended destination if self-isolation or quarantine measures are required

We hope for positive developments for all those affected by COVID-19 and for the travel restrictions to be relaxed. Along with University leadership, we’ll continue to monitor developments and provide updates for summer travel and programs abroad as needed. See the International SOS country-specific restrictions, screenings, and flight operations for COVID-19 (Harvard University membership number: 11BYCA774932).

I'm an employee in one of Harvard's international offices abroad. Can I travel for business?

Harvard's offices abroad are part of our campus community. Staff in those offices should follow the same guidance on international travel that all members of the University are asked to follow: no international travel for University business until further notice. For domestic travel, office staff should follow local health and government travel advisories in the countries where they are based. See the International SOS country-specific restrictions, screenings, and flight operations for COVID-19 (Harvard University membership number: 11BYCA774932).

The reason that Harvard's international travel guidance applies to staff in offices abroad is, first and foremost, to protect the health and safety of all staff and those in our communities. In addition, the University's effort to reduce travel is part of a broad effort to slow the rate of transmission and be part of the solution to this global pandemic. All members of the Harvard community in the U.S. and abroad are asked to help in this effort.

How are trip refunds or reimbursements handled?

We understand the University's coronavirus-related policies have financial implications. Some transit providers are offering travel waivers or waiving cancellation fees in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

For staff and faculty travelling on University business, the Harvard Travel Policy allows for reimbursement of cancellation or change fees due to the COVID-19 pandemic. THe policy also allows the purchase of refundable tickets where there is a high likelihood that the itinerary may change. See Harvard Financial Administration's travel cancellation and reimbursement guidance, which includes information for sponsored and non-sponsored funds.

What is Harvard doing to protect the campus community?

The health and success of our community, on and off campus, is at the forefront of Harvard's decision making. Leadership from across the University are meeting regularly to review, update, and communicate contingency plans. Harvard's actions and guidance are informed by recommendations from the CDC, WHO, federal and state agencies, and public health experts. Refer to Harvard's coronavirus website for details.

How is Harvard handling visitors and students, scholars, or affiliates returning to campus?

Refer to Harvard's coronavirus website for information on campus access restrictions, return to campus policies, testing procedures, quarantine/isolation protocols, visitor guidelines, and more.

You can also contact our International Safety & Security team, international_safety@harvard.edu, with questions related to international travel or programming abroad.