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Coronavirus: International Travel Guidance for Harvard Affiliates

As outlined in the Provost's May 11 email, University-related international travel is prohibited until further notice and should not be planned or scheduled at this time. This policy applies to all community members—students, faculty, staff, postdoctoral fellows, and other academics. Personal international travel is also strongly discouraged.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a global level 3 warning: avoid nonessential travel, and the U.S. State Department has issued a global level 4 health advisory: do not travel. Governments worldwide have issued similar warnings, which can change without advance notice. In locations where commercial departure options are still available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return, unless you're prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.

Going forward, all travelers should expect additional disruptions as government agencies and Harvard may expand restrictions based on the rapidly evolving public health situation. See the International SOS country-specific restrictions, screenings, and flight operations for COVID-19.

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 is prohibiting University-related international travel until further notice. Additionally, Harvard-organized and Harvard-funded international travel for all students that is scheduled to start and end between April and August 31 is prohibited. See the Vice Provost for International Affairs' April 6 memo for details and exceptions on students' international summer travel funding.

The number of known COVID-19 cases is increasing worldwide. The U.S. government is instructing American citizens not to travel abroad. 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.

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 flown into select airports, 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.

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

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 travel abroad for a personal trip?

Harvard strongly discourages personal international travel until further notice, and the U.S. government is instructing American citizens not to travel abroad. Travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. 

The number of known COVID-19 cases is increasing worldwide, and any travel in the upcoming months may be disrupted. Government restrictions and public health measures are changing fast. 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:

Anyone who returns or arrives to Massachusetts must self-quarantine for 14 days. 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, now is the time to decide whether you stay or return home. In locations where commercial departure options are still available, the U.S. government is advising Americans who live in the U.S. to immediately return or be prepared to stay where they are for an indefinite period.

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.

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 an evacuation order is given, International SOS will be bound by local government 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 flown into select airports, 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.

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. Anyone who returns or arrives to Massachusetts must self-quarantine for 14 days before your return/arrival.

If you develop symptoms, notify your Primary Care Provider.

How can International SOS help me in this situation?

International SOS is available to help you 24/7 during and after a medical, mental health, or security incident abroad, including for U.S. government-designated evacuations. Currently, however, no locations that are affected by COVID-19 have been designated as a covered cause for evacuation.

Even if an evacuation order is given, International SOS will be bound by local governmental regulations and may not be able to evacuate you. See the International SOS country-specific restrictions, screenings, and flight operations for COVID-19.

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

Practice good hygiene and social distancing measures and wear a cloth face covering while in transit.

  • 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.
  • Wear a cloth face covering.

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 is prohibiting all University-related international travel until further notice, and it should not be planned or scheduled at this time. The University also strongly discourages all personal international travel.

The COVID-19 outbreak is evolving daily, and we simply cannot predict what may occur in the next few weeks and months. Many governments have taken precautionary measures and enacted travel restrictions, temporary school or business closures, and/or health screenings at ports of entry. Many airlines have temporarily reduced or suspended flights. Government agencies as well as Harvard may extend or impose new requirements if warranted by changing public health circumstances. See the International SOS country-specific restrictions, screenings, and flight operations for COVID-19.

Additionally, Harvard-organized and Harvard-funded international travel for all students that is scheduled to start and end between April and August 31 is prohibited. See the Vice Provost for International Affairs' April 6 memo for details and exceptions on students' international summer travel funding.

Can I plan for fall programs and travel abroad?

Harvard is prohibiting all University-related international travel until further notice, and it should not be planned or scheduled at this time. Personal international travel is also strongly discouraged. Apart from the current prohibition, there is no one-size-fits-all guidance yet for fall international travel and programming.

The COVID-19 outbreak is evolving daily, and we simply cannot predict what may occur in the next few weeks and 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 fall 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 fall 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 fall travel and programs abroad as needed. See the International SOS country-specific restrictions, screenings, and flight operations for COVID-19.

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.

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 with a valid reason. The current Coronavirus outbreak meets this requirement. Harvard Financial Administration has provided travel cancellation and reimbursement guidance, including 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?

Anyone who returns or arrives to campus from a location with a CDC level 3 travel warning for COVID-19, must self-quarantine for 14 days elsewhere before your return/arrival to campus. If you develop symptoms, notify your healthcare provider.

Refer to Harvard's coronavirus website for more information.

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