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Insurance Requirements Abroad

Insurance is an integral component for international travel, work, and many other activities. Domestic policies may only cover claims and lawsuits within U.S. borders, so it's prudent—and often legally required—to purchase local policies that will protect you from personal and financial liability under the host country's laws, languages, and customs. The most common types of insurance requirements are described below along with resources for purchasing those policies.

Health Insurance

Many countries require proof of health insurance coverage in order to obtain a visa. Before leaving the U.S., call your health insurance provider to determine if you're covered in your destination and if there are limitations to your plan and network of providers. If you need to purchase a short-term individual plan, GeoBlue Travel Medical and International Health Insurance is one option.

For staff hired abroad, employers may be required to provide health insurance coverage. If hired via an in-country partner, Harvard Global, other Harvard entity, or a Professional Employer Organization (PEO), this variable expense will be included in a monthly administrative fee. If not, several companies offer international plans for individuals and their families, including Aetna and Cigna.

Evacuation Insurance

To obtain a visa, many countries also require proof of evacuation coverage. This insurance covers the cost of transporting you to a safe place for medical or security reasons. Eligible Harvard students, faculty, and staff are covered by the University's International SOS membership and can request a proof of coverage letter. Individuals not eligible under the University's International SOS membership (including independent contractors and individuals hired via PEOs) may need to purchase their own plans; you can do so through International SOS or another provider. SquareMouth is a helpful site to compare medical evacuation policies.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance can provide financial protection from illness, accident, missed or cancelled flights, lost baggage, and other acceptable reasons. There are two types of travel insurance—trip cancellation and trip interruption. Some policies may be reimbursement only, meaning the traveler(s) must pay up-front costs. Before purchasing a plan, check with your credit card company; some companies offer limited coverage if you book flights and lodging on their card. SquareMouth is a helpful site to compare travel insurance policies.

Life Insurance

In addition to age and overall health, life insurance premiums factor in where one lives. Moving abroad changes the jurisdiction, which can affect laws governing succession. Individuals moving abroad for work should check with their current provider as they will likely need to alter their policy or take out a new policy. For employees on the Harvard University payroll, there are no international exclusions on insurance while traveling overseas. Your School's or Unit's local HR can address specific questions.

Other Insurance Considerations


Any physical property, such as buildings, computers, or lab equipment can be lost or damaged due to various causes, including fire, storm, earthquake, or theft. If sufficient values are owned locally, a local property policy should be considered. If you’re traveling with valuable equipment, you may want to take out a separate policy. Digital property should also be considered if data being gathered or stored is particularly valuable or will be costly to replace. Separate data security policies cover this type of property.


Any time a negligent act or omission results in bodily injury or property damage, the offending party may be held accountable to pay for any financial damage sustained. Laws regarding accountability vary from country to country. Liability insurance typically covers injury or damage under the laws of the country where the incident occurred. Professional liability should be considered if your project involves any professional service, including health care, education, finance, law, or brokerage.

Automobile Liability

Nearly all countries require liability insurance for individuals operating automobiles. Per the University's Travel Office policy, limits should, at a minimum, satisfy legal requirements, but higher limits are often advisable, and some Schools may have their own policies. The University has negotiated special pricing that includes the required insurance coverages with select vendors. See the Harvard Travel Services website for more information.

Workers Compensation

Most countries have mandatory, state-sponsored workers compensation programs to ensure that workers are covered for injuries sustained on the job. In most cases, this is administered via a payroll tax. Countries that don’t sponsor such programs often have legislation requiring employer responsibility for on-the-job injury. Requirements for coverage may differ for local versus foreign nationals.


For additional guidance, contact us or Risk Management & Audit Services. We can help you determine which insurance requirements may apply to your activities abroad.

Contact GSS

Harvard Global Support Services does not endorse any of the external insurance organizations or services linked above; they are provided only to serve as informational aides.