Risk Ratings List Protocol
Our International Safety & Security team maintains the travel risk ratings list for Harvard based on guidance from the U.S. State Department and other foreign ministries, our worldwide security consultants, and regional experts among Harvard’s faculty and staff.
Whereas the U.S. State Department and similar foreign affairs organizations base their ratings off of their own citizen’s business and tourist travel, Harvard’s ratings take into account the unique and diverse work and backgrounds of our students, faculty, and staff.
High risk countries and regions are characterized by war zones, wide spread militancy, asymmetric warfare, violent separatist movements or civil war, major epidemic zones, areas of pervasive violent criminal activity regularly impacting or targeting foreigners, or places without functioning government services—including emergency services—and with little or no rule of law.
Countries and regions deemed elevated risk are distinguished by low level conflict—including frequent terrorist attacks, high internal tensions (tribal or political), violence that often impacts civilians and other noncombatants, violence that may be state sponsored, a rule of law that is ineffective with weak emergency services, and/or an appreciable risk of violent crime perpetrated on foreigners. Countries may be placed on this list during periods of uncertainty or volatility.
Watch list countries or regions are facing trends or upcoming events that are likely to result in heightened risk in the near future.
Changes to Country and Region Risk Ratings
We review and update the ratings twice annually ahead of summer and fall travel and again before winter and spring break travel. We also actively monitor global developments and adjust the ratings as circumstances arise.
Although infrequent, risk ratings may change prior to your departure or while you’re in country. You’ll need to be prepared for adverse events and prepared to modify your departure, destination, or return.
Countries that are not rated may still present serious risks. Hazards such as inadequate medical facilities, ongoing violent demonstrations, and tropical diseases do not necessarily result in a country or region being adding to our risk ratings list.