Frequently Asked Questions
Browse the health clearance FAQs below, and contact us if your question hasn’t yet been answered.
Completing Health Clearance
Who needs to complete the health clearance process?
Health clearance is required for undergraduates going on:
- Harvard-sponsored trips that last two weeks or more
- All Harvard-led trips of any duration
Administrators of graduate level or other programs who are interested in requiring health clearance for their participants, email Katherine Steevens, email@example.com, in Global Support Services.
I completed the health clearance process within the past 12 months; do I need do it again?
Yes. You're required to complete a new health clearance packet unless your travel plans are to the same place and to engage in the same type of activities as you did in your most recent experience abroad.
How do I complete the health clearance process?
There are several steps to the health clearance process, so start early. Review the instructions on the first page of the health clearance packet.
What can I use for a description of my Harvard travel plans?
The description of your travel can be a description provided by your program, such as a printout of a program web page, or you may need to write your own description. Include information such as your lodging (homestay, hostel, etc.), planned activities, whether you're traveling individually or as part of a group, and any other details that would help a health care provider evaluate your plans.
What is Harvard-sponsored travel?
Any travel or related activity involving academic work qualifying for Harvard credit, funded in whole or in part by Harvard, or organized or accompanied by a Harvard faculty or staff member acting in a Harvard capacity, is considered Harvard sponsored.
What is a Harvard-led trip?
Any program for which there is a Harvard faculty or staff member on the ground in the program location, either as a program leader or to provide support or guidance to program participants, is considered a Harvard-led trip.
Can I complete the health clearance process at the HUHS travel clinic?
No. While a pre-departure visit to the travel clinic is recommended, the health clearance process is completed separately.
If you typically receive your medical care at HUHS, you can obtain health clearance from HUHS, just not the travel clinic specifically. Review the instructions included in the health clearance packet.
I completed the heath clearance process; should I still visit the HUHS travel clinic?
Yes. The travel clinic will provide country-specific health advice and immunizations, as well as other reference materials that will help you stay healthy abroad.
Medications, Services, & Accommodations
What if I use medication?
- If you use medication on a regular basis — including, but not limited to asthma inhalers and oral contraceptives — you should take a supply to last throughout your stay.
- When going through Customs abroad, officials may scrutinize prescription medication. Carry your prescriptions in original containers and a letter from your physician on letterhead explaining the medical necessity and treatment. Travelers have been arrested for "smuggling" ordinary quantities of medication in other than the original containers.
- Medications that are legal and readily available in the U.S. may be considered illegal, require a prescription, or prior authorization from your host country to be allowed in the country. Remember to find out whether your prescription medication is available and legal at your destination. The U.S. embassy website of your destination country is a good place to start. If your medication isn't legal or available, consult with your health care provider about the suitability of alternative medications.
- If you're taking a psychotropic drug, you must be stable on your medication before starting your study abroad experience. Medically stable means that no changes in your symptoms are foreseen or expected. Discuss proper medication management with your doctor.
Can someone from home mail me medication while I'm abroad?
Most countries have very strict regulations on having medications shipped abroad, and students find that refills of common medications in the U.S., such as Adderall, are stopped by the host country's Customs. The host country government, not the U.S. Post Office, decides which medications may be mailed legally within their country. Call the host country government office in the U.S. or consult resources available through Harvard Travel Assist's online portal to learn about the legality of mailing certain medicines.
What if I have a chronic medical condition?
- Take special precaution in preparing for and managing your situation abroad. For example, if you have allergies, ensure that specialized medications will be available. If you're diabetic, consider the consequences of contracting malaria.
- Anticipate how the new environment and the stresses of study abroad can affect your health. Preexisting mental health conditions are often intensified by living in a different culture and local resources may be less than or different from those to which you're accustomed at Harvard. Discuss these concerns with your health care provider(s) prior to your departure. Fully explore the resources available to you in the location you'll be visiting and how to reach out for help while abroad, if needed. If you're being treated for a mental health condition, it may be necessary for you to have a treatment plan identifying a therapist and frequency of appointments.
What if I need services or accommodations?
If your health care provider indicates on the health clearance form that you require certain services or accommodations to participate in the Harvard travel plan, then you must work with the Harvard College Accessible Education Office (AEO) or the Harvard Summer School disability services coordinator to complete Part 5 of the Health Clearance Packet. These offices may be able to assist you in identifying the resources you need, but Harvard cannot guarantee that services or accommodation are available, nor can it guarantee the accessibility of vehicles, housing, other accommodations, study sites, or other places you may visit.
Submitting & Tracking Forms
I'm traveling on a Harvard-organized trip and receiving funding from a Harvard funding source. To whom should I submit my form?
Submit your form to your program administration office and inform your funding source that you've done so. For example, if you're traveling on a Harvard Summer School program with funding from an OCS grant, you should submit your form to the Summer School Study Abroad Office and inform OCS.
How long will it take to complete the health clearance process if I submit my forms to HUHS?
Allow at least five business days for HUHS to review your packet and complete the clearance. However, if HUHS determines that you require an in-person appointment prior to being cleared, this process could take longer. We recommend you start the health clearance process as soon as you know you'll be traveling internationally on a Harvard-sponsored trip.
How do I check the status of my forms after submitting my health clearance packet to HUHS?
Once you're cleared, HUHS will send you an e-mail confirmation and route the packet to OIE for submission to the program or funding office that you indicated on page 4. Generally, the process is completed within five business days of HUHS receiving a completed packet.
Other Health Clearance Requirements
I'm studying abroad on a non-Harvard program that requires its own health clearance; do I also have to complete Harvard’s health clearance?
Yes, with one exception: If you're traveling on a non-Harvard program that has a health clearance process requiring review by a medical professional or contact with a medical professional, then you can securely email a completed copy of the medical clearance forms from your non-Harvard program to the Office of International Education, firstname.lastname@example.org. In the subject line of your email, include your last name, first name, and the terms "Health Clearance Exception." You'll be notified within four to five business days if this exception has been granted.
My program requires me to complete a different health information form; can I still send my forms to HUHS Medical Records?
No. HUHS Medical Records only accepts the standard Harvard health clearance packet. If you need to complete any requirements regarding health clearance, or if a doctor's signature is required on a form other than the Harvard health clearance packet found on the Student Travel Forms section of our website, you'll need to contact HUHS or your primary care physician to fulfill the requirement.