Pre-Approval of Student Travel
Any student planning to travel for University purposes, as well as any faculty or staff member planning to lead or travel with any University students, to a U.S. Department of State (USDOS) Level 3 or 4 Travel Advisory location must obtain approval from the International Travel Risk Assessment and Advisory Committee (ITRAAC) by completing the application process outlined on the GPS Alliance Travel Approval website. In addition, travelers may be required to submit a request for permission to travel to locations or participate in programs that pose a specific health, safety, or security concern, as indicated by authorities other than the U.S. Department of State, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), non-U.S. government authorities (e.g., Australian or Canadian authorities), and University of Minnesota authorities.
The application must demonstrate the academic value of the travel and the safety procedures in place to mitigate the concerns of the travel advisory or relevant authority. Applications for student travel without an academic purpose will not be approved.
Depending on the situation, the application will be submitted either by the organizing unit or the individual:
- By the organizing unit: Students working through an education abroad office will have the application prepared by the education abroad office. For a program in a location that requires ITRAAC approval, units will receive ITRAAC approval, using the Application Procedure for Unit-Sponsored Programs, before promoting the program.
- By the individual: Students not included in one of the above applications should apply individually using the Application Procedure for Individual Students.
Note: The application must be submitted at least six to eight weeks before proposed travel. Applications received less than two weeks before travel will not be considered. Specific application instructions including templates and FAQs can be found at the GPS Alliance Travel Approval website.
Committee Approval Process
- When a completed application is received, the Director of International Health, Safety, and Compliance calls a meeting of the Committee either by phone, email, or in person. In deciding whether to approve travel, ITRAAC will consider the following factors:
- the academic purpose of the opportunity;
- whether the opportunity is for undergraduate, graduate, or professional development;
- the educational, research, or professional development importance of the opportunity in relation to the students’ academic program;
- alternative program options and why none were chosen;
- the political and physical conditions in the site country;
- geographic location of the activity and its relation to the threat addressed by the travel advisory;
- steps taken to minimize the threat;
- the level of risk to students’ health and safety;
- traveler experience, both in general and related to the specific country;
- travel conditions and the ability to evacuate students, if necessary;
- the manageability of legal risk to the University; and
- information from governmental sources, the University’s insurance carriers, and other expert sources
- The committee makes a decision on each application. Decisions are made by unanimous consent. Where consensus cannot be reached, the Executive Vice President and Provost will make the final decision.
- Approval only applies to the traveler(s) and dates specifically listed in the application.
- The University will not authorize student travel to any location for which the State Department has issued a mandatory evacuation order.
- Where the committee is considering a rejection of a travel application by a graduate student, the committee will engage the Dean of the student’s college in the decision-making process.
- A decision regarding each application will be communicated to students via email as soon as possible.
Note: ITRAAC approval does not certify the safety of the proposed travel, only that the travel has an academic purpose and the known health and safety risks have been reasonably mitigated.
Suspension of Travel
When a significant health or safety concern arises regarding travel that is underway, ITRAAC will determine whether to suspend student travel.
The Director of Health, Safety, and Compliance will request via email that ITRAAC review the situation. In deciding whether to suspend student travel, ITRAAC will consider the factors listed above; the success of the current program/traveler in mitigating health and safety risks thus far; the specific location and situation; and information and recommendations from the insurance provider, the education abroad office, the onsite staff/affiliate if relevant, and other trusted local contacts (including USDOS staff). In emergency situations where it is impractical for ITRAAC to meet, the Director of International Health, Safety, and Compliance, or delegate, may take immediate steps to have students removed from a country, region, or area.
- Education abroad offices, or unit staff supporting students abroad, who believe there is an immediate risk may also take steps to remove students from a country, region, or area in emergency circumstances without ITRAAC approval. The Director of International Health, Safety, and Compliance and ITRAAC will be notified by the education abroad office or unit within 1 hour of any such emergency action.
- Decisions are made by unanimous consent of the Committee. Where consensus cannot be reached, the Executive Vice President and Provost will make the final decision.
- A decision regarding the suspension of travel will be communicated to students via email as soon as possible.
Note: The University is not able to ensure full cost and academic credit recovery to students who comply with a government- or University-mandated withdrawal or evacuation. The University will make reasonable efforts and will provide students with guidance to obtain refunds from service providers such as hotels, airlines, and dormitories but no refunds are guaranteed. Fees paid will only be refunded to program participants to the extent they are refunded to the University.
Student Travel without ITRAAC Approval
Students travel without University support when they do not receive ITRAAC approval or when they choose to remain abroad after the University has withdrawn approval for that location. If a student is traveling without University support during a required term, the student must take a leave of absence from the University, where possible. If a leave of absence is not an option, students who travel in violation of this policy risk losing their student status.
Details in Administrative Policies: Leave of Absence and Reinstatement from a Leave: Graduate Students and Leave of Absence and Readmission for Undergraduates.