Policy for Travel to Higher Risk Locations

A photo of a bustling hong kong street

To minimize health and safety risks in recent years, the University took the approach of reviewing all undergraduate and graduate international opportunities and experiences to only those locations with US Department of State Travel Warnings prior to travel. In January 2018, however, the U.S. Department of State replaced the Travel Warning system with a numerical rating system of U.S. Department of State Travel Advisories to inform travelers of health and safety risks in every country. All countries now have a U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory with an overall rating of Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions to Level 4: Do Not Travel. Some advisories contain nuanced ratings for specific regions or cities therein.

The following policy replaces the old process of reviewing undergraduate and graduate travel based on the U.S. Department of State Travel Warnings, which are no longer in effect. It incorporates and leverages the expertise of Princeton’s international emergency assistance provider, International SOS, and embeds U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory information into the planning and review process. For futher guidance on destinations with high-risk status, please see our FAQs.

Revised: January 30, 2020

The unit responsible for this policy is Global Safety and Security (GSS) in the Office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs and Operations.

The health, safety, and security of Princeton travelers engaging in research or study is of paramount concern to the University.  In increasing Princeton’s global engagement and presence, there is a recognition that these enriching experiences come with risks.  Accordingly, we encourage careful planning when traveling, especially to regions that pose heightened risks to health, safety, and security.

Any Princeton student proposing travel to a higher risk location (as defined below) must complete the travel review process described below.  Due to the volume of travel, applications should be submitted as early as possible and at least six weeks prior to planned departure.  University funding will not be released until the review process is complete.

This policy applies to all University-sponsored travel by Princeton undergraduate and graduate students (including Visiting Student Research Collaborators (VSRCs) and other visiting students while affiliated with Princeton) where any of the following are true:

  • Travel resulting in work that will be considered for academic credit or is otherwise related to a student’s program of study[1];

  • Travel organized on behalf of a registered University organization, including, but not limited to: academic or administrative departments, student organizations, religious groups, club or varsity athletic teams, artistic or musical groups, civic engagement organizations, residential colleges;

  • Travel supported through funds disbursed by the University or a University affiliate;

  • Travel organized by a University faculty or staff member.

This policy does not apply to travel that is non-University sponsored or otherwise unaffiliated with the University, such as leisure travel.

[1] Based on the concentration or degree requirements or according to the students’ academic advisor.

The University uses a multifaceted and nuanced approach in assessing the risks associated with travel to certain locations.

Students (graduate and undergraduate) are prohibited from travelling to locations where the U.S. Department of State has issued a Level 4 (“Do Not Travel”) travel advisory for either the country in general, or for a particular region or location within the country where the travel is planned.  If you are seeking an exemption to this prohibition, please write to globalsafety@princeton.edu immediately.  Exemptions are awarded only in rare circumstances.

Princeton has identified a list of higher risk locations (based on the following inputs)[2] to which students may travel only with approval from GSS:

While travel review is not required for staff and faculty, we strongly recommend such travelers to seek advice from GSS if they are going to locations deemed higher risk.

[2] The list is updated twice per calendar year in August and February, and on an ad hoc basis in response to major events.

Princeton undergraduate and graduate students planning travel to higher risk locations must complete the travel review process prior to booking travel.  This involves completing the “Higher Risk Travel Review & Approval Process” in the Global Programs System (GPS) at least six weeks prior to commencing travel. The review process requires the student to:

  • Provide specific travel details regarding travel details, lodging, safety preparedness, and risk mitigation measures.
  • Provide information about the experience of the student including prior travel to the location or similar locations, language and cultural competency, and broader travel experience.
  • Participate in an International SOS risk briefing to receive itinerary-specific safety guidance and address risks for the destination.  Students will receive a written briefing and will have to acknowledge they have read it.
  • Submit an “Acknowledgement of Risks for Travel to Higher Risk Locations” form[1]  signed by the student.
  • Demonstrate departmental or faculty support of the trip by providing a faculty reference.

Students may also be asked to meet with a staff member in the GSS unit to discuss recommendations for mitigating risk while abroad. The University may also issue additional guidance, requirements, or restrictions regarding travel to specific destinations.

If this process is not completed, University funding cannot be released to the student. Additional consequences may be imposed until compliance is achieved.

In some cases, travel plans may need to be modified due to a sudden change of condition.  If there is a change in circumstances – in terms of the itinerary, the academic purpose of the trip, or the health, safety, or security climate of the region – either prior to or after departure, the University retains the right to re-evaluate the travel, recommend modifications, and/or require return to the United States or an alternate location.

  • March 2019 - Policy updated to include graduate students.
  • January 2019 - Revised process and updated contacts for additional review process.
  • January 2018 - Risk rating system assigned by the U.S. Department of State changed from Travel Warnings to the Level (1-4) Travel Advisory system.
  • Initial publication - November 2017

Questions or Comments?

Please contact the Travel Oversight Group at globalsafety@princeton.edu with any questions or comments.