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Graduate Student Policy for Travel to Countries on the U.S. State Department Warnings List


Penn State considers the safety and security of its staff and students to be of the utmost importance. Therefore, graduate students wishing to travel to countries on the U.S. State Department Warnings List, using University funds, in fulfillment of degree requirements, and/or carrying out University-sponsored or affiliated activities, are required to file a request for approval of such travel with the University’s Restricted International Travel Committee (RITC), via the Travel Safety Network (TSN), prior to commitment of University resources or to finalizing arrangements (e.g., purchase of plane tickets) towards such travel.  

The University recognizes that research is central to its mission, and that some research may require trips to countries that are included on the U.S. State Department Warnings List, but that risks can sometimes be avoided, minimized, or managed.  The purpose of this policy is first, to ensure that those risks have been fully and carefully considered by the student and the relevant faculty and administrators, and second, to evaluate on a case-by-case basis whether such travel is reasonable.  


  • A student wishing to travel to a country on the U.S. State Department Warnings List should research potential risks of travelling to that country.  The U.S. State Department’s website provides information concerning the specific risks for countries where those risks are most prevalent. 
  • Students must register all University-related travel in the Travel Safety Network (TSN) a minimum of 30 days prior to the departure date of the proposed trip.
  • The information they provide through the TSN will still be reviewed by the RITC, that consists of the Assistant Dean of the Graduate School, the University’s Risk Officer, the Director of Student Engagement and Operations for the Office of Global Programs, the Director of Education Abroad, and an International Risk Analyst.  The RITC will make a recommendation to approve the request, to deny the request, or to ask that the student provide clarification or additional information.
    • If additional information is requested, the student will be contacted by a Graduate School representative.  Upon reviewing the additional information presented, the RITC will determine their recommendation.
  • The RITC’s recommendation will be forwarded to the Vice Provost for Global Programs (or designee) for their review and recommendations, and then to the Provost, who will make the final decision regarding approval. The student will receive an email from the Graduate School confirming whether the request has been approved or denied. If the Provost denies the request, the decision is considered final and the graduate student may not undertake the proposed trip. 
  • All graduate students traveling to any international locale must secure health insurance coverage through GeoBlue/HTH Worldwide.  This will be accomplished during the registration process via the TSN.  Additionally, graduate students must complete emergency preparedness training at the appropriate intervals prior to travel.
  • The Office of Global Programs has responsibility to monitor changing worldwide conditions.  The Office of Global Programs will inform the Provost and the Graduate School’s Assistant Dean for Graduate Student Affairs should conditions in the proposed country of travel change significantly between the time a request has been approved and the date on which travel is to be undertaken.  Based upon new information, the Provost may reverse the decision and deny the request. If the request is subsequently denied based on this new information, the Office of Global Programs will inform the Graduate School’s Assistant Dean for Graduate Student Affairs, who will notify the student, faculty adviser, and college/school administrator for graduate education.
  • All students are required to maintain regular contact with their adviser via email, Skype, etc., during the length of the trip. The student and adviser should determine the frequency and type of contact depending on the destination and student’s itinerary prior to the trip (e.g., daily, weekly).
  • The Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Dean of the Graduate School will keep a record of all requests for travel.

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