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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.  Note that if the country is on the warning list, a restricted travel petition must be submitted regardless of whether a particular region or area within the country indicates otherwise.  Students will have the opportunity to explain that the specific area they may be traveling to does not have any current safety advisories in their application.

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.  


1.  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. 

2.  The student must complete a Restricted Travel Petition, which requires the student to provide dates of the trip, purpose of the trip, living accommodations while in the country, and planned travel within the country. The form also requires a detailed statement, along with any supporting documents, demonstrating that the student is aware of the potential risks, and that appropriate steps will be taken to mitigate them.  It must be emphasized that the responsibility for providing sufficient evidence that potential risks have been minimized lies with the student.  

The Restricted Travel Petition must be signed by the student, the faculty adviser, and the administrator who oversees graduate education (or designee) from the student’s college or school.  Electronic signatures are not accepted on the Restricted Travel Petition.  The form is then uploaded into the TSN a minimum of 30 days prior to the departure date of the proposed trip. The student is advised to allow for sufficient time to obtain the required signatures prior to the submission of the Restricted Travel Petition into the TSN.  Students and advisers need to closely monitor the status of the country a student plans to visit until the day of the trip to be sure that circumstances have not changed. 

a. The following form is available in Adobe PDF and accessible Microsoft Word (DOC) format.  The accessible Word document is designed to be used specifically with screen reader technology. Please use the PDF version of this form unless you require the use of screen reader technology.  Restricted Travel Petition (PDF) | (DOC)

3.  After the Restricted Travel Petition has been uploaded into the TSN, the Graduate School will be notified.  The petition will be reviewed at the next RITC meeting.   The RITC 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.

a. 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.

4.  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. 

5.  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.

6.  The University 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 advisor, and college/school administrator for graduate education.

7.  All students are required to maintain regular contact with their advisor via email, Skype, etc., during the length of the trip. The student and advisor should determine the frequency and type of contact depending on the destination and student’s itinerary prior to the trip (e.g., daily, weekly).

8.  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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