University of Pittsburgh International Travel Guidelines for Students

University of Pittsburgh International Travel Guidelines for Students

Last Updated December 6, 2019

The University of Pittsburgh is committed to strengthening our international engagement. It encourages international activities by its student body and strives to develop more opportunities for international study and research. At the same time, the University is aware that sometimes international activities carry additional risk as countries around the world are affected by war, terrorism, political unrest, disease, and natural catastrophes. The University aims to balance the importance and benefits of participating in international educational activities against the potential risk to its students. For this purpose, the University of Pittsburgh relies on the U.S. Department of State’s Travel Advisories System to guide decision-making regarding student, faculty, and staff travel overseas, along with other sources of information such as advisories from the Overseas Security Advisory Council and the Centers for Disease Control. 

I. U.S. Department of State’s Travel Advisories

According to the U.S. Department of State, “Travel Advisories follow a consistent format and use plain language to help U.S. citizens find and use important security information. Travel Advisories apply up to four standard levels of advice, describe the risks, and provide clear actions U.S. citizens should take to help ensure their safety.” The categories are: 1. Exercise Normal Precautions, 2. Exercise Increased Caution, 3. Reconsider Travel, and 4. Do Not Travel. Full details regarding the updated system are available at:https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/before-y...

These guidelines state the University of Pittsburgh’s approach to governing educational, research and service activities in countries for which the U.S. Department of State has issued certain Travel Advisories. Students must follow these guidelines if they are to earn credits for their study abroad program, international internship experience, independent research, or other overseas educational experience and/or use scholarship or other University funds in support for the experience. 
 

II. Global Risk, Health, Safety, and Security Committee

The Global Risk, Health, Safety, and Security Committee (GRHSS) shall assist and advise University leaders when making decisions regarding student, staff and faculty international travel under University auspices, particularly to locations that are in category 3 and 4 of the State Department’s Travel Advisories System. 

The GRHSS shall review and acknowledge logistics proposals for new study abroad programs as well as changes in venue based on the State Department’s Travel Advisories System. 
 

III. Undergraduate Student Travel 

All Undergraduate level students at the University of Pittsburgh, who wish to travel as affiliated with the University (i.e. to earn course credit, conduct research, complete an internship or service-learning project) to any destination abroad, must notify the Pitt Study Abroad Office, even if they are not part of an official Pitt Study Abroad program. Additionally, all undergraduate level students must complete all required forms as issued by the Study Abroad Office, prior to departure. 

Category 1 

Undergraduate students who wish to travel to countries listed as category 1 in the Travel Advisories System should plan to progress through their normal application and post-acceptance procedures including registering their travel through the Pitt Study Abroad Office as well as through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP: https://step.state.gov/step/). Undergraduate students traveling to category 1 countries should read the advisories and follow the instructions listed therein and in pre-departure orientation materials. 
 

Category 2

Undergraduate students who wish to travel to countries listed as category 2 in the Travel Advisories System should plan to progress through their normal application and post-acceptance procedures including registering their travel through International SOS as well as through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP: https://step.state.gov/step/). Students traveling to category 2 countries should read the advisory and follow the instructions listed therein and in pre-departure orientations. Should an undergraduate student have a question or concern about the information in the advisory, please contact the Director of Study Abroad. 
 

Category 3

No undergraduate shall be required to participate in an education activity under University of Pittsburgh auspices in a country listed as category 3 in the Travel Advisories System. The University also does not recommend such travel. If a student wishes to travel to a country in category 3, that undergraduate student must appeal to the Global Risk, Health, Safety, and Security Committee (GRHSS) through the Director of Study Abroad. Appeals include the following components:
  1. A written statement by the undergraduate student explaining why travel to the respective district/country is essential to the student's research and/or training. The statement should also discuss why alternative programming in countries listed as category 1 or 2 are not suitable.  
  2. A written statement by the faculty advisor, endorsed by the department chair, confirming that the research or training project is important to the undergraduate student's academic program and stating how the advisor believes any risk would be mitigated. 
  3. A signed waiver and release (provided by the Study Abroad Office) stating that the undergraduate student has been advised of the travel warning and associated risks, and still chooses to travel to this district/country. The waiver will also include an acknowledgement by the undergraduate student that it is his or her own responsibility to take precautions with respect to his or her personal safety, and that he or she understands that the University of Pittsburgh, external funding agencies, and even the U.S. Department of State may be unable to help in the event he or she encounters difficulties abroad. The waiver and release shall release the University from liability for death, injuries or losses suffered by the student while participating in the activity.
If an appeal is approved by the GRHSS, that undergraduate student will receive an acknowledgement from the GRHSS and will be permitted to use approved University of Pittsburgh funding – including any external funding administered through and disbursed by the external funding agencies. Students should also comply with any additional requirement of external funding agencies when traveling to locations with a category 3 designation. Additionally, once the appeal is granted and acknowledgement received, the undergraduate student must enroll in the STEP program, follow all of the instructions listed in the advisory, and meet with the Director of Study Abroad to make a risk mitigation plan for their travel. 
 

Category 4

Undergraduate travel to countries listed as category 4 in the advisory system is prohibited. No undergraduate student shall be given University of Pittsburgh funding—including any external funding administered through and disbursed by the university—for any activity in that district/country. If the student has already received such funding prior to the imposition of the travel advisory, the funding shall be returned to the University. Where a portion of the funds have already been expended in furtherance of the activity before the travel advisory was imposed, the GRHSS, after consultation with the sponsoring department or office, shall decide the amount to be returned to the University, while taking into account individual circumstances. If a student is already in a country that is changed to a category 4, the GRHSS will make a determination as to whether the undergraduate student shall be required to return to the United States. In the event that evacuation is mandated or desired, Pitt Study Abroad Office or other relevant University entities will work with that undergraduate student(s) on items such as cost and credit recovery.  
 

IV. Graduate Student Travel 

All Graduate level students at the University of Pittsburgh, who wish to travel as affiliated with the University (i.e. to earn course credit, conduct research, complete an internship or service-learning project) to any destination abroad, must notify the Pitt Study Abroad Office, even if they are not part of an official Pitt Study Abroad program. Additionally, all undergraduate level students must complete all required forms as issued by the Study Abroad Office, prior to departure.

Category 1

Graduate students who wish to travel to countries listed as category 1 in the Travel Advisories System should plan to progress through their normal application and post-acceptance procedures including registering their travel through the University’s auspices as well as through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP: https://step.state.gov/step/). Students traveling to category 1 countries should read the advisory and follow the instructions listed therein and in pre-departure orientations, if applicable. 
 

Category 2

Graduate students who wish to travel to countries listed as category 2 in the Travel Advisories System should plan to progress through their normal application and post-acceptance procedures including registering their travel through the University’s auspices as well as through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP: https://step.state.gov/step/). Students traveling to category 2 countries should read the advisory and follow the instructions listed therein and in pre-departure orientations, if applicable. Should a graduate student have a question or concern about the information in the advisory, she or he should contact the Director of Study Abroad. 
 

Category 3 and 4

No graduate student shall be required to participate in an education activity under University of Pittsburgh auspices in a country listed as category 3 or 4 in the Travel Advisories System. The University also does not recommend such travel. If a graduate student wishes to travel to a country in category 3 or 4, that graduate student must appeal to the Global Risk, Health, Safety, and Security Committee through the Director of Study Abroad. Appeals include the following components: 
 
  1. A written statement by the graduate student explaining why travel to the respective district/country is essential to the student's research and/or training and containing a travel itinerary including detailed contact information. 
  2. A written statement by the faculty advisor, endorsed by the department chair, confirming that the research or training project is important to the graduate student's academic program and stating how the advisor believes any risk would be mitigated. 
  3. A signed waiver and release (provided by the Study Abroad Office) stating that the graduate student has been advised of the travel warning and associated risks, and still chooses to travel to this district/country. The waiver will also include an acknowledgement by the graduate student that it is his or her own responsibility to take precautions with respect to his or her personal safety, and that he or she understands that the University of Pittsburgh , external funding agencies, and even the U.S. Department of State may be unable to help in the event he or she encounters difficulties abroad. The waiver and release shall release the University from liability for death, injuries or losses suffered by the student while participating in the activity.
 
If an appeal is approved by the Global Risk, Health, Safety, and Security Committee (GRHSS), that graduate student will receive an acknowledgement from the GRHSS and will be permitted to use approved University of Pittsburgh funding – including any external funding administered through and disbursed by the external funding agencies. Students should also comply with an additional requirement of external funding agencies when traveling to locations with a category 3 designation. Additionally, once the appeal is granted and acknowledgement received, the graduate student must enroll in the STEP program, follow all of the instructions listed in the advisory, and meet with the Director of Study Abroad to make a risk mitigation plan for their travel.