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International travel risk policy

MIT is a global institution, and travel is an essential element of MIT’s operations (educational benefits of global immersion, international research collaborations, etc.). However, travel can also carry risks that should be identified and managed.

All travelers should understand the risks associated with their trip, be informed about local conditions at their destination, carefully plan for contingencies, and exercise caution while in transit and once they arrive at their destination. See the “In-depth” section below for more information.

Student travel policy

MIT students planning to travel abroad should be aware that, if the Department of State risk level for your destination changes prior to departure, you may be required to request a waiver or you may need to postpone or cancel your trip. Travelers are urged to plan accordingly.

This policy covers MIT-related travel by currently enrolled MIT undergraduate and graduate students. Recently graduated MIT students traveling less than 90 days from the date of their graduation are also covered if on a continuation of a program enrolled in prior to graduation. (If a June graduation, coverage is the lesser of 90 days or until September 30th, whichever occurs first.)

“MIT-related travel”

“MIT-related” travel is defined as travel by any member of the MIT community on MIT business. “MIT business” is defined as any program or activity that is required or run by MIT or financially supported through any MIT account. Students who are traveling wholly for personal reasons and without financial support from MIT (i.e., without funding through any MIT account) are not subject to MIT’s travel policy. Individual discretion governs decisions regarding such personal travel.

Travel Registry

All MIT-related travel that is more than 100 miles from MIT’s Cambridge campus, including any “side trips,” must be registered in the MIT Travel Registry. Registering personal travel is optional but encouraged.

Local and domestic travel

Local and domestic travel are allowed (with no waiver required).

International travel

MIT students traveling abroad should carefully review the Department of State (DOS) website for the risk rating for their destination. (The DOS rating takes into account a variety of risk factors, including health/disease, crime, terrorism, civil unrest, and natural disasters). Regardless of risk level, travelers are strongly encouraged to read and follow any DOS travel advisories for their destination (in particular regarding modes of transportation).

International travel to destinations (countries, regions, or cities) designated as DOS level 1/“Exercise normal precautions” or DOS level 2/“Exercise increased caution” by the DOS is permitted with no waiver required.

MIT-related travel to high-risk destinations is not permitted for undergraduate or graduate students. Destinations are considered “high-risk” when the DOS travel advisory:

  1. Rates the destination country, region, or city at a level 3/“Reconsider travel” or level 4/“Do not travel.”
  2. Advises travelers to a specific region or city, regardless of country rating, to “Reconsider travel” or “Do not travel”; or
  3. Notes that U.S. government employees’ travel is currently restricted.

See current list of “high-risk” destinations.

Students on MIT-related travel are not permitted to travel through high-risk locations (e.g., a connecting flight or layover) or take “side trips” to high-risk locations. In certain exceptional circumstances, a student may apply for a waiver that, if granted, would permit MIT-related travel to a high-risk destination under certain conditions.

If the DOS risk level for your destination changes prior to departure, you may be required to request a waiver or you may need to postpone or cancel your trip. Travelers are urged to plan accordingly.

High-risk waiver application

An approved waiver is required for students traveling to high-risk destinations on MIT-related travel.

  • Criteria: Waivers may be granted when the travel is academically essential (e.g., required dissertation fieldwork with no alternative) or presents a unique and compelling educational opportunity where the benefits outweigh the risks.
  • Application process: The application must include a detailed travel itinerary, a compelling explanation of the necessity or educational benefit of the travel, all required endorsements, a preliminary risk analysis, and evidence of risk mitigation measures. Waiver applications should be submitted at least 30 days before the proposed date of departure.
  • Review: Completed waiver applications with all required endorsements will be reviewed by MIT’s High-Risk Travel Committee, which will forward the request (with a recommendation to approve or deny) to the Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate and Graduate Education for a final decision. There is no appeals process.

In Summary

High-Risk travel waiver process for undergraduate and graduate students:

  • Exception required for international travel to:
    • Countries, regions, or cities with DoS risk level 3/Reconsider travel or 4/Do not travel
    • Places where U.S. government employees’ travel is currently restricted
  • Required endorsements:
    • Faculty or program sponsor (e.g. principal investigator or advisor); and
    • Department, lab, or center head; and
    • School or College Dean
  • Risk review and recommendation: High-Risk Travel Committee
  • Final decision: Vice chancellor for Undergraduate and Graduate Education

Staff and faculty

Travel Registry

All MIT-related travel must be registered in the Institute’s Travel Registry.

MIT-related travel is defined as:

  • Travel funded entirely or in part by MIT sources.
  • Travel organized primarily by MIT (e.g., MIT selects the participants).
  • Travel conducted at the behest of MIT or in furtherance of MIT objectives.
  • Travel related to scholarly activities (whether paid for by MIT or not).
  • Travel that requires the use of MIT equipment, supplies, or personnel.

Local and domestic travel

Local and domestic travel are allowed for all (including staff, faculty, and postdocs) with no exceptions required.

International travel

Staff and faculty members may travel to DoS level 3 and 4 countries with no exceptions required, but are encouraged to check the Department of State (DoS) travel advisories for their destination. If you have questions, please contact Program Manager for International Safety and Security Todd Holmes for assistance.

Personal travel

Use personal judgment and register your travel with MIT (encouraged).

Need more help?

Todd Holmes

Todd Holmes

International Safety & Security Program Manager


High-risk travel committee

High-risk travel committee

Contact the committee