Penn State revises international travel policy for employees, students

July 30, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Effective Aug. 16, Penn State will lift its moratorium on University-affiliated international travel, which has been in place since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The revised guidelines apply to travel requests made on or after Aug. 16 for travel beginning Sept. 16 or later, as international travel requests must be made at least one month before departure.

University-affiliated international travel that begins on or before Sept. 15 must continue to be approved by senior University leadership as mission-critical or academically essential. Anyone who has already submitted the required documents for an international travel exception and is awaiting approval does not need to take further action, as travel will continue to be reviewed and approved by exception until the new guidance takes effect.

Once the suspension is lifted, international travel will no longer need to be screened and submitted by unit executives to either the executive vice president and provost, senior vice president for Research, or interim dean of the College of Medicine for approval. However, anyone planning to embark on University-affiliated international travel must follow Penn State’s international travel policy and their unit’s pre-pandemic travel approval process, if applicable. 

In the interest of the health and safety of students traveling and studying abroad, and to help reduce the risks associated with contracting COVID-19 while overseas, all students on University-affiliated international travel that begins Aug. 1 or later must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before departure, regardless of the funding source for the trip. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that individuals not travel internationally until they are fully vaccinated, as getting vaccinated lowers the risk for severe illness and hospitalization from COVID-19. In line with prior guidance, all employees embarking on University-affiliated international travel that involves Penn State funding also must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the date of departure. Information about vaccine exemptions can be found in the sections below.

Additionally, registration in the Travel Safety Network at least 30 days in advance will be required for all University-affiliated international travel not associated with an Education Abroad program, and certain countries will continue to be restricted for international travel and require additional forms, health and safety review, and advance approval. Anyone traveling to a restricted country will have their travel reviewed by the Global Safety Office and the University’s International Restricted Travel Committee.

Employees and students embarking on University-affiliated international travel also must:

  • Practice physical distancing and hygiene recommendations before and during travel.
  • Obtain masks, hand sanitizer and any PPE that might be necessary in the course of their work while traveling.
  • Follow all COVID-19 guidelines and requirements of the destination.
  • Monitor their health and follow COVID-19 health and safety precautions upon returning home. The CDC recommends that vaccinated travelers get tested with a viral test three to five days after travel and self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms. Individuals who become ill/symptomatic must stay home and follow the COVID-19 reporting protocols.

Students and employees considering international travel who have questions can contact the Global Safety Office, whose experts are available to consult on travel health and safety. The Global Safety Office (TSN@psu.edu) will continue to assist University-affiliated international travelers and be a resource for any questions about health and safety at their destination(s).

More detailed international travel guidelines for both employees and students can be found below. The University’s complete international and domestic travel guidelines are available from the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs and on Penn State's official coronavirus information website

Student international travel

For all travel that begins on Aug. 1 or later, all students conducting University-affiliated international travel, regardless of the funding source, must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the date of departure. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose in a two-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine. Please note the following:

  • Some students may not be vaccinated due to exemptions for medical, disability or religious reasons. In these cases, the student should contact the following offices to request documented affirmation of their exemption:
  • Students who are not vaccinated and do not have a documented exemption must submit unit executive approval that travel is essential.  
  • Students are reminded that exemptions approved by Penn State offices hold no influence with foreign governments. Any student who is not vaccinated, for whatever reason, may be denied entry into a country and/or access to travel means to or from that location.
  • Students whose approval for travel was granted prior to Aug. 1 are exempt from this requirement, but strongly recommended to be fully vaccinated.

Effective Aug. 16 for all University-affiliated international travel with departure dates of Sept. 16 or later, all students traveling on University-affiliated international travel must record the trip with the Travel Safety Network (TSN) prior to travel, if their travel is not part of a University-affiliated group trip which has already been recorded. Students and employees traveling internationally on an Education Abroad program will have their travel recorded by Education Abroad and do not need to complete a TSN record for these programs. Students wishing to travel internationally must register their University-affiliated travel with the Travel Safety Network at least 30 days in advance or as soon as possible once travel is planned.

All students wishing to travel should first review the list of restricted countries, which includes countries restricted for security and regulatory reasons and also countries with high COVID-19 risks. This list will be reviewed periodically and is subject to change. Additional forms, review and approval is required for student travel to restricted countries. Students must receive approval for travel to restricted countries prior to purchasing airline tickets, hotel accommodations, etc. Students should arrange any necessary air travel through Anthony Travel, Penn State’s preferred travel agency, unless not possible to do so.

Employee international travel

While faculty and staff requesting University-affiliated international travel that involves University funding must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the date of departure, employees should note the following exceptions:

  • Travel funded by non-University funds, such as sponsored research using federal or state grants, is excluded from the vaccination requirement.
  • Unit executives may choose to exempt from the vaccination requirement those employees for whom the requested travel is part of their regular job responsibilities.

If an individual who is not vaccinated is making a request to travel internationally for sponsored research purposes, they must obtain permission to travel from the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs (for colleges and campuses), Senior Vice President for Research Lora Weiss (for institutes and ARL), or Interim Dean Dr. Kevin Black (for the College of Medicine). Unvaccinated employees who receive permission to travel must sign an acknowledgement of risk. Unvaccinated international travelers should get tested with a viral test three to five days after travel and stay home and self-quarantine for a full seven days after travel.

Employees who are not vaccinated because of a medical condition, documented disability or religious belief may request an exemption by contacting the Affirmative Action Office at aao@psu.edu.

Employees wishing to travel internationally must register their University-affiliated travel with the Travel Safety Network at least 30 days in advance or as soon as possible once travel is planned. All employees wishing to travel should first review the list of restricted countries, which includes countries restricted for security and regulatory reasons and also countries with a CDC Level 4 or Unknown COVID-19 Travel Health Notice. This list will be reviewed periodically and is subject to change. Additional forms, review and approval are required for travel to restricted countries. Employees must receive approval for travel to restricted countries prior to purchasing airline tickets, hotel accommodations, etc. Travelers should arrange any necessary air travel through Anthony Travel, Penn State’s preferred travel agency, unless not possible to do so.

Last Updated July 30, 2021