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International Travel Guidelines, Policy, and Recommendations

Visit International Travel Guidelines, Policy, and Recommendations for current Cornell travel information. Visit Cornell's Coronavirus Resources and Updates for campus-wide information.

For the foreseeable future, COVID-19 will impact the safety and feasibility of international travel. To protect the Cornell community, the following guidelines, restrictions, and processes have been decided. As the situation evolves, these policies will as well. Please check here anytime Cornell-related international travel is anticipated and contact Cornell’s International Travel Health and Safety team (ITHS) at with any questions.

Campus International Travel Status: CDC Level 3 Notice for most countries- Risk Level: High

International Travel Policies and Guidance

Cornell has implemented the following COVID-19 international travel policies and guidance:

  • All non-essential university-sponsored international travel is restricted.
  • If a CDC Level 3 Travel Notice (global or country-specific) is in place, staff, faculty, and graduate students must petition to travel internationally on Cornell business.
  • Student travel is addressed at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. The matrix below provides guidance on travel restrictions which rely on the CDC Travel Notice Level designation and uniquely apply to each university population.
  • International visitors will be restricted as outlined in the matrix below.
  • All Cornell students, staff, and faculty engaging in international travel on Cornell business must register in the travel registry. 

Who can travel and when?

There are different rules for different groups, whether students, staff or faculty, visitors, or programming. For each group, the CDC travel notices determine when travel is allowable and what approval is needed. Note, this guidance is concerning the pandemic. There are many destinations that are considered elevated-risk for a variety of other reasons, and so require petitions for student travel. When a particular destination has reached CDC level 1, students should inquire here for more information.

Cornell Travel Restrictions, issued by ITART

(determined by CDC Warning Levels and university population category)

CDC Level 3-or Risk is Unknown
Risk: High
CDC Level 2
Risk: Moderate
CDC Level 1
Risk: Low
No CDC Notice
Risk: Very Low
Cornell travel: faculty and staff By petition only No ITART restrictions; permitted with supervisor and Dean/VP approval No ITART restrictions; permitted with supervisor and Dean/VP approval No ITART restrictions; permitted with supervisor and Dean/VP approval
Cornell travel: undergraduate students Not permitted Not permitted By petition only No ITART restrictions; permitted with supervisor and Dean/VP approval (if destination is not otherwise elevated-risk)
Cornell travel: graduate students By petition only By petition only By petition only No ITART restrictions; permitted with supervisor and Dean/VP approval (if destination is not otherwise elevated-risk)
Cornell-organized international programs: international Not permitted By petition only May resume if programs meet conditions below* Normal operation
Personal travel: faculty, staff, and students Non-regulated, but non-essential travel is strongly discouraged Non-regulated, but non-essential travel is strongly discouraged Non-regulated, but caution should be taken. Traveler should be aware of destination restrictions Non-regulated, but caution should be taken. Traveler should be aware of destination restrictions

What is considered essential travel?

At this time and per the criteria above, only essential travel is allowed. Although decisions about what constitutes essential travel are at the discretion of the relevant supervisor/advisor and dean/vice president/vice provost, here are guidelines that may be helpful.

Essential travel ...

  • is university mission-critical.
  • is necessary to meet academic requirements without delaying graduation.
  • is urgent (must happen now).
  • cannot be accomplished through virtual means.
  • cannot achieve its mission through others already at the destination.

What is considered international travel?

Travel outside of the United States, its possessions and territories, and between any two countries.

What is the petition process?

Step One: Administration Petition

  • Potential travelers must first obtain permission from their supervisor/advisor and dean or vice president/vice provost regarding the essential nature of the travel.
  • Permission needs to be documented and may be required during the petition process outlined in step two.

Step Two: Travel Health and Safety Petition

  • After receiving approval outlined in step one, the travel health and safety petition can be submitted via the travel registry. Questions should be directed to
    • A streamlined process is in place for graduate student group programming. Contact for more information.
  • If possible, petitions should be filed between six and two weeks prior to departure. We understand that travelers may need to plan for travel much further in advance and so ITART can grant conditional approvals ahead of time based on conditions at that time. These conditional approvals will be re-assessed approximately four weeks before travel. If conditions remain safe, approvals will stand. Travelers will only be notified if there is a change in the decision.
  • The International Travel Advisory and Response Team (ITART) returns decisions as promptly as possible.
  • For details on how petitions are evaluated, please review the travel considerations chart below.

Step Three: Upon approval

  • If travel is deemed both essential and receives approval from ITART, the traveler may commence with booking travel in accordance with any contingencies outlined in the approval letter.
  • ITART may rescind approval due to changes in the health and security environment at any time and with no responsibility for financial loss. Any travel right now inherently risks last-minute cancellation, and the sponsoring unit should take this into consideration.
  • All travelers are expected to seek out and follow all health and safety guidelines while traveling, including relevant social-distancing policies. Travelers must adhere to any restrictions or safeguards required by the local jurisdiction to which they are traveling. It is incumbent upon the traveler to be aware of these requirements.

What does ITART consider when reviewing a petition?

ITART will take into consideration a variety of elements associated with the proposed travel. The following presents the factors and considerations travelers should make before submitting a petition. This list should not be considered comprehensive as every proposed travel is unique and more information may be requested of the traveler. Travelers are advised to utilize the resources linked below to research their destination before submitting a petition to travel.

Elements considered for ITART approval

Travel Considerations

International SOS advisories

Cornell’s travel assistance provider, International SOS (ISOS), provides detailed destination-specific information on medical and security infrastructures and current travel recommendations. Outside of the pandemic, ITART risk ratings are Cornell’s primary marker for elevated-risk travel. ITART will consult with International SOS on the proposed travel. ITART recommends travelers do so themselves before filing a petition by calling an assistance center at 1-215-942-8478 and reviewing the destination-specific advice on Cornell’s online portal.

Department of State advisories

The U.S. Department of State issues destination-specific travel advisories on a scale of 1–4. ITART will consult with this information and consider any relevant information in light of the itinerary provided.

Cornell-imposed restrictions/regulations

Cornell reserves the right to impose its own regulations and restrictions on travel. Every organization has a unique and sometimes fluid risk tolerance that is in line with its capabilities to protect its community. If Cornell sees a need to impose additional restrictions or regulations to fulfill its duty of care, these will be considered in ITART’s recommendations or decision.

“Stay home” restrictions

“Stay home,” or “curfew” requirements in the host destination may impact the success of the proposed travel. ITART will consider these factors in its recommendations or decision. 

Self-isolate upon return (if required)

Depending on their itinerary, activities abroad, and person to person contact, travelers must be willing and able to self-isolate upon return if advised to do so by Cornell. Travelers should consult the daily check website upon return.


Countries around the world have varying quarantine requirements for arriving foreign nationals and citizens. ITART will evaluate how such conditions may impact a traveler’s planned itinerary.

Entrance restrictions

Restrictions on reentry into the U.S.  and on entry to the host country vary and change based on citizenship and travel itinerary. ITART will evaluate how such restrictions may impact the proposed travel and what precautions should be considered. These restrictions are fluid, and all travelers approved to leave the U.S. must plan, along with their sponsoring unit, to remain abroad indefinitely should the need arise.

Travel is Essential

Cornell is currently restricting travel to essential travel only. ITART will not determine whether travel is essential or not but will verify the relevant sponsoring unit has given approval. Approval for essential travel must be sought from one’s supervisor/advisor and dean/vice president/vice provost before an ITART petition is filed.

Pre-Departure orientation

An online predeparture orientation to the fundamentals of international travel and resources available to travelers has been developed by ITHS. Completion of the course is required of all students who receive ITART approval. Completion is not required of faculty, but they may find the material useful.

Travel is Registered

All students, faculty, and staff engaging in international travel on Cornell business must register in the Cornell Travel Registry. The ITART petition is incorporated into the registry and approved travel can be considered registered. Travel that is not approved will be removed from the travel registry.

Commercial flight options

A reduction or elimination of commercial flight options to or from a country is a primary strategy employed to slow the spread of COVID-19. ITART will consider the trends and forecasting of flight availability to and from the proposed destination in its recommendations or decision.

Planned itinerary

Where one is planning to find accommodation, how one is planning to commute, with whom one has established relationships, and the activities planned during one’s travel all contribute to a risk analysis of the proposed itinerary. ITART will consider these factors in its recommendations or decision.

COVID-19 Considerations

Case/death/hospitalization rate

Data on the case numbers, death rates, and forecasting models can indicate the risk associated with visiting a destination at a given time. ITART will analyze this data, considering the itinerary provided.


A host country’s capacity to or requirement for testing may have an impact on the proposed travel. ITART will analyze the situation in the host country to determine any impact on the traveler.

Traveler is COVID-19 negative

We bear a responsibility to do all that we can to protect the host country and not introduce more virus or tax their healthcare system. Travelers are expected to self-monitor for symptoms 14-days before departure, take precautions against infection, and cancel travel should they become symptomatic or test positive for the virus. Travelers should consult the daily check website upon return.

Traveler Considerations

Risk awareness and mitigation measures

Using the information provided in the petition, ITART will evaluate if the traveler is aware of all risks (pandemic related and otherwise) associated with the specific travel as proposed. ITART will then evaluate the traveler’s plan to mitigate those risks. If there is a perceived gap in either of these factors, ITART may require additional research to be done or provide additional resources as appropriate.

Familiarity with destination

A traveler’s familiarity with a destination, its cultures, resources, language etc. are important factors in their ability to self-manage a crisis or incident abroad. ITART will consider the frequency of visits to the proposed destination and language preparedness in its recommendations or decision.

Acceptance of responsibility

Cornell’s ability to assist travelers abroad during a second-wave or due to border closures, local shut down of business or hotels, or entry/exit bans is limited. Outside a life-threatening medical or security emergency, there are no indemnified evacuation benefits for COVID-19 related situations. Travelers and sponsoring units must understand that travel at this time is particularly risky and must be willing to assume all responsibility for unexpected and impactful conditions. All travelers must be prepared to remain abroad indefinitely and understand that doing so could impact their employment or academic momentum.

Returning from Travel: New, under COVID-19

Cornell cannot guarantee any traveler will be allowed to re-enter the U.S. as planned. Entrance restrictions and travel bans are unpredictable. Travelers and the units that support travel as essential should be prepared for stays abroad to be indefinite.

Before returning to campus after any travel, the traveler must access the daily check website for guidance. The specific circumstances of travel will be evaluated to determine whether additional steps are needed to manage associated risks. These may include temporary remote work or reassignment of duties or other precautions to prevent contact with co-workers and testing for COVID-19. Positive test results will be reported to your county health department, which will provide further directions.

Travelers should review CDC safety guidelines, destination advice, and information on travel restrictions before travel.

When can Cornell-organized student programming abroad resume?

Under restricted or limited conditions, the resumption of Cornell-organized student programs abroad is only allowed if programs meet the following criteria:

  • Program staffing and infrastructure are operational and at capacity to provide full service to all participants
  • Facilities have the capacity to provide de-densified conditions (classrooms, common areas, housing), self-quarantine/self-isolation space, access to essentials, and housing through student departure
  • Clear policies regarding cancellation: trigger threshold, academics, and financial response
  • Evacuation and response protocols established and feasible
  • Swift and comprehensive remote education guaranteed if cancellation required
  • Academic and financial considerations as determined by the authorized unit