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FAQ - Travel and Study Abroad

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Travel

Study Abroad


Travel

What is AU’s current policy on student/faculty/staff travel?

One of the biggest challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic has been the disruption to our normal way of life, including engaging in travel. In support of our health and safety efforts during the pandemic, all university sponsored domestic and international travel has been suspended until August 14, 2021. As COVID-19 conditions continue to improve, we will implement an interim process for travel requests in preparation for the fall semester which will remain in place until December 31, 2021.

While the AU travel moratorium will remain in place through August 14, 2021, essential travel will be considered for approval to ensure continuity of our research and educational activities. This interim process will enable university leaders and our health and safety team to review travel requests prior to approval. With this information, informed decisions can be made regarding the risks posed by travel, particularly to destinations which may not be safe due to the local COVID-19 conditions and other safety issues.

University authorized, sponsored, or funded travel includes study abroad programs, timely or critically needed faculty and graduate level research and grant-related travel, participation in dual degree programs, travel for NCAA sanctioned athletic competitions, admissions and recruitment activities, and individual staff travel required to carry out critical functions related to the AU mission.

A core group representing academic units, research offices, and Risk Management’s Global Safety team have been monitoring domestic and world conditions and working to ensure the necessary prevention and safety protocols are in place and our travelers are equipped with the information needed to do their important work abroad and domestically.

Requests for essential travel should be submitted at least two (2) weeks in advance of the trip departure date and include information such as reason for travel, funding sources, trip logistics, and other health and safety travel issues. Please note that additional time may be needed for international travel requests. All authorized business- related, sponsored, or funded travel must comply with appropriate AU policies.

Travel within the scope of this process does not apply to AU authorized or sponsored travel within the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia (DMV) National Capital Region. Additionally, personal travel plans not related to or sponsored by AU are excluded from this process.

The interim travel process is another important step in our increased activities. Policies and processes for authorized, sponsored, and funded AU travel for beyond the fall 2021

semester will be announced later in the year. Additionally, study abroad-related travel is being coordinated separately by our Study Abroad team.

Questions regarding the interim travel process can be emailed to the Office of Global Safety at globalsafety@american.edu.

What factors are considered in the decision to approve travel?

The most important consideration for travel is safety. To help safeguard our community, AU has developed the process to review risks to our travelers. Even though risks are everywhere, we have taken steps that have proven to be valuable in reducing risks.

Travelers should be aware how approval determinations are made. A valuable internal resource for students, faculty, and staff is Risk Management’s Office of Global Safety. Global Safety staff can assess risk based on several factors, including information provided by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of State and guidance of local and state government agencies. Additionally, country-related health and safety intelligence assessments are reviewed and evaluated for current travel conditions and exposure risks and compared against the precautions for health and safety that exist at the destination as are any processes established to mitigate the risks for that specific program. This assessment process applies to both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 related risks. 

While not a comprehensive list, the following factors are considered. It should be noted that additional information may be requested from the traveler in this process.

Travel Considerations

COVID-19 Considerations 

Vaccine or treatment availability; case/death/hospitalization rates; case trend (increasing, declining, stable); healthcare infrastructure capacity; testing availability, etc. 

Traveler Considerations 

Risk awareness and mitigation measures; familiarity with destination; acceptance of responsibility. 

I am an individual faculty member or graduate student who needs to travel to conduct research, what should I do?

Travel requests can be submitted to the vice provost for research. Complete the Academic Research International Travel Form for international research travel requests and complete the Academic Research Domestic Travel Form for domestic research travel requests. Individuals seeking approval for faculty/graduate student research or grant-related travel should complete the appropriate form and provide responses for the type of travel they are requesting. Global Safety will assess any health or safety risks and provide a recommendation to the vice provost. Once a conditional approval is granted, the traveler will be asked to complete administrative-related safety steps. The traveler will receive directions upon approval.

For human subjects research, the request should also include the status of AU’s Institutional Review Board (IRB). Researchers are reminded that all requests to restart human subjects research must be submitted directly to IRB for consideration and approval. For more information, see the IRB website.

I am an individual faculty member, staff member in an academic unit (including WCL), or individual graduate student seeking approval to engage in an academic-related or business-related travel. What is required?

To submit a request for academic or business travel:

  1. Complete the travel request form at least two (2) weeks in advance of desired departure date. 
    1. Faculty and staff academic international travel requests.
    2. Faculty and staff academic domestic travel requests.
    3. Graduate student international travel requests.
    4. Graduate student domestic travel requests.
  2. Global Safety will review for health and safety risks and will forward to the appropriate approver.
  3. Traveler is notified upon approval.
  4. For international travel, the traveler will need to register their trip in Risk Management’s Enterprise Travel Registry (ETR) where final logistics such as travel insurance information and registration for AlertTraveler App are provided. A link to the ETR will be provided to the traveler upon approval of the application.

I am a faculty member desiring to lead a group of students (including undergraduate students) on travel as part of an academic experience, what should I do?

The accompanying faculty member should complete a travel request by completing the Travel Abroad Program Survey and submit electronically to the AU Study Abroad Working Group. This process is to be used for both domestic and international group travel requests. Please contact the Office of Global Safety for more information and to obtain a link to the Travel Abroad Program Survey.

The faculty member should complete this form well in advance of the scheduled departure as the review process can take several weeks based on the need to assess health and safety protocols in place for the duration of the trip. These mitigation protocols may include multiple components, so it is requested that the faculty member contact AU Study Abroad and/or the Office of Global Safety for assistance when planning a trip.

I am a staff member working for an administrative unit who needs to travel for essential university business, what should I do?

A travel request can be made submitting the travel request form to the Office of Global Safety (OGS). The traveler should complete the appropriate form at least two (2) weeks in advance of departure. The process for staff travel includes: 

  1. Traveler completes the travel request form at least two (2) weeks before desired departure. 
    1. Administrative unit staff international travel requests.
    2. Administrative unit staff domestic travel requests.
  2. Global Safety will review for health and safety risks and will forward to the sponsoring unit’s assistant vice president (or other designated approver) for approval. 
  3. Traveler is notified upon approval.
  4. For international travel, once approved, the traveler registers their trip in Risk Management’s Enterprise Travel Registry (link) where final logistics are provided such as travel insurance information and registration for AlertTraveler App, etc.

What happens after a student, faculty, or staff traveler completes the application process?

Once your request is submitted, the Office of Global Safety will review information submitted by the traveler and provide a health and safety assessment to the sponsoring unit’s final approver for international travel and review the mitigation protocols for domestic travel. The final approver will then approve or deny the request. The traveler will be notified by email of the outcome of the request. 

International travelers will be required to complete additional safety steps which assist in contacting the traveler in case of an emergency or if assistance is needed from AU’s insurance carriers while traveling abroad. These include:

  1. Register their itinerary in the Enterprise Travel Registry.
  2. Sign up for and activate AlertTraveler. 
  3. Enroll in the US Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
  4. Complete an online or in-person pre-departure orientation session.
  5. Complete the emergency contact information.
  6. Upload a copy of official passport (if international travel was requested).

The Office of Global Safety will provide travelers with instructions for these steps when travel is approved.

Are there COVID-19 related reentry restrictions to the US?

Currently, there are travel restrictions for certain countries, including the US. For travel inquiries and up-to-date information on travel restrictions, please visit the US Department of State's COVID-19 Country Specific Information page, and for travel health guidance, visit CDC's COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Country page.  

Effective January 26, 2021, international travelers must get tested for COVID-19 no more than three (3) days before you travel by air into the United States and show your negative result to the airline before you board your flight or be prepared to show documentation of recovery (proof of a recent positive viral test and a letter from your healthcare provider or a public health official stating that you were cleared to travel). Please see the CDC's Requirements for Air Passengers Arriving in the United States for additional information.

Study Abroad

What is the university doing about study abroad programs?  

AU Abroad is processing applications for students to study abroad for the Fall and Academic Year. All Spring and Summer 2021 study abroad programs have been suspended.  

While AU has suspended official university travel outside the Washington DC Metropolitan area through the end of summer classes, at this time the suspension does not apply to Fall and Academic Year AU Abroad Programs, including those that may have a start date before August 14. Students planning to participate in a study abroad program managed by a different academic unit or offices at AU should contact that unit directly for guidance.  

Together with a cross-functional response team, AU Abroad continuously monitors the worldwide situation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Should any decisions be made concerning an AU Abroad program’s continuation or cancellation, students will be notified by AU Abroad within 2 months of that program’s stated start date. These decisions will be made in accordance with global, national, and local health and government officials.  

What is the AU Abroad Fall and Academic Year study abroad timeline?  

AU Abroad students’ completed applications will be processed in April and early May. Deposits will be due in mid-May and, pre-departure orientations will occur remotely in June.  

What are American University’s study abroad refund policies?  

The University reserves the right to make cancellations, changes, or substitutions to study abroad programs based on the best interests of participants, including in cases of emergency or threats to health, safety, or security. Should the University suspend, change, or make a substitution to a study abroad program, refunds of costs or fees will be made in accordance with published University policies and only if the funds are uncommitted and/or recoverable. Payments made directly to a partner institution, airline, travel agency or any third party are not recoverable by the University and cannot be refunded or reimbursed.  

If I plan to study abroad in the Fall or Academic Year, should I arrange flights now or wait?  

We recommend that all students wait until they receive additional instructions during the pre-departure sessions in June before making travel arrangements. Payments made directly to a partner institution, airline, travel agency or any third party are not recoverable by the University and cannot be refunded or reimbursed.  

Should I have a Fall backup plan? 

Out of an abundance of caution, all students should register for Fall courses on campus. Students will be registered for Fall or Academic Year AU Abroad programs sometime during the summer term after confirming program participation. Students planning to participate in Fall or Academic Year study abroad programs managed by a different academic unit or offices at AU should contact that unit directly for guidance.  

As a Fall or Academic Year study abroad student, is there anything else I should be doing right now?  

Check that you have a passport that will be valid for 6 months beyond the end of your planned study abroad program. If you do not have a valid passport, apply for one or renew your current passport immediately. Check your email regularly for any program updates. Admitted students receive more information in the post-decision phase.  

What criteria does AU use to determine when it is safe to resume international travel associated with its programming?  

Together with a cross-functional response team, AU Abroad continuously monitors the worldwide situation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Should any decisions be made concerning an AU Abroad program’s continuation or cancellation, students will be notified by AU Abroad within 2 months of that program’s stated start date. These decisions will be made in accordance with global, national, and local health and government officials.  

Can I take a leave of absence to participate in a program independently from AU?  

No. AU Academic regulations don’t allow you to enroll in another institution during an official leave of absence.