Updates & Frequently Asked Questions

about the COVID-19 Pandemic and its effect on SIS Abroad programs

Last updated: February 19, 2021

For comprehensive information regarding American University's on-going response to COVID-19 please visit the AU Coronavirus (COVID-19) Webpage. You may also wish to review the Travel and Safety Abroad FAQ.

Have a question that isn't answered here? You can reach us at sisabroad@american.edu.

Official university travel outside of the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Area will remain suspended through the end of the spring semester (May 7, 2021. All spring and summer 2021 study abroad programs requiring travel have been suspended. Requests for travel exceptions for certain university functions may be considered by the President/Provost/Vice Presidents and require approval before any travel arrangements are made. Faculty travel for research purposes is subject to the Return to Research guidelines, and research-related travel exceptions can be requested by contacting the Vice Provost for Research at VPR@american.edu. In-season travel by AU’s Patriot League intercollegiate teams is allowed under the approved plan for competition.

Future travel policies will be based on Centers’ for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other government agencies’ guidance, and the university’s risk assessment of travel conditions and exposure risks. Please note that the US Department of State issued a press release on Monday, January 25, 2021 requiring negative COVID-19 test for air travel to the United States. This order applies to both foreign nationals and U.S. citizens.

University leadership makes decisions about the operational status of study abroad programs based on guidance issued by key government health authorities – such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) the U.S. Department of State (State Department), the World Health Organization (WHO), local health departments – and in coordination with on-site program administrators.

We also consult with partner institutions to better understand the current situation abroad and how this affects our programs and future study abroad cycles. As conditions change, for example, the CDC or State Department changes travel advisories for certain destinations, AU will discuss the implications of these updates and how they may impact study abroad programs currently underway, or planned in the future.

All students should heed guidance or advisories from local authorities, the State Department, and CDC. Any travelers should thoroughly and frequently review all airline requirements and entry/exit guidelines prior to, and during travel, as requirements for destinations change daily. Please note that travel will continue to be disrupted as the pandemic envolves around the globe. 

American University's international travel policy directed the university to restrict, cancel, or postpone any university sponsored or supported international travel program or activity if the risk of travel is substantial. In accordance with guidance from the CDC, State Department, WHO, and other authorities, the leadership of American University will cancel or suspend any program in a location where it deems the risk of travel is substantial.

With ongoing global developments related to COVID-19, the university continues to take steps to protect the health and safety of our students. AU’s COVID-19 Task Force includes relevant senior members of the AU Administration, including those from the Office of Risk Management, Office of Campus Life, the Provost’s Office, AU Abroad, and SIS Abroad. This team meets regularly to evaluate the current situation and make decisions to safeguard the health of our student population abroad and support their educational activity.

As of February 19, 2021, American University has canceled all study abroad and non-essential university travel (domestic and international), the end of the spring 2021 semester, May 7, 2021. Summer 2021 study abroad programs requiring travel have also been canceled. 

Please note that applications for fall 2021 study abroad are now being accepted by AU Abroad and SIS Abroad. However, as the current situation changes, it is likely that future travel and study abroad will be continue to be disrupted, with the possibility of program postponement and cancellation, due to on-going travel restrictions, country entry requirements, partner school guidelines, etc. 

As of February 19, 2021 American University has canceled all summer study abroad programs requiring travel.

SIS Abroad has delayed the announcement of summer programs and due to the university-wide cancellation of summer study abroad programs, we will not offer any in-person summer study abroad programs that require travel. However, it is still possible we will offer 1-3 virtual courses that are based off previous courses offered abroad. More information will be announced as the details become finalized. 

We are hopeful that conditions in summer 2022 will be favorable for offering a full portfolio (5-7) of faculty-led and partner school courses abroad. 

As of February 1, 2021, SIS Abroad is currently accepting applications for fall 2021 study abroad. Please refer to individual program pages for specific details, deadlines, and updates.

Note: Although we are currently accepting applications, please understand that it is likely for future travel and study abroad to continue to be disrupted, with the possibility of program postponement and cancellation, due to on-going travel restrictions, country entry requirements, partner school guidelines, etc. With this in mind, please be sure to create a backup plan with your academic advisor to ensure you can meet all requirements if your study abroad program is postponed or canceled. 

The university is reviewing requests to travel for research on a case-by-case basis.

After contacting SIS Abroad and your Academic Advisor, a petition can be made for an exception to the moratorium on travel by contacting the Vice Provost for Research at VPR@american.edu. The petition should include: AU research participants; travel details including location, timeframe, and mode of transportation; a brief description of the purpose of travel and a rationale for the exception that explains why delaying this research will harm the effort; and grant or funding source, if applicable.  Please note that any SIS student receiving approval for travel will be required to enroll in the SIS Graduate Global Program. 

For human subject's research, the petition 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

If fall 2021 study abroad is canceled, students will receive notification and guidance from SIS Abroad, and the SIS Abroad office would work in conjunction with the Academic Advising units of the university to support students in course enrollment for the Fall 2021 semester.

If a student prefers to withdraw completely from all classes for the semester, they will forego all credits and go through the normal university procedure for a voluntary withdrawal and be subject to the university’s refund policy.

For non-tuition related expenses, American University will only refund uncommitted and/or recoverable funds. If a payment was made directly to a partner institution, including for housing, those payments are not recoverable by the American University and cannot be refunded. Instead, such payments are subject to the partner institution’s cancellation and refund policies.

As with all SIS Abroad programs, airfare and transportation expenses are the sole responsibility of the student. American University will not refund these expenses in the event of program suspension. Please review and understand all airline refund and itinerary change policies prior to finalizing travel plans. 

In light of this rapidly evolving situation, American University requests that you monitor developments on the AU website as well as reliable sources such as the CDC websiteWHO website, and State Department. If there are any updates to the operation of SIS Abroad programs, that office will be in contact with students and emergency contacts as soon as possible.