UNC Charlotte Education Abroad Policy on Travel to Restricted Travel Areas
Updated October 2023
UNC Charlotte Education Abroad (EA) administers all international education abroad programs and opportunities that fall under the auspices of, are supported by, or are otherwise approved by the University, including
- faculty-led programs,
- exchange programs,
- affiliated study abroad programs, and
- international student mobility such as:
- research and/or conference attendance or
- other international activities under the auspices of the University.
Collectively, all such international travel is referred to in this Policy as “University-supported travel.” In some instances, a University-supported travel destination is affected by one or more safety or security conditions. Such travel is subject to a higher level of scrutiny and requires special approval from UNC Charlotte Education Abroad and the Office of International Programs.
This Policy applies to all students who participate in University-supported travel, faculty members who lead education abroad programs (Faculty Directors), and faculty or staff members leading students in international activities under the auspices of the University (Activity Leaders).
A. Restricted Travel Areas
At UNC Charlotte, a “Restricted Travel Area” is any international location for which
- The U.S. Department of State (Department of State) has issued a Travel Advisory Level 3 or Level 4 for a country;
- The Department of State indicates “Reconsider travel” or “Do not travel” for a particular area within a country for which it has otherwise issued a Travel Advisory Level 1 or 2;
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Travel Health Notice Level 3 (Warning);
- UNC Charlotte has otherwise restricted travel for reasons of safety and security.
University-supported travel to countries or regions for which a Department of State Travel Advisory Level 3 or a CDC Travel Health Notice Level 3 is in effect requires special approval as set forth in Section III below. As a general rule, the University will review countries or regions for which a Department of State Travel Advisory Level 4 or a CDC Travel Health Notice Level 4 is in effect, and decisions will be made based on criteria approved by the University to support travel abroad.
Regardless of whether a Department of State Travel Advisory Level 4, or a CDC Travel Health Notice, Level 3 or 4 is in effect, the University reserves the right not to approve support for international travel, or to rescind previously approved support, any time when, in the University’s sole discretion, the University determines that travel is inadvisable for reasons of health or safety.
B. Requests for Exceptions
Students wishing to participate in University-supported travel to a location considered a Restricted Travel Area, Faculty Directors proposing to lead a program, and Activity Leaders proposing to lead an activity to a Restricted Travel Area must petition the EA to request an exception as indicated in Section III of this policy.
II. Standards for Making Restricted Travel Area Determinations
In making determinations about whether special approval is necessary or whether the University will no longer support travel to a particular country or region it considers a Restricted Travel Area, Education Abroad will consider the recommendations of the U.S. Department of State (Department of State) in its Travel Advisory(ies) and/or the CDC in its Health Notice(s) as they relate to program itineraries. Considerations include, but are not limited to, geographic regions named in the Advisory(ies) or Notice(s), the level of threat(s) involved, and the severity of risks. When appropriate, EA may also consider information provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding disease outbreaks and emergencies in determining whether to approve travel.
A. U.S. Department of State Travel Advisories
The Department of State issues a Travel Advisory for every country in the world. Travel Advisories for each destination country are posted by the Department of State on its international travel website. Travel Advisories follow a consistent format to help U.S. citizens find and use important security information. Travel Advisories apply up to four standard levels of advice, give a description of the risks, and provide clear actions U.S. citizens should take to help ensure their safety.
Level 1 – Exercise Normal Precautions: This is the lowest advisory level for safety and security risk. There is some risk in any international travel. Conditions in other countries may differ from those in the United States and may change at any time.
Level 2 – Exercise Increased Caution: Be aware of heightened risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time.
Level 3 – Reconsider Travel: Avoid travel due to serious risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time.
Level 4 – Do Not Travel: This is the highest advisory level due to greater likelihood of life-threatening risks. During an emergency, the U.S. government may have very limited ability to provide assistance. The Department of State advises U.S. citizens not to travel to the country or to leave as soon as it is safe to do so.
The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time.
Multiple Levels: The Department of State may issue an overall Travel Advisory level for a particular country, but levels of advice may vary for specific locations or areas within that country. For instance, the Department of State may advise U.S. citizens to “Exercise Increased Caution” (Level 2) in a country overall, but to “Reconsider Travel” (Level 3) to a particular area within the country.
B. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
CDC uses Travel Health Notices to alert travelers and other audiences to health threats around the world and to provide advice on how to protect themselves. CDC travel notices are designed to inform travelers and clinicians about current health issues related to specific destinations. These issues may arise from disease outbreaks, special events or gatherings, natural disasters, or other conditions that may affect travelers’ health. CDC travel notices are searchable by country name or disease on the CDC website.
Travel Notice categories are as follows:
Level 1: Practice Usual Precautions
Reminder to follow usual precautions for this destination
Level 2: Practice Enhanced Precautions
Practice enhanced precautions for this destination. The Travel Health Notice describes additional precautions or defines a specific population at risk.
Level 3: Reconsider Nonessential Travel
Reconsider nonessential travel to this destination. The outbreak or event poses risk to travelers because limited precautions are available.
Level 4: Avoid All Travel
Avoid travel to this destination unless traveling for humanitarian aid or emergency response; there is an extreme health risk for travelers and no available precautions.
III. Procedures for Petitioning for an Exception
A. A request for an exception to travel to a Restricted Travel Area may be made as follows
1. Faculty-Led Programs or International Activities Led by Activity Leaders
- If a Faculty Director or Activity Leader plans to lead a program or activity to a destination that includes a Restricted Travel Area, the Faculty Director or Activity Leader must submit a request for an exception to EA at the time of proposal for establishment or renewal of that program or activity. If the Faculty Director or Activity Leader is unaware that a proposed program destination includes a Restricted Travel Area, the EA Director or designee will notify the Faculty Director or Activity Leader upon receipt of the program or activity proposal.
- If a country or region included in a faculty-led program or international activity itinerary is designated a Restricted Travel Area after the program or activity has been approved, the EA Director will notify and meet with the Faculty Director or Activity Leader to discuss the advisability of continuing the program or activity and/or necessary revisions to the itinerary.
- If EA approves faculty-led travel or other international activities led by an Activity Leader to a Restricted Travel Area, each student participant in the program or activity will be required to sign an Acknowledgement of Risk and Release Agreement for Travel and/or Work in a Country under Travel Restrictions in order to participate.
2. International Travel Other than Faculty-Led Programs or International Activities Led by Activity Leaders (individual student travel for research, field work, internship, exchange, or through a third-party program)
- A student wishing to participate in University-supported travel other than a faculty-led program or an international activity led by Activity Leader (e.g., individual student travel for research, field work, internship, exchange, or through a third-party program, or any other University-supported travel) to a Restricted Travel Area must request an exception in writing, at least 60 days before travel is to begin.
- The request for an exception must include the following materials:
- Statement of why the experience in the Restricted Travel Area is unique and necessary for completion of a University degree, University research, or other University-related purpose.
- Outline of resources that the student would be prepared to contact or utilize in an emergency, such as an on-location host institution, U.S. embassy or consular office, local law enforcement, local governmental agency, or other entity.
- Outline of plans to mitigate risk.
- Names, locations, and contact information for any institutions or organizations they are working with during the program.
- Indication that the student understands they would be required to sign an Acknowledgement of Risk and Release Agreement for Travel and/or Work in a Country under Travel Restrictions if the exception is approved.
- The EA Director or designee may request a meeting with the student to discuss the request for an exception.
- EA will consider the materials supporting the request for an exception, as well as any other information it deems relevant and helpful to a reasonable and deliberate assessment of the request.
- The EA Director, in consultation with other appropriate University officials, will consider all relevant information and determine whether to grant the request for University-supported travel. The EA Director may consult with the Office of International Programs, the Office of Legal Affairs, and/or the Office of Risk Management and Insurance in making a determination. The decision of the EA Director shall be final.
IV. Program safety and security
- All students participating in University-supported travel must complete all pre-departure requirements established by EA, including attending any required pre-departure orientation sessions.
- Students, Faculty Directors, and Activity Leaders who are U.S. Citizens or U.S. nationals are responsible for enrolling in STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program), through the Department of State prior to departure. EA also recommends downloading the Department of State “Smart Traveler” application for mobile devices.
- All students, Faculty Directors, and Activity Leaders are responsible for monitoring Department of State Travel Advisories, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Travel Health Notices for any change in status during their University-supported travel and for consulting with EA if there is any increased severity of risk either indicated by the Department of State or CDC or observed by the students, Faculty Directors, or Activity Leaders on the ground.
- EA will use its best efforts to monitor local, national, and international alerts and warnings regarding the regions in which all University-supported travel is operating; provided, however, that not every danger or risk is readily apparent to the EA through such monitoring.
- EA will notify students and faculty prior to departure on University-supported travel of any issues, advisories, alerts, or warnings that may affect their destination(s). If the program or activity has already departed, EA will use reasonable measures to communicate any necessary and relevant Travel Advisories or other relevant alerts or warnings to affected students, Faculty Directors, or Activity Leaders.
- Severe security and safety concerns may result in the suspension or cancellation of University-supported travel and withdrawal of all participants from the region or amendment of the program curriculum or itinerary, with assistance provided by EA and other departments as necessary.
- Students who express the intent to remain in countries or regions for which the Department of State Travel Advisory status has changed to a Travel Advisory Level 4 that the University has otherwise determined to be too dangerous for student travel do so at their own risk and will not be supported by the University. Such students must sign an additional document recognizing such voluntary intent to remain in the region against the University’s advice and releasing the University from any additional liability or responsibility for return arrangements. Such action may also affect University enrollment status, academic credit, financial aid, and/or student accounts. This document will be kept on file in the Office of Education Abroad.