New travel policies help U-M travelers stay safe abroad


With more university-related travel expected in the coming year, the University of Michigan has revised elements of its international travel policy that supports faculty, staff and students traveling abroad for university-related purposes.

The Office of the Provost and the Office of the General Counsel first began discussions about amending the Standard Practice Guide on International Travel — SPG 601.31 — in January 2020, but shortly thereafter the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily shut down university travel programs.

Many of these restrictions have been lifted recently with the development of safe and effective preventative measures such as COVID-19 vaccines, and more countries have reopened their borders, prompting U-M to resume its regular university travel programs.

While the international travel environment remains challenging with unpredictable risk fluctuations, U-M’s new policies will equip travelers with the information needed to stay safe.

The new travel policy incorporates specific health-related travel risk ratings that identify higher-risk destinations in a more precise and timely manner, in addition to previous policies regarding general safety and security.

The new designations add U-M Travel Health Medium Risk and U-M Health High Risk to the pre-existing U-M Travel Warning and U-M Travel Restriction designations for destinations considered a risk for university travelers.

Travel designations are reviewed monthly, and updates are provided in the Travel Resources section of the Global Michigan website.

The added “Travel Health Risk” designations account for countries with elevated health concerns, such as COVID-19, cholera, yellow fever and other infectious diseases of elevated concern.

Undergraduate students are prohibited from traveling to a U-M Travel Health High-Risk or a U-M Travel Restriction destination, although graduate students can travel with an approved Travel Health Plan or Safety Plan, respectively.

The Travel Health Plan and the Safety Plan are designed to ensure that students have good logistic plans, solid communication and emergency management plans, a realistic understanding of health, safety and security risks, and strong strategies to mitigate those risks.

While the general Safety Plan has been in place for 12 years, both the Safety Plan and the Travel Health Plan now call for students, and faculty and staff taking students abroad, to demonstrate their understanding of their destination country’s public health and entry requirements, as well as their quarantine or self-isolation plans.

 In the case of travel to a U-M Travel Health Medium-Risk, Travel Health High-Risk, Travel Warning, or Travel Restriction destination, the faculty or staff sponsor must submit a Safety Plan for Group Travel on behalf of the group and receive approval from the International Travel Oversight Committee.

Other revisions and updates in the revised SPG include:

  • Adding definitions of “U-M Managed Programs” and “Dean’s Designee.”
  • Revising definitions of “Travel Abroad,” “U-M Related Travel,” and “Group Travel Abroad.”
  • Updating the section on Group Travel Abroad to outline group leader responsibilities.

As with previous versions of the international travel policy, faculty, staff and students on U-M related travel need to register their individual travel so the global travel and safety team within the Office of the Provost can send critical travel safety information to U-M travelers.

Recently, the Global Engagement Team sent timely health alerts and instructions to U-M travelers in Uganda concerning an Ebola outbreak. Alerts also have been issued to travelers with upcoming travel plans in Uganda to detail the health risks and safety measures in place.


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