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Graduate Student Travel Policies


Graduate students traveling internationally under university-sponsorship or support must abide by the health and safety requirements below. Additional steps apply if visiting a country with an overall U.S. Department of State (DOS) Travel Advisory Level 3 or Level 4, or a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Warning Level 3, Avoid Non-Essential Travel. See section on higher-risk locations.

Note – Feinberg School of Medicine students and McGaw residents fall under different travel requirements, contact

Definition of Northwestern-sponsored graduate student international travel

The definition of Northwestern-sponsored graduate student international travel was developed by the Graduate Student International Travel Task Force in June 2018. 

Registered graduate student international travel is considered Northwestern-sponsored if it meets at least one of the following criteria: The travel is:

Note that an international student’s short-term trip to one’s home country (while a temporary resident of the U.S.) for research or other academic purposes may be considered university-sponsored.

Northwestern graduate student international travel is NOT considered university sponsored if:

Review GeoBlue employee eligibility requirements to determine benefits and limits for other categories of travelers, such as McGaw medical residents, post-doctoral scholars, independent contractors, volunteers, adjuncts, emeritus employees and visiting international scholars, who travel abroad on temporary assignment for Northwestern.

If questions remain about whether or not a graduate student’s travel is considered university-sponsored contact For questions about GeoBlue employee legibility, contact Pam Tackett in the Office of Risk Management.

Disclose your Northwestern-affiliated travel

Submit your travel details via the graduate student travel disclosure form. This information will be stored in our international travel roster, which our office maintains in the event of an emergency abroad.

Insurance requirement

Obtain Northwestern's GeoBlue health insurance (or obtain an exception from OGSS, but note that the AETNA/On-call plan does not provide comprehensive coverage for long-term international travel). Graduate students traveling with a Northwestern-sponsored group should check with their group sponsor, as sometime the department will enroll all travelers at once.

Preparing for global risks

Review our Prezi Presentation, “International Risk Management for Graduate Students" and download the "Pre-Departure Health & Safety Checklist."

Also, register your travel with the U.S. Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) so you can receive security alerts from a nearby embassy or consulate during your time abroad.

Higher-risk locations

If your destination is under a U.S. Department of State (DOS) Travel Advisory Level 3 – Reconsider Travel or Level 4 – Do Not Travel, or a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Warning Level 3, Avoid Non-Essential Travel. Read more about consular advisories.

Requirements for international students and scholars

International students and scholars must comply with all overseas travel requirements outlined by the International Office, or risk facing detention by the Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officials upon return to the U.S. The Office of Global Safety and Security (OGSS) has no authority over the CBP and cannot intervene on a traveler’s behalf.

Review more international travel tips for non-U.S. citizens.

Wilderness First Aid Training

Apply here for a reimbursement grant to participate in wilderness first aid training. Travel must support academic goals requiring remote or rural international travel. Award recipients may attend a training in any location, but reimbursement is limited to the course fee only. Many local options exist; filter the schedule by state to find Chicago-based options. The next round of reimbursement grants for wilderness first aid training will take place in 2019.