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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

Independent graduate travelers should submit travel details via the graduate student travel disclosure form at least 10 days before departure.  This information will be stored in the OGSS international travel roster and used 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" and Emergency Cut-Out Card".

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

Complete an application for a reimbursement grant to participate in wilderness first aid training. Travel must support academic goals requiring remote or rural international travel.  This award (up to $500) is also available for and applicable to students who are traveling to urban areas of developing countries where access to quality, emergency medical services is limited. The next round of reimbursement grants for wilderness first aid training will take place in April and May 2019.