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COVID-19 International Travel & Study Abroad FAQ

Students in Venice. Photo by William Lones.
Photo by William Lones; Taken prior to March 2020

Last modified September 1, 2020

Given the dyanmic nature of the COVID-19 response, information on this webpage may update frequently. Additional information will be provided as it becomes available. If you have questions, please contact the Global Education Office at


September 1, 2020 Update

As a global land grant university, Virginia Tech is committed to improving the human condition worldwide and educating students who will understand their connection to fellow humans everywhere and excel at working collaboratively on solutions to global problems. For this reason, we believe deeply in the value of international education experiences for our students, opportunities for them to connect with and learn from cultures beyond our own boundaries.

The pandemic has brought home to us the vital importance of this work. In these difficult, uncertain times, one question facing us has been the feasibility of study abroad programming in the immediate future.

After careful deliberation, the Global Travel Oversight Committee made its recommendations to university leadership and the following decisions were rendered by the provost:

  1. All 2020-21 Winter Session study abroad opportunities are canceled.
  2. Students, faculty, and departments should proceed with planning for all Spring 2021 study abroad opportunities.

While current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Department of State, and host country restrictions make almost all study abroad impossible, we are hopeful that these restrictions will ease in the coming months. The university’s decision to encourage continued planning for spring programs is a clear statement of our commitment to returning to full study abroad engagement as soon as the world’s public health circumstances allow.

In our current circumstances, we urge you to consider carefully the financial implications of committing funds to a study abroad program. Further communication related to your specific program will be sent in the days to come.

We know that you will certainly have many questions about spring study abroad opportunities. Please refer to the Global Education Office FAQ page for more information, and reach out to with questions.


Program Information

All fall 2020 and winter 2020-21 study abroad programs are canceled. 

In addition to Fall 2020 programs, Virginia Tech has canceled all study abroad programs that were scheduled for the 2020-21 Winter Session, a difficult decision that takes into account a variety of factors related to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The university remains committed to doing everything possible to allow spring 2021 programs to continue.

During the last few months, we have made efforts to gather data and consider all avenues for continuing study abroad this fall, as we wholly believe in the value of such activities for our students. However, much uncertainty remains and it is impossible for us to predict how the world health situation will unfold in the next few months. The potential for a resurgence of COVID-19 in many study abroad locations and the significant negative impact this would have on students abroad were factored into this decision, together with considerations of the feasibility of securing required student visas. This decision is being made now in hopes of minimizing financial impact on students and programs currently in the planning process.


Spring 2021 study abroad opportunities will remain possible with increased preparation and departure requirements, to include health and safety gates that must be met to allow for departure. Individual student travelers intending to participate in faculty-led, exchange, direct enrollment, third-party, student research, and internship programs will not be authorized to depart until both the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Department of State travel advisory levels are de-escalated to a Level 1 or Level 2. 

Virginia Tech faculty-led programs will be supported in planning and preparations, with additional efforts toward delaying financial obligations for as long as possible. If a program is canceled, participants will be reimbursed remaining unencumbered funds. Programs will provide participants with timelines of incremental financial obligation to ensure participants can make informed financial decisions concerning continued commitment to the program.

Departure for all travelers is predicated by border access being granted, traveler visa access, and other immigration requirements. These are dynamic entry requirements set by each country. As consulates and embassies re-open from COVID-19 closures, travelers should expect delays in passport and visa processes.

For Faculty-led/Steger Center Programs canceled in Spring 2020, Summer 2020, or Winter 2020-21: If you are not able to defer your travel to a future program opportunity, you will be reimbursed for all unencumbered costs associated with your program. How much of your program costs will be reimbursed will vary by program. 

Your faculty leader will have more information in the coming weeks about program fee refund amounts.

For Third Party Study Abroad Programs:

If you have any questions related to reimbursement for your non-VT third party study abroad program, please contact Shelby Dodd at

For Steger Center Programs canceled during Spring or Summer 2020: The $600 Steger Center Room & Board deposit will be refunded. Please allow several weeks for processing.

For Faculty-led/Steger Center Programs canceled during Spring 2020, Summer 2020, or Winter 2020-21: The Global Education Office will refund the $50 application fee. Due to the number of refunds, processing may take several weeks. Your refund will be applied to your student account.

Alternative academic plans will be different for each student. Please contact your program leader for questions pertaining to faculty-led programs. Please contact your academic advisor for support in adjusting your long-term academic plans.

University policies dictate that these funds are strictly for study abroad scholarships. This means that you will not be able to receive your scholarship this summer or fall (this includes not being able to use your scholarship towards tuition for taking online summer classes at Virginia Tech). The scholarships have not yet been paid out into your student account so you do not have to repay anything.

Students who plan to defer their study abroad program till next summer or fall will be able to receive their award next year. If you plan to go on the same study abroad program next year, please send Marielle Wijnands an email ( so that we can hold your scholarship. The GEO  will verify next summer whether you are accepted into the program.

Travel Restrictions - Faculty, Staff, and Students

Virginia Tech Policy 1070: Global Travel Policy does not allow for university-supported student international travel to locations with the following advisories:

  • U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory Level 3: Reconsider Travel, 
  • U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory Level 4: Do Not Travel, or 
  • Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Warning Level 3 travel notice

Policy 1070 does not support faculty and staff travel to locations with a CDC Warning level 3 travel notice. The U.S. Department of State and the CDC have lifted their global travel advisories, but both entities have assessed most international travel as posing significant risk related to COVID-19.

In extreme circumstances, departments can petition the Global Travel Oversight Committee (GTOC) for a waiver to allow for critical travel. Waivers are not guaranteed and can be revoked at any time, as the situation progresses. Waiver requests require the following information be sent to, 30 days prior to planned travel:

  • Traveler’s relation to Virginia Tech
  • Traveler's full trip itinerary from point of origin
  • Reason exception is warranted
  • Mitigations by the traveler and the sponsoring department
  • Enforcement mechanisms for planned mitigations
  • Confirmation of funding approval (regularly processes must still be followed to obtain university funding)
  • Written endorsement by academic college dean or department head
  • Other considerations relevant to the individual case

Virginia Tech Policy 1070: Global Travel Policy is applicable to all university-supported travelers. This includes, but is not limited to, faculty, staff, graduate students, undergraduate students, international students, post doctorates, visiting scholars and researchers, business partners, training and workshop participants, conference attendees, and job candidates.

Virginia Tech is monitoring this situation closely. Too much is unknown at this time to estimate when the U.S. Department of State and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention will assess decreased risk related to COVID-19 to each country.

Individuals and departments that wish to plan future travel to or through high-risk locations do so at risk of having to cancel travel because of continued advisories. 

Virginia Tech does not regulate or track personal travel, though we strongly recommend following Virginia Department of Health guidance, and we strongly recommend following CDC and Department of State guidance in not traveling to medically high risk locations until after the situation improves. All members of the Virginia Tech community are being strongly discouraged from any non-critical domestic or international travel, whether personal or professional.

Based on CDC and VDH recommendations for international air travel, Virginia Tech recommends a viral COVId-19 test 1-3 days before traveling internationally and requires a test 3-5 days after returning from all international travel.

If your travel includes international air travel, the following steps are recommended to protect yourself and others during your trip:

  • Know your travel risk.
  • Check for potential country-specific travel restrictions before you go.
  • Check if your airline requires any health information, testing, or other documents.
  • COVID-19 testing (if available) is recommended 1-3 days before international flights (departure and return). 
  • Do not travel if you or your travel companions are sick, are currently in isolation, or are waiting on COVID-19 test results.
  • Keep a copy of your test results with you during travel; depending on your destination, you may be asked for them.
  • Get your flu shot before you travel.
  • Bring extra face coverings and hand sanitizer.
  • Wear a face covering to keep your nose and mouth covered when in public settings, including on public transportation and in transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
  • Stay at least 6 feet apart from anyone who is not from your travel group.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60 percent alcohol).
  •  Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Avoid contact with anyone who is sick.

After returning from international travel, Virginia Tech requires that you get tested 3-5 days after your trip, reduce non-essential activities, and do not return to campus for 7 days after your return, even if you test negative for COVID-19.

Upon returning from international travel, taking the following actions for 14 days following travel can protect others from getting COVID-19:

  • Stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arm lengths) from anyone who did not travel with you, particularly in crowded areas, when indoors and outdoors.
  •  Wear a face covering to keep your nose and mouth covered when you are in shared spaces outside of your home, including when using public transportation.
  • If there are people in the household who did not travel with you, it is safest for everyone in the household to wear a face covering in shared spaces inside your home for 14 days after travel.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness.
  • Monitor symptoms of COVID-19 and take your temperature if you feel sick.

For more information on current domestic and international travel guidance, visit the CDC and VDH websites, and travel section FAQs.

Alerts and Resources

Previous Notices

U.S. citizens are advised to arrange for immediate return home or prepare to stay abroad for an indefinite period of time. This new travel advisory reflects a significant change in the global health and security environment. The unprecedented Global Level 4 Health Alert is going to result in US embassies and consulates suspending or significantly curtailing essentials services to U.S. citizens living abroad. In addition, airlines are limiting and increasingly suspending flights around the world. Furthermore, national borders are closing rapidly across all continents. These actions are going to limit your ability to return home in the coming days and weeks.  If you choose to shelter in place, there is a possibility that the prospect of your return home might be delayed by weeks/months beyond your program end date. At this time 230 of your peers out of a total of 260 studying abroad this semester are already home or on route home. Therefore, Virginia Tech encourages you to arrange for immediate return home.

Virginia Tech will assist students with academic progression for the spring 2020 semester with appropriate supervision from the academic department(s) without additional costs beyond what was paid for educational expenses for spring 2020. Also, students returning home by the time announced for their host country will be made financially whole (upon furnishing payment receipts) for ticket change fees, or a new economy-class return air ticket to their home. 

If have have changed your travel plans, please notify Virginia Tech Global Safety of your new plans at

Steps for return

  1. Contact your travel agent or airline to request an itinerary change to the soonest possible flight.
  2. Notify your host program/institution of your departure plans. It is important to notify your host institution and program of your departure plans. Each will approach the coming events differently and will have different support available to you. We will work with you and your host program to find any possible options for you to complete your academic semester. This may be on-line coursework, alternate academic projects, or other learning opportunities.
  3. Contact Global Safety and Risk Management ( or 540-750-5747) immediately with your:
    • Current location
    • Wellness status
    • International cell phone number 
    • New flight itenerary
    • Where you plan to stay upon return.
  4. Until you depart, please follow guidance from your host institution and host nation. Avoid non-essential travel and take appropriate precautions, including:
    • Check the local news regularly
    • Have multiple means of communication available (cell phone, E-mail, etc.)
    • Wash hands frequently
    • Avoid touching your face
    • Be aware of what you touch, particularly in public spaces
    • Refrain from shaking hands
    • Minimize time in densely crowded spaces
    • Drink plenty of water, eat regular meals, and get a full night’s rest

Guidelines for self-quarantine

The Department of Homeland Security issued a Notice of Arrival Restrictions requiring American citizens, legal permanent residents, and their immediate families who are returning home to the U.S. to travel through one of 13 airports upon arrival to the U.S., submit to an enhanced entry screening and self-quarantine for 14 days once they reach their final destination.

All university community members who have traveled within the last 14 days domestically, internationally or from Northern Virginia, Eastern Virginia, or other identified COVID-19 hotspot areas in the Commonwealth of Virginia need to complete a health screening. A hotspot is defined as any geographic area or location that has had either a concentrated outbreak or a high risk of transmission.

Students should contact the Schiffert Health Center at 540-231-6444.

  • Employees and other Virginia Tech community members should contact the New River Health District COVID-19 website.

Upon completion of the travel-related health screening, please complete the Virginia Tech Post-Travel Registration Form. Again, the health screening and travel form are for those who have traveled within the last 14 days domestically, internationally, or from Northern Virginia, Eastern Virginia, or other identified COVID-19 hotspot areas in the Commonwealth of Virginia. While currently screening and reporting requirements do not include commuting from out-of-state daily for work, employees are encouraged to check the university COVID-19 page regularly for updates regarding travel and other health related information.

Any community members who have questions about COVID-19 and their health are encouraged to access the following resources.

Guidelines for self-quarantine from the CDC include:

  • Restriction of activities outside of your home except for visits to a medical professional for evaluation.
  • Limited contact with other members of the residence, including pets.
  • Frequent hand washing.
  • Consistent cleaning of all high-touch surfaces such as tables, countertops, doorknobs, keyboards, tablets, bathroom fixtures, television remotes, phones, and other areas.
  • Restricted sharing of such household items as drinking glasses, plates, utensils, bedding, towels, and clothing.
  • Regularly washing dishes, clothing, and bedding.

Virginia Tech is suspending all international programs, both credit bearing and co-curricular, that depart May through the start of Fall 2020. For students of faculty-led programs, please contact your program leader for details concerning your program.

If a student should continue to pursue studies at an institution or on a program outside of the U.S. during Summer 2020, it is no longer considered university-supported travel and risks the loss of opportunity for academic credit transfer.