Summer International Travel Guidance for Students

April 6, 2020

Dear Academic Deans, Administrative Deans, and Center Directors,

As you know, Harvard-related international travel was prohibited as of March 6. This prohibition covers all members of the Harvard community (students, faculty, and staff) and currently extends through April 30. The Provost, HUHS Director, and Executive Vice President will announce tomorrow the extension of this prohibition through to the end of May.

In the meantime, faced with imminent decisions on summer programming and research funding, many of you have asked for guidance on Harvard-related student travel for the summer. I write now with that guidance, which has been developed in conversation with colleagues across multiple Schools, medical and public health experts, and Global Support Services, and is approved by the Provost (who will announce this as well tomorrow):

  • There should be no Harvard-organized or Harvard-funded international travel for students that is scheduled to start and end between now and August 31, 2020. This applies to undergraduate, graduate, and professional school students.

There will be one standing exception to the policy above: Students already outside the U.S. at the time of this memo may be funded for research or other activities in their present location. Such activity must take into account local/domestic travel restrictions, self-isolation/quarantine requirements, and lockdown orders. Students may not travel across a national border as part of a Harvard program or with Harvard funds.

Note that this guidance does not prohibit travel supported by grants and fellowships that ends after August 31, 2020. Although travel under such funds (such as year-long research fellowships abroad) currently remains prohibited, we recognize that recipients may be able to use these grants/fellowships in whole or in part once travel restrictions begin to be lifted (as we hope) in the coming months. Therefore, in award letters for grants supporting travel that ends after August 31, grantmakers should make clear that travel is prohibited at this time but may be permitted at some later date as circumstances evolve.

Many of you have already decided to cancel or postpone summer programming, internships, and grants. These decisions are difficult and disappointing, especially as withholding support may create hardship for some students. Where gift or grant terms permit, I encourage everyone to think creatively (as some of you already are) about how students might redesign summer projects in ways that could allow them to still receive funding. I am glad to work with you in that effort, including seeking guidance from the Office of General Counsel as to the flexibility of gift terms. We have already learned, for example, that the David Rockefeller Fund for Undergraduate International Experience can be used to support undergraduates this summer, even if no international travel happens, so long as their planned activities include research on an international topic. Now would be a good time to explore similar possibilities with the funding your centers manage.

The extraordinary events of the last few weeks have forced us all to make choices we would rather not make. As someone who cares deeply about international engagement and understanding, and who has advised scores of students who would have been or are currently affected by these policies, I deeply sympathize with the burdens that policies like these place on all of us. Thank you for your patience, wisdom, and resilience in responding to this unprecedented set of circumstances. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions.


Mark Elliott
Vice Provost for International Affairs

Frequently Asked Questions

How does this guidance intersect with current guidance from the Provost on Harvard-related international travel?

Following updated travel guidance from the Provost on April 6, all Harvard-related international travel is prohibited until at least May 31. We are issuing this additional and extended guidance for student summer travel that is organized or funded by Harvard because students, grantmakers, and program organizers need to make decisions now about their summer plans.

What about domestic programs or funding for domestic experiences?

At this time, the University is not prohibiting Harvard-organized or Harvard-funded summer experiences for students in the United States, although we strongly encourage students, grantmakers, and program organizers to consider summer activities that do not involve domestic travel. The University’s prohibition on non-essential Harvard-related domestic air travel is in effect until at least May 31.

We recognize that the COVID-19 epidemic is having a substantial impact in the United States. However, international travel introduces a number of risks to travelers, above and beyond public health considerations, that do not exist for domestic travel: there is an increased risk of border closures and other travel restrictions, and an increased risk of cancelled flights and other transportation modes, and Harvard’s ability to assist international travelers in this environment is compromised. For these reasons, we have more time with domestic experiences to determine whether University-wide guidance is appropriate.

Postponing my planned travel this summer may delay my time to degree. What should I do?

Unfortunately, many of the actions Harvard has taken in response to this unprecedented pandemic—from closing labs to prohibiting travel—have forced students and scholars to delay or re-imagine research activities. This is a problem, of course, for students and scholars not just at Harvard, but across the United States and the world. Harvard Schools and departments are starting to consider how to manage this issue, often in consultation with professional associations and accrediting bodies. If you are unable to conduct research or other work this summer as a result of COVID-19 or Harvard’s response to it, talk to your faculty advisor.