Revised guidelines for domestic and international summer travel

March 18, 2021

On Thursday, March 18, Associate Provost for International Affairs and Operations Aly Kassam-Remtulla sent the below memo to the Princeton University community about the University's revised travel guidelines for the summer:

In close cooperation with a broad set of partners, we have recently completed our review of the University’s travel restrictions ahead of summer. I write to share with you the results of this review and a copy of the revised guidelines for summer travel. Please note that the attached guidelines will come into effect for travel on or after May 24, 2021. I strongly encourage each of you to review them carefully as you plan for summer.
 
Until May 24, the guidelines released in December 2020 remain in force, including all provisions of the Social Contract related to undergraduate travel (you can always find the currently applicable guidelines on the International Princeton Travel site).
 
Permissible Travel Guidelines: Revisions for Summer
 

With positive developments related to vaccinations in the United States, it is understandable that many of you hope your summer plans might include University-sponsored travel, whether domestically or abroad. I feel keenly the sacrifices we have all made over the past year in limiting the travel that was so much a part of connecting our campus to a broader world of research, learning, and service opportunities. We are grateful to all of you, as you have borne these restrictions with patience, equanimity, and creativity in finding new ways to interact with our global peers.
 
Unfortunately, the time for lifting our travel suspensions has not yet arrived, and we must continue to act with circumspection over the summer months. While vaccinations are thankfully decreasing millions of individuals’ risks of severe illness and death, they still have not substantially removed the obstacles to unrestricted worldwide travel or changed governments’ willingness to use blunt travel controls as a public health measure.
 
The logistics of travel, especially internationally, remain complex and subject to sudden, unanticipated disruption. Quarantines and testing requirements, as well as frequently shifting lockdown rules, make short-duration journeys all but impossible. We continue to face potentially insurmountable constraints on support for our travelers should they experience an emergency, given both lingering national travel bans and the ongoing decrease in airline capacity and routes. Finally, we must also consider that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Department of State, in addition to their counterparts in many other countries, still strongly caution against travel wherever possible.
 
We are thus leaving in place our suspension of University-sponsored international and domestic travel for the summer. However, we are allowing for a slightly expanded set of exceptions to these broad suspensions, as reflected in the summary chart below. Our goal is to strike an appropriate and safe balance between long-deferred critical travel needs necessary for academic and scholarly progress, and the reality that travel remains a difficult and risky enterprise.
 
Two key changes for summer affecting students are highlighted in bold. None of these revisions affect already announced plans to conduct international language courses, Global Seminars, and other summer learning opportunities virtually.

Summary of Permissible University-Sponsored Travel for Summer 2021
  Domestic International
Undergraduates If critical to academic progress or University-sponsored internship, with approval from faculty adviser or internship program director Fully suspended
Graduate students In support of academic progress, with approval from department For critical dissertation research only, with dual approval from department and Global Safety & Security
Faculty/researchers For critical purpose, with approval from chair, program director, or dean For critical purpose, with approval from chair, program director, or dean
Staff For critical purpose, with approval from cabinet officer For critical purpose, with approval from cabinet officer

In addition, undergraduates not residing on campus for the summer will have no restrictions on their personal travel, while those remaining in campus housing will be able to take personal trips throughout New Jersey and the Philadelphia and New York City corridor without specific permission. We expect all students will continue to support public health efforts by complying with federal, state and local rules on masking, physical distancing and other disease prevention measures wherever they travel.
 
I remain grateful to our partners in the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students, Office of the Dean of the College, Office of the Dean of the Graduate School, Office of the Dean of the Faculty, Human Resources, the Davis International Center, University Health Services, Environmental Health and Safety, and Finance & Treasury for their time and support in reviewing and revising the guidelines.

Travel Registration
 
Despite the ongoing restrictions on travel necessitated by the pandemic, our Global Safety & Security unit (GS&S) has continued to work on improvements to key elements of our travel safety programs. In February of this year, we introduced a new online travel registration system, “Enroll My Trip”. This tool streamlines the process of enrolling your travel itinerary and contact details while away and walks you through steps to ensure you are complying with all applicable University travel-related policies.  Use of the “Enroll My Trip” tool is required for everyone (faculty, staff or student) engaging in permissible University-sponsored domestic or international travel, as well as in certain circumstances for personal travel by undergraduates and others living in campus housing.

The Road Ahead for Travel
 
Although there are a number of significant hurdles to the widespread resumption of unfettered travel worldwide, GS&S is cautiously optimistic that noticeable improvements will occur incrementally over the late fall and early winter of this year. Nonetheless, fully restarting the infrastructure of international travel will require many months, and substantial limitations on free movement will certainly persist well into 2022 for certain countries and regions. At the same time, the emergence and global impact of concerning SARS-CoV-2 variants, as well as challenges involved in the negotiation of international agreements on mutual recognition of vaccinations (such as for “vaccine passports”), could easily undermine or slow progress in resuming travel. 
 
Given this outlook, we caution against assumptions that the scope of permissible University-sponsored travel will expand in the fall. We will issue updated guidance covering the fall semester in early July. In the meantime, we encourage you to continue to plan creatively for your international engagements throughout 2021. We also urge you to think carefully about advance bookings and other financial commitments for the fall to avoid cancellation penalties and other non-refundable commitments. We constantly and closely monitor developments related to the safety and feasibility of global mobility and maintain our commitment to review and revise our guidelines whenever an opportunity exists to do so. 

GS&S, reachable via email at globalsafety@princeton.edu, is happy to answer your questions related to the revised permissible travel guidelines, as well as to consult with you in greater detail on the prospects for travel in the year ahead. You may also find other updated information regarding travel questions and support for international students and scholars on the International Princeton, Davis International Center, and University COVID websites.

My team and I wish all of you a healthy, safe and successful rest of the semester. We are here to support all of you, and I hope you will continue to reach out to us whenever we can be of help.