International Travel

International Travel

Studying, Working and Traveling Abroad

Teachers College has always been involved internationally. Studying, working and traveling abroad are important aspects of our work. However, working outside of the United States introduces operational complexities and compliance requirements – both domestic and foreign – that often differ radically from activities on campus. Travelers must consider laws, regulations, and cultural differences that do not apply in the United States.

The College has many programs in place to support faculty, staff, and students and to help you find medical assistance, emergency evacuation and travel assistance services including lost credit cards, passport, etc. The College can only assist if travelers register their travel and provide emergency contact information and a detailed trip itinerary form to the Office of Risk Management.


 1.0   PURPOSE

Teachers College, Columbia University has always been involved in international activities. Studying, working and traveling abroad are important aspects of our work. These activities frequently introduce operational complexities and compliance requirements that differ radically from activities on campus. Travelers must consider local laws, regulations, and cultural differences and more importantly, be prepared for unexpected difficulties or serious emergencies.

This policy establishes a set of guidelines and requirements for Teachers College international travel and has been established to minimize the risks that are associated with traveling abroad.

This policy does not apply to personal travel and therefore does not provide any coverage.

2.0   SCOPE


This policy applies to all faculty, staff, and students on Teachers College international travel. This is in addition to the Travel and Expense Employee travel and business expense reimbursement policy and procedures.



The interpretation and administration of this policy shall be the responsibility of the Office of Risk Management and the Office of the Provost and Dean of the College.


This policy covers Teachers College international travel that is defined as travel that is either fully or partially financially supported by the College (regardless of original funding source), travel when an individual is serving as a representative of the College and travel that is required to fulfill degree requirements.

The following are examples of travel covered by this policy but are not limited to:

  • Student group travel supported, supervised and controlled by the College. All students must be registered as a student at the College and the travel must be recognized as part of their curriculum.
  • Traveling on College business when the activity is supported by College funds including money derived from the College’s operating budget, grants, gifts, etc.
  • Traveling that is required in order to fulfill degree requirements as directed by the academic unit. All students must be registered as a student at the College prior to travel.
  • Traveling to promote the College’s mission and scholarly profile. For example, serving as a speaker at international conference.

This policy does not cover period of unpaid leave.

For each day of travel, insurance coverage will be extended for an additional 2 days either immediately prior to or after Teachers College international travel.


Individuals should be aware of the risks associated with the region to which they will be traveling and the assistance which the College is able to provide to ensure their safety and well-being.  For this reason, all international travel must be registered with the Office of Risk Management and/or the College’s online travel assistance, Searchlight (OnCall), at least 45 days prior to the intended travel date.  The Office of Risk Management  website contains useful information and resources as you plan your travel and details the informational requirements of the College.  These requirements are based on your relationship with the College and/or the group which will be traveling


Teachers College will not fund, award credit for, or otherwise sponsor or support any international College travel  in any country or location within a country for which:

a) The U.S. State Department (DOS) has issued a Travel Advisories Level 3 and 4,

b) The Office of Foreign Assets and Control (OFAC) has imposed economic or trade sanctions or

c) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued Travel Health Notices warning Level 3 Avoid Non-Essential Travel,

d) International travel is to a City and Country Prohibited by the College’s Insurance Company  

If an exception to the travel is desired by Faculty, Students and Professional Staff, an International Travel Approval Form for High Risk Countries should be submitted to the Office of Risk Management. The form will then be process to the Office of the Provost and Dean of the College  and Office of Vice President for Finance and Administration for review and approval of the travel. The form must be submitted at least 45 days in advance of the intended travel departure date. Additional information and forms may be required as part of the review process. 

Faculty International Travel Preliminary Approval Form
Student and Group International Travel Preliminary Approval Form



All travelers should familiarize themselves with the laws governing financial transactions, hiring personnel and procuring service contracts for the country of travel as many countries have unique requirements.

The U.S. government has a variety of restrictions on the export of equipment like laptop computers, mobile and other electronic devices. Traveling to countries that are listed on the Office of Foreign Affairs (OFAC) list has a greater risk of export compliance violation due to more restrictive U.S. export control regulations. Please be aware that custom officials have the right to examine any device, any information contained therein and have the right to hold/confiscate such if found to be in violation of U.S. law, international law, or the laws of the host country.

Regulations also govern the transfer of funds to certain countries and prohibit any dealing with countries on the OFAC list.  Please review additional information regarding U.S. export and trade controls available at the Office of Foreign Assets and Control (OFAC) website.

Travelers should follow all local laws, customs, rules, etiquette, regulations, and standards of the country of travel at all times.  


While traveling abroad, TC’s Standards Conduct Code: Academic Integrity and General Misconduct,  Policy on Protection from Harassment, and Gender-Based Misconduct Policy and Procedures for Students  will apply to faculty, staff and students.



Responsible office: Office of Risk Management


All travelers should do the following when planning to travel abroad:

1. Obtain U.S. passport and entry visa - If you already have a U.S. passport, make sure your passport is valid at least six months into the future. You can apply for, or renew your passport at Travel.State.Gov. Check the visa requirements for each country you are visiting to see if you will need to obtain an entry visa and, if so, apply to the destination country embassy/consulate to obtain the appropriate visa. To apply for a visa, plan at least 2-3 weeks in advance of your travel dates to avoid any delays. For a list of foreign consular offices, please visit U.S. Department of State website of U.S. Embassies.

2. Non-U.S. Citizens - If you have an F or J visa sponsored by TC, please make sure to check with the Office of International Services to determine if you are required to obtain a travel signature that will allow your re-entry into the United States.

Non-U.S. citizens should inquire of their destination country to determine the visa requirements for the country to which they will travel. For example, a Chinese student with a Chinese passport traveling to Canada should contact the Consulate General of Canada in New York to determine the visa requirements. Please note that some countries may also require a special document called a transit visa for connecting flights or layovers.

3. Smart Travelers Enrollment Program (STEP) - Register your international travel with the Department of State under the Smart Travelers Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP is a free service provided by the U.S. Government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country. STEP allows you to enter information about your upcoming trip abroad so that the Department of State can better assist you in an emergency. STEP also allows Americans residing abroad to get routine information from the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Non-US citizens should check with their local government website for similar services.

4. Country Information - Familiarize yourself with political, health, crime, and other safety-related conditions prevailing in the country, and specific locations within the country, you will be visiting. The U.S. State Department provides up-to-date information on travel and travel risks. Travelers are responsible for checking the State Department website and keeping abreast of travel alerts, warnings, and country-specific information.

5. Insurance Requirements - Make sure that you have the necessary insurance. Please refer to the specific section related to your status with the College (faculty, student, or staff) to determine the insurance coverage that is provided by the College and the requirements to be eligible for that coverage. In all cases, the College will only extend coverage for travel deemed to be for College business. College business is defined as activity that is predominantly supported with College funds. This includes money derived from the College’s operating budget as well as funds derived from grants and gifts to the College. For each day of travel on College business, insurance coverage will be extended for an additional 2 days either immediately prior to or after the College business trip.

Please make sure you have medical insurance and evacuation coverage if you are traveling for vacation or other personal or non-College reasons, as the College insurance will not apply in those circumstances.

6. Health Services - Consider scheduling an appointment with a travel clinic for education, vaccination, travel medications, and, if necessary, referrals. You can obtain health information about your destination from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Faculty and staff members traveling on College business can visit GeoBlue Traveler for the Global Health and Safety database. Students should contact Heath Services of Columbia University.

7. Register Your International Travel with the Office of Risk Management - All travelers on College business are required to register their travel with the Office of Risk Management. This is necessary to allow us to ensure coverage under the appropriate insurance and to be in a position to assist you in the case of a natural disaster or other urgent circumstance. For example, Colleges that had community members in Japan during the Tsunami, in Egypt during the Spring of 2011 and in other similar situations report that they were able to provide immediate assistance to those who were registered but not to those whose travel plans were less clear. See the section applicable to your status (faculty, student, or staff) to determine the appropriate forms to complete.

8. Excluded Countries -Teachers College will not fund, award credit for, or otherwise sponsor or support, any international student travel relating to graduate course in any country or location within a country for which 1) the U.S. State Department has issued a Travel Advisories Level 3 and 4 that orders departure of U.S. dependents and non-emergency personnel; recommends that U.S. citizens depart the country; advises U.S. citizens against all travel to the country; or recommends that U.S. citizens defer non-essential travel to the country, or 2) all listed countries with a high threat level. This restriction applies through the date of departure.

9. Emergency Instructions - Print out and carry your emergency instructions with you at all times while traveling overseas. You can obtain these instructions from the Office of Risk Management.

1. Reporting Requirements - College faculty and staff members must inform the Office of Risk Management in May about planned international travel on College business for the forthcoming academic year (September to August). The business travel spreadsheet should be utilized to report this information to the Office of Risk Management.

Recording of International Expense Activities - As part of the College's ongoing efforts to comply with IRS regulations, Banner accounts have been created for the most common types of international expense activities. The accounts listed below should be used when initiating a payment request for these international expense categories:

  • 7317 - International Travel Expenses
  • 7219 - International Consulting Services
  • 7636 - International Professional Development

While accounts have not been established for all types of international activity, the College’s Check Request Form and/or ChromeRiver includes a check box for payment requests related to any type of international expense, including those that fall into the above listed categories.

2. Insurance Coverage - Faculty and staff members traveling on College business are covered by the GeoBlue Traveler, but are required to register for the coverage in advance of their trip on GeoBlue Travelers. GeoBlue Traveler provides health coverage. Additional information regarding GeoBlue Traveler coverage please contact the HR department.

Faculty and staff members also have coverage under the Navigator’s Foreign Volunteer Workers Compensation. This coverage applies to work related injuries while on College business. The Office of Risk Management will provide a copy of the Navigator’s Assistance card once you have submitted your forms. The Navigator’s card provides an outline summary of services and travel emergency contact numbers. The card must be carried at all times while traveling abroad on TC business. For additional information about Navigator’s travel program, contact the Office of Risk Management.

3. Required Forms - Faculty and staff members traveling on College business must complete and submit the following forms:

4. Before you depart - Access OnCall’s web based resource center, My Searchlight Portal, the global health, travel and safety gateway for Teachers College by visiting My Searchlight Portal. In order for us to be in the best position to assist you in an emergency, we ask that you complete the following three steps prior to departing on your trip:

  • Please contact Office of Risk Management to obtain the Group ID access code. 
  • Log onto My Searchlight Portal and download the Membership Card onto your smartphone and print/carry it with you.
  • Once complete, forward itinerary information (Flight and hotel) electronic confirmation via email to (Office of Risk Management). The itinerary will be submitted to Searchlight. By taking this step, you enable Teachers College to send you important messages about medical and security concerns when you are abroad with instructions on actions you should take in an emergency.

We also recommend you utilize this information gateway to research your destination. You can find health, safety and transportation information by reviewing country and city guides.

5. Once the Office of Risk Management receives all the forms, the Office of Risk Management will provide you with the Travel Assistance Card. The card provides you with an outline summary of services and a Travel Guard contact numbers in case of an emergency services that requires assistance. The card should be carried with you at all times while traveling abroad.

6. If you are vacationing or otherwise travelling for pleasure, make sure you have medical insurance and evacuation coverage. The College insurance does not apply to vacations or any travelling for pleasure.
Here is the list of suggested companies:

1. Trip Notification - All students who travel internationally relating to their graduate work must provide notice to the Office of Risk Management at least 60 days in advance of the trip. The College does not cover international student-led group trips.

2. Required Forms - Students participating in overseas internships or projects must complete and submit the following forms: 

3. Group Study Tour/Travel led by Teachers College faculty – Faculty leading group study tours or other overseas group trips must obtain the following from all students and from any individual hired to assist with or otherwise participating in the travel:

  • Emergency Contact and Medical Information Form
  • Release and Authorization Form
  • Tour participation List
  • Itinerary Form

4. Medical and Evacuation Cards - Once the Office of Risk Management receives all the forms from the student and/or tour directors, medical and evacuation cards will be issued. The cards will provide access to medical coverage (limited to $5,000), travel assistance, and evacuation in case of an emergency. The cards must be carried at all times while traveling abroad. This coverage will only apply as a secondary coverage to the student’s primary medical and evacuation coverage.

5. Additional Medical and Evacuation Coverage – College provided medical coverage for students is limited to $5,000 and therefore students should verify that they will be covered (including medical evacuation) by their medical provider while traveling overseas. If you require additional medical or evacuation coverage, listed below are some suggested companies:

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