International Travel Protocol & Essential Travel

COVID 19: Essential Travel Requests

International Travel Directives by UCOP During COVID-19 (temporary advisory until further notice)

UCOP updated its executive directive on travel on March 12, 2021, replacing system-wide guidance restricting non-essential, University-related travel, with a requirement that all UC travelers must follow CDC Guidance before, during, and upon return from domestic or international travel. CDC guidance currently recommends not to travel at this time or to limit travel to essential travel only. The UCOP directive has delegated the determination of what travel is considered essential travel to the campus.

While the United States has recently experienced a decrease in new COVID-19 cases and positivity rates, and an increase in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, COVID-19 continues to present a global health risk that must be taken seriously. The CDC guidance currently includes guidance not to travel or to limit travel to essential travel only. We must continue to observe the restrictions and guidelines currently in place for the safety of our campus community. Regardless of whether or not you have been vaccinated, these requirements for university-related travel remain in place at this time. Please note that academic or professional development conferences are not considered essential travel at this time, even if you are a presenter, as they can be conducted remotely.

For more information, please visit the CDC COVID-19 website and Department of State COVID-19 Country Specific Information.

University of California directives do not apply to travel that is solely personally-funded, but such travelers should be aware of travel risks and of federal government warnings when traveling to any country during the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

UC Berkeley International Travel Protocol

Until further notice, all UC Berkeley community members (faculty, students, staff) engaging in university-related international travel to countries rated CDC Level 3 COVID-19 High (avoid all nonessential travel) or Level 4 COVID-19 Very High (avoid all travel), must seek approval through the two-step International Travel Protocol, which includes approval first at the decanal level and then from the vice provost for academic planning. See below for the essential travel approval process.

It is strongly recommended that an essential travel request to be submitted at least 21 days before departure to ensure a thorough review, prior to booking flight tickets.

In addition, travel for UC Berkeley faculty, staff or students on University business to countries designated by the U.S. Department of State as having a Level 4 travel advisory (i.e., Do Not Travel) always requires a two-step approval process first from their Dean and then from the Vice Provost for Academic Planning. 

Level 4 is the highest advisory level due to greater likelihood of life-threatening risks. During an emergency, the U.S. government may have very limited ability to provide assistance to travelers. The Department of State advises that U.S. citizens not travel to these countries or to leave as soon as it is safe to do so. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time, so it is advisable that travelers check the Travel Advisory often.

Approval Process 

Step 1 - Faculty, staff or students who believe their travel is essential, must first request in writing, approval from their Dean. Faculty essential travel is defined as follows:

Travel is defined as essential if it is required to:

  • preserve the safety of a research subject and is not possible to be postponed; or

  • preserve the results of a research activity and is not possible to be postponed; or

  • perform other work related to university objectives that is unable to be postponed or performed remotely without catastrophic interruption.

Until further notice, all off-campus research – domestic or international – must also receive prior approval from the Vice Chancellor for Research. Please submit requests via the VC Research critical field research continuity review process.

Please be aware that educational conferences or delegation visits are not considered essential travel, even if you are a presenter. This is just one example of non-essential travel and does not include all other activities that would also be considered non-essential travel.  

Step 2 - If the Dean deems the travel as essential, the Dean must then forward the written request to the Global Engagement Office (GEO) for final approval by the Vice Provost for Academic Planning. Please allow at least 21 days for the review process before booking flights.

The following information is required:

  • Complete itinerary, including destination(s), dates, and quarantine requirements. 

  • Specific rationale detailing how the travel meets one of the three definitions listed above.

  • Documentation of written support from the Principal Investigator. (For students and researchers)

If Approval is Granted, Steps to Take Before Travel

1. UC personnel (staff, faculty, students) should contact Risk Services sends e-mail) and request a "Know Before You Go/Travel Preparedness Briefing."

2. Briefing requests need to be submitted at a minimum of 72 hours prior to departure, however for a more detailed briefing, please allow more time.

3. Each traveler should be prepared to answer the following questions: 

    • Reason for the Trip
      • Nature of program, details of research or meetings?
      • Is there a local sponsoring organization/university?
    • When will the traveler(s) be leaving and returning to the US?
    • Has the traveler been to the location before? Does the traveler speak the language?
    • Nationality of the traveler(s)?
    • What is traveler's itinerary? 
      • Please be as specific as possible: include dates, lodging, transport hubs, meeting/research sites, who traveler will be staying with, etc.
      • Will the traveler be using public transportation? If so, please list all modes (taxi, rideshare, limo service, etc.)
    • Phone number traveler will be using in the area. (Note: a phone with a US based sim card may not work in the region.)
    • What is traveler's contingency plan if that phone is lost, stolen, or not functional?
    • What email is best for reaching the traveler quickly?
    • Has the traveler received their Visa?
    • Has the embassy provided any additional information or guidance?  

    4. Participants on the live call/webinar should include the traveler(s), faculty most familiar with the trip (for students), and the Dean or Department Chair.

    5. When requesting the briefing, please provide at least 3 proposed dates/times for when would like the call to take place.