International travel ban lifted after one year


The international travel ban was lifted after one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rory Mcdermott

March 2020 became one of the most memorable months in decades for how the pandemic brought the world to a halt. A year later, in March 2021, things are looking up as vaccinations have continued to increase. For the board of regents of the state of Iowa, the positive trend means an end to the yearlong international travel ban.

A statement released by Josh Lehman, senior communications director at the board of regents, announced the ban lift March 11. The new guidelines shifted the status of international travel decisions to each state university.

Iowa State then announced its decision on its granted responsibility March 18. Jonathan Wickert, senior vice president and provost, released the university’s guidelines. The statement discussed new travel regulations for faculty, staff and students.

Although the updates mark an exciting step forward toward a return to normal, Shaun Jamieson, international risk manager in the Office of Risk Management, notes that things will not be entirely the same, at least in the short term.

“Nothing is ‘normal’ just yet. All international travel is still considered ‘high risk,'” Jamieson said. “Many countries in Europe, for example, have gone back into lockdown as they work to both limit the spread of COVID-19 and ramp up vaccine administration.

“This is why it’s important for travelers to have their plans reviewed by the Office of Risk Management and to fully understand the challenge of both visiting another country and returning to the U.S.”

So how will international travel look? As Jamieson said, all travel will be reviewed and approved by the office before proceeding. For students looking to study abroad, programs could return in limited numbers for the fall of 2021.

“Study abroad programs will remain suspended during the summer and most fall programs are not likely to take place,” Jamieson said. “The International Working Group is working with the Council on International Programs to evaluate whether a limited number of programs may be offered in the fall.”

Jamieson said the programs most likely to return are ones considered “well-established that impact a large number of students.” These opportunities present the best likelihood of success in keeping students safe.

Employee guidelines will depend on the nature of a travel request. Faculty must register university business travel with the office and all travel will require paperwork.

“Employees must complete an international travel agreement and informed consent form that must also be signed by their supervisor in advance of travel,” Wickert’s statement read.

Similarly, independent student travel not part of a study abroad program must fill out agreement and informed consent forms. Graduate students must check on travel ability through their respective programs and the nature of travel.

The lack of rigid guidelines may not give clear answers if individual travel plans will be approved, but students and faculty welcome the change as an improvement in travel opportunities.

“We appreciate the flexibility granted to Iowa State by the board of regents, which allows for some international travel for faculty, staff and students,” Jamieson said.

Most importantly, health and safety concerns remain.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all international travel is currently considered high-risk, and travelers are required to have their itinerary reviewed,” Wickert’s statement read. “While international travel may resume, it is important to remember that conditions, as well as Board and university policy related to travel, may change at any time.”

“We share [the board of regents’] continued priority to maximize health and safety for those traveling abroad,” Jamieson said. “We also look forward to resuming international travel at pre-pandemic levels, including the full range of study abroad opportunities, when it is safe to do so.”

Students, faculty and staff looking for further information can look at the Office of Risk Management and Study Abroad websites.