Study Abroad in Level 3 and 4 Countries: Message to Students

University leadership has agreed that students are allowed to petition to study abroad in State Department “Level 3: Reconsider Travel” and "Level 4: Do Not Travel" countries as of early June 2021. 

That decision means that students can now choose to study among Travel Advisory Level 1, 2, 3, and 4 countries. Petitions are not required for Level 1 and 2, but are required for Level 3 and 4. Level 3 and 4 petitions are more likely to be approved if students and their study abroad destination meet some or all of the following criteria:

  • The Travel Advisory is Level 3 or 4 primarily because of COVID-19 incidence and not for other common risk indicators, such as political violence, famine, civil unrest, etc.
  • The student provides proof of full vaccination of an FDA Emergency Use COVID-19 vaccine
  • The host country’s healthcare infrastructure is resilient (resource: SOS International)
  • The host country’s COVID-19 case rate is moderate (resource: Brown School of Public Health)
  • The host country’s COVID-19 vaccination rate is moderate (resource: University of Oxford)
  • The host country’s quarantine requirements are reasonable (resource: US Embassy Directory)
  • The student studies with an approved study abroad provider (e.g., CIEE, USAC, API, etc.), exchange partner, or direct enroll

Not all petitions will be approved because not all Level 3 and 4 countries are managing well, but many petitions will be approved, especially because the vaccines that have FDA emergency use approval offer so much protection (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson). Remember also that some countries still won’t let travelers from the US enter, no matter what their Travel Advisory is. We hope those countries’ governments change their policies about that soon.

The petition is an esign form. You do not have to study in a Level 3 or 4 country, as it does carry risk, which is what the State Department is communicating to US travelers. If you decide that you want to study abroad in a Level 3 or 4 country, it’s because you’ve explored the risk, considered it carefully, come up with a plan to enhance your safety (i.e., mitigate the risks), and made an informed choice to study in that country. See an example of a successful Level 3 Petition

You must keep in mind that the world is not out of the pandemic, even if conditions are improving in the US. The COVID-19 vaccine is not widely available abroad, even in wealthy countries. COVID-19 and its variants could surge while you’re in your host country, and that country could declare strict lockdowns while you’re there. Lockdowns tended to be much more strict abroad than in the US. So, making a decision to study abroad during a pandemic could be wonderful and work out fine, or it could result in lockdowns and possible evacuations at your own expense. Health professionals, though, tell us that vaccinated folks will at least have considerable protection against COVID-19, which is why we’re able to even consider sending students to Level 3 or 4 countries.

Most countries are still “Level 4: Do Not Travel” because community spread of COVID-19 is still high in those countries. As vaccination distribution increases and as people start going outside and opening windows for the summer (in the northern hemisphere), infection rates should lower, which means Travel Advisories should lower, too. Hang in there as long as you can, but be sure to have a back-up plan. Only purchase fully refundable airfare, cancel or defer your program before deposits and payments are unrecoverable, and register for back-up classes at Western just in case you end up not being able to go abroad. Remember, if you need certainty, postpone your program right now for a subsequent term.

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