Policies and Procedures

4.77 University of Northern Iowa International Travel Safety Policy


To enhance the safety of University of Northern Iowa faculty and staff when traveling abroad on University business, research, or as part of an academic program, and to provide additional assurances that the University of Northern Iowa does not expose itself to uninsured liability associated with such travel.  This policy does not replace, but rather complements, Policy 3.14 International Study Programs.

Policy Statement:

The University of Northern Iowa recognizes that it is frequently necessary for faculty and staff to travel to other parts of the world to attend conferences or meetings, undertake sponsored projects, teach, conduct research, participate in academic programs, attend meetings, or other business related to their work  at UNI. However, travel to some destinations may be at significant risk. Such risks must be managed in accordance with the University’s health and safety obligations to its faculty and staff and with reference to travel advice issued by the U.S. Department of State (“State Department”).

Neither faculty nor staff are obliged to travel to regions of the world under a U.S. Department of State travel advisory.  However, faculty and staff who have a compelling reason to travel to these countries or areas need to take reasonable steps to protect themselves and to ensure that their acts or omissions do not create or increase a risk to the health and safety of themselves or others. Faculty and staff need to take due note of U.S. Department of State travel advisories and undertake a risk assessment.  Faculty and staff members also need to prepare and leave with their supervisor (in advance of their trip) a travel itinerary, including detailed contact information, and enter information into the University’s travel management system. Moreover, travelers must ensure that they possess health and life insurance that will fully cover them in these countries. War and insurrection insurance that will fully cover them (including repatriation of remains) in these countries or regions must be secured in situations where the travel advisory is based on war or insurrection (whether declared or not), political insurrection, terrorism, invasion or civil strife.

a. Approval for Faculty and Staff to Travel

Whenever UNI faculty and staff travel abroad for University-sponsored activities, authorization is required and an approval process is undertaken. UNI’s electronic travel management system is used by University faculty and staff to gain authorization for all travel. Its function is to track monies requested for travel and centralizes appropriate approval processes required by the University. The faculty or staff member is required to enter his or her information into the system at least 30 days prior to departure to allow time to secure authorizations.  Authorization for travel is first secured from the faculty or staff member’s immediate supervisor, then the faculty or staff member’s department head or director (if different), then the funding organization manager.

If the faculty or staff member is requesting travel to a region in the world that is under a travel advisory by the U.S. Department of State, the system will request additional review from the International Travel Oversight Committee (ITOC), which shall be convened by the Executive Director for the Office of International Programs.  The committee in turn will undertake a risk assessment and make a recommendation for travel. In doing so, it will gather more information from the faculty or staff member, including precautions for emergencies, and may consult the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC is a branch of the U.S. Department of State) for specific threats and information related to the request.

For faculty and staff members under the Academic Affairs division, the ITOC shall forward its recommendation to the Associate Provost for Faculty (or  designee) and for requests from staff members in the Student Affairs division, the ITOC will forward its recommendation to the Vice President for Student Affairs (or designee). For employees outside of the Academic Affairs and Student Affairs divisions, the ITOC shall forward its recommendation to the head of the employee’s division (or designee).  If after considering the ITOC’s recommendation, the Associate Provost for Faculty or Vice President for Student Affairs or head of the employee’s division decides that risk to the employee’s health, safety and well-being is too great to support a recommendation for travel, the faculty or staff member will not be granted approval, the faculty member’s dean or staff member’s supervisor  will be notified, and sources of funding under the University’s control will not be awarded. Faculty members may petition a decision through the faculty petition process as outlined in the faculty handbook.

Moreover, if at any time prior to travel, whether the travel has already been approved or not, the destination of the faculty or staff member becomes subject to a U.S. Department of State travel advisory, the ITOC will be contacted to provide its recommendation for travel. In all reviews, assuming the travel was appropriately entered in the travel management system at least 30 days prior to travel, the ITOC will act in a timely manner to ensure that travelers requiring a recommendation will not be unduly delayed in their preparations.

The ITOC shall be comprised of: 1) at least three members from the UNI faculty nominated by the Executive Director for the Office of International Programs (and confirmed by the Provost and Executive Vice President for Faculty Affairs), 2) the Director of Risk Management, 3) the Director of the Study Abroad Center, 4) University Counsel, 5) the Executive Director for the Office of International Programs, and 6) a dean representing  either the College of Education, College of Business Administration, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, or the College of Humanities, Arts, and Sciences. Faculty members shall serve three years, which may be renewed once. The ITOC is convened and chaired by the Executive Director for the Office of International Programs. If the Executive Director is unavailable, then the Associate Provost for Faculty (or designee) will convene the ITOC.

In addition to entering information on the travel management system, UNI faculty and staff traveling abroad are required to enter information on the UNI Travel Registry.  This allows the traveler to be registered into the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, learn about health precautions for travel to the region(s) the faculty or staff member is entering, and be enrolled into an approved travel insurance plan.

UNI faculty and staff members traveling on their own initiative outside of their regularly contracted employment period and supported by sources of funding external to the University are still required to make use of the travel management system and the UNI Travel Registry if travel is related to employment at UNI.  Persons making use of the registry will be automatically enrolled in a travel insurance plan and the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrolment Plan (STEP) by the Study Abroad Center.

b. Approval for Students to Travel

If the traveler is a UNI student and travel is related to the student’s work or academic studies, the traveler must make use of the UNI Travel Registry. The registry is monitored by the Study Abroad Center (SAC) staff who in turn enroll the student for travel insurance and the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrolment Program (STEP).   If the student, however, is undertaking travel to areas currently under a travel advisory by the U.S. Department of State, SAC will make a determination if the student’s travel is appropriate.

Faculty or staff members traveling with UNI students should contact the Study Abroad Center and refer to policy 3.14 .

c. Unauthorized Travel

Where the University has not authorized travel for a faculty or staff member or where such authorization has been revoked as a result of safety concerns, and nevertheless the person undertakes the travel, the faculty or staff member will be considered traveling as a private citizen and may not hold himself or herself out as traveling for or with a University activity.  In addition, no University resources can be used, or University sponsorship provided, in support of unauthorized faculty member or staff member travel. Where a decision not to authorize travel may affect/be affected by particular sponsored projects and grants, advice should be sought from the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. Moreover, in these situations involving unauthorized travel, persons traveling in the capacity of UNI students should not be traveling with the faculty or staff member. Finally, the traveler(s) should review information published by the U.S. State Department regarding travel to high-risk areas and should review specific information about their destination, including any U.S. State Department travel advisories related to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, health, or any other travel advisories.

d. Insurance

All faculty or staff traveling on University business are required to have travel insurance from UNI’s established provider.  Faculty and staff who travel abroad at the University’s request (e.g., travel pursuant to instructions from their department heads or where such travel is required by their job descriptions) will have the following covered by their University academic or administrative unit (unless the expensing of such insurance is supported by external funding sources):

travel health insurance from UNI’s established provider,  

inoculations if a qualified physician or nurse determines it to be necessary for the proposed travel and only if not covered by the employee’s current health insurance plan.

Personal health insurance coverage may or may not cover the cost of specific inoculations or other prophylactics needed or recommended for travel abroad.  It is suggested that employees directly communicate with a representative of their health insurance provider to determine what is covered under their policy. Moreover, individual offices or departments on campus can determine if they will cover the cost of inoculations or other prophylactics on behalf of the employee conducting business, research, professional development, or other task related to the employee’s employment at UNI while traveling abroad.

UNI faculty and staff authorized for travel to countries or specific regions of those countries affected by war, political or civil strife, invasion, or insurrection (whether declared nor not) must secure, funded by their academic or administrative unit or themselves, insurance coverage with the assistance of the UNI Office of Risk Management. UNI’s established travel insurance provider does not cover the cost of repatriation from countries or regions under these conditions; the policy can be reviewed on the UNI Study Abroad Center website.

e. Workers’ Compensation

Faculty and staff are covered by Iowa Workers Compensation for an injury or illness that arises out of their course of employment even when working in a foreign country. Employees are required to report any injury that occurs on the job, regardless of how minor it may be, to their supervisor.  A first report of injury should be completed and submitted to the Employee Leave and Accommodations Coordinator, within 24 hours of the injury or as soon as practicable. Questions related to workers compensation should be directed to Human Resource Services or workcomp@uni.edu.

f. Information about Data Security and Export Controls

Travelers must take precautions when taking electronic equipment abroad.  If UNI employees must take an electronic device abroad for purposes of communication, data transfer and/or data storage, they must contact IT Information Security prior to travel to discuss their data needs while abroad so proper precautions are taken.

Faculty and staff intending to travel internationally with laptops, research equipment, and other high-tech items falling under federal export controls laws must comply with government restrictions associated with international travel.  Federal law stipulates the penalties for non-compliance.  Refer to http://www.uni.edu/osp/export-control-travel-handout for more information on Export Controls and tips.

g. Problems While Traveling Abroad

UNI faculty and staff traveling abroad on University business must report as soon as possible significant problems and situations that involve the health and safety of said faculty member or staff member. These should be communicated to the University through UNI Public Safety. These situations can include hospitalization, incarceration, assault, kidnapping, theft of personal funds, natural disasters, etc.   UNI Police will immediately contact the appropriate parties authorized to manage such situations. They in turn will coordinate a response and notify appropriate University officials.

University personnel will use appropriate efforts to process travel-related matters in an efficient manner; consistent with applicable laws, regulations, policies, and procedures; and with recognition of the relevant risk and safety. University faculty and staff who travel in relation to their work  at UNI should use reasonable judgement and act reasonably while traveling and preparing for travel. The University is not responsible for incidents or other situations which are beyond its control, including faculty and staff, travelers who do not comply with this policy.

Office of International Programs, approved December 6, 2018

University Council, approved February 25, 2019

President and Executive Management Team, approved March 4, 2019

[Last reviewed and/or updated 3/2019, 10/2015]