While there is an inherent risk associated with all travel, certain regions of the world call for heightened caution and additional preparation to ensure the health and safety of the WPI community. All WPI faculty, and staff undertaking WPI-Sponsored International Travel are required to fully understand the risks of their travel, including any heightened security, medical, and/or natural disaster risks in travel to High-Risk Destinations. No one is required or will be coerced to travel to any location by anyone (e.g., by a faculty member, supervisor, or advisor). Advance planning is the best way to mitigate international travel risks, so please feel free to contact the Associate Director of Global Risk Management in the early stages of your planning process for travel to high-risk destinations.
U.S. State Department
In January 2018, the State Department rolled out a new system of travel advisories to give U.S. travelers information about the relative safety of different countries. It replaces all prior State Department travel warnings and travel alerts. Under this system, all countries are ranked in one of four levels according to a variety of factors, such as terrorism, crime, and natural disasters:
- Level 1 — Exercise normal precautions
- Level 2 — Exercise increased caution
- Level 3 — Reconsider travel
- Level 4 — Do not travel
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. The Department of State advises that U.S. citizens not travel to the country or to leave as soon as it is safe to do so.
In addition to the overall travel advisory level for each country, the State Department may issue security alerts with a different advisory level for a specific area or region within a country. For example, as of February 2020, Mexico as a whole was ranked Level 2, but because of violent crime several states, including Colima and Guerrero, were designated as Level 4 and several others including Jalisco and Morelos were designated as Level 3.
The State Department reviews Level 1 and Level 2 advisories annually and Level 3 and 4 advisories every six months.
- Content adopted from EduRisk
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issues three levels of travel health notices. The most serious is the Warning Level 3 to avoid nonessential travel because of widespread serious outbreaks of a disease (such as the Zika virus in 2016, COVID-19 in 2020) or other public health concerns that are a high risk. Other levels are:
- Watch Level 1: Practice Usual Precautions (“Usual baseline risk or slightly above baseline risk for destination and limited impact to the traveler”)
- Alert Level 2: Practice Enhanced Precautions (“Increased risk in defined settings or associated with specific risk factors; certain high-risk populations may wish to delay travel to these destinations”)
International SOS' travel security risk ratings evaluate the threat posed to travelers by political violence (including terrorism, insurgency, politically motivated unrest and war), social unrest (including sectarian, communal and ethnic violence) as well as violent and petty crime. Other factors, such as the robustness of the transport infrastructure, the state of industrial relations, the effectiveness of the security and emergency services and the country’s susceptibility to natural disasters are also considered where they are of sufficient magnitude to impact the overall risk environment for travelers.
Countries are designated a classification on a scale of insignificant to extreme. WPI students are not permitted to High or Extreme Travel Risk destinations, as defined by these International SOS Global Risk Ratings.
High Risk Travel
WPI defines high risk travel as follows:
Countries rated Level 3 or Level 4 on the US Department of State travel advisory list, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Travel Health Warning Level 3: Avoid Nonessential Travel and High or Extreme Travel Risk destinations, as defined by International SOS Global Risk Ratings.
Who defines high risk travel at WPI?
The Global Travel Review and Response Team (GTRRT) is responsible for defining heightened risk travel for the WPI community. WPI students are not permitted to travel to high-risk destinations on WPI-sponsored travel unless they obtain an exception from the GTRRT. The GTRRT refers to a WPI committee that is tasked with assessing travel-related risk, considering requests for exceptions to this policy, and responding to and offering support to individuals and groups abroad during emergencies in consultation with International SOS. The GTRRT is coordinated through the Global Experience Office, 508-831-5547 or firstname.lastname@example.org.