Study Abroad

COVID-19 and UW Study Abroad

Study Abroad Planning During COVID - updated September 17, 2021

We are cautiously optimistic that we will send students abroad during the 2021-2022 academic year. We have pulled together resources for you as you plan your study abroad program. If you have questions that are unaddressed by the information below, please email us at

Make a back up plan

We strongly recommend you make parallel plans for academics and housing – one plan assuming you will be able to study abroad and a backup plan in case your study abroad program is canceled due to the pandemic.

  • Work with your academic adviser to select and temporarily register for on-campus classes in case you’re unable to go abroad.
  • If your study abroad program runs as planned, it will be your responsibility to drop on-campus classes before the quarter starts. UW Study Abroad will remove the study abroad placeholder credits from your record if your program is cancelled.
  • Consider making a back up plan for housing as well in case you cannot study abroad as planned.

Program cancellation policies

  • If your program is cancelled by UW Study Abroad related to COVID-19 (or for any other reason) prior to the program start date, you will receive a full refund of any fees that UW Study Abroad controls.
  • UW Study Abroad will not be responsible for any personal costs incurred as a result of committing to a study abroad program. This could include travel costs, fees due to partner providers, or health related expenses.
  • For cancellations due to any other reason, our normal withdrawal process and policies will apply.
  • If you are applying to a partner program, check with the program provider to confirm their cancellation policy. Most providers are being very flexible, but cancellation policies vary and all fees may not be refundable.
  • We understand that it is more challenging to make future travel plans due to the worldwide impact of COVID-19. It makes sense that you may be hesitant to confirm your place on your program at this time. UW Study Abroad is allowing more flexibility with confirmation deadlines, and you will receive additional information about confirming closer to your program start date. Connect with us if have concerns or need additional flexibility.

Vaccination and entry requirements

  • COVID vaccinations are required at the UW starting Autumn quarter 2021.
  • You will need to be vaccinated to participate in any study abroad program.
  • Many countries are not admitting unvaccinated travelers from the U.S. or are imposing significant restrictions on unvaccinated travelers within the country (e.g. access to museums, restaurants, bars, and events). You must also abide by the vaccination and testing requirements of the host country.
  • Refer to the State Department and the embassy of your destination country to monitor any entry requirements.

International travel and visa considerations

  • Travelers may not be able to enter the destination country based on current travel restrictions.
  • A 14-day self-isolation/quarantine period is likely upon arrival in the destination country.
  • Programs may be abruptly ended by the provider or host institution if conditions worsen.
  • There may be a need to self-isolate upon return to the U.S.
  • The current closure of U.S. passport offices and/or suspension of visa processing services by foreign governments may prevent students from obtaining a passport and/or visa (or residence permit) in time for travel.
  • Of all the uncertainty surrounding study abroad participation in the future, immigration regulations may be the most unclear at this juncture.
  • If a visa is required for your study abroad program, please refer to the nearest host country consulate for information on how and when to apply. For students on exchanges and partner programs, please follow the guidelines the partner provides and contact them directly with your questions.
  • Each country manages their own requirements for visiting students, and whether you need to acquire a visa will be determined by many factors including (but not limited to) your duration of stay and your nationality.
  • Some countries are currently accepting visa applications and appointments (if necessary) and some are not, so continue to monitor the situation including any communication from your host university or partner provider if you are participating in an exchange or provider program. 
  • It is ultimately your responsibility to acquire a visa if it is necessary, but we can help you navigate the process.  
  • To determine if you need a visa, consult the consulate or embassy website of your study abroad host country.

Booking flights and buying insurance

  • We encourage you to hold off on purchasing the UW Student Abroad Insurance. This is one of your requirements to participate in study abroad (for most programs) and to be enrolled in your program. However you can delay fulfilling this requirement until we have a better sense of the feasibility of running programs in autumn. 
  • Your UW Student Abroad Insurance coverage provides comprehensive medical and evacuation insurance but it DOES NOT cover the costs of trip cancellation, trip interruption, or loss of belongings.
  • You should consider purchasing additional insurance (called cancel-for-any-reason and interrupt-for-any-reason or CFAR/IFAR) to hedge against these potential costs (which could easily run into the thousands of dollars). Our insurance provider, CISI, offers this additional coverage, see details here. CFAR/IFAR insurance is also available from other providers if you want to shop around – but it is not cheap (around 8% of your total trip cost). 
  • We recommend that you wait to purchase airfare until you hear an update about your program status closer to your departure date. If you do proceed with securing travel arrangements, be sure to select options that have flexible dates and/or offer a refund. 

Scholarships and financial aid

  • If you were awarded a UW Study Abroad scholarship for a program that was cancelled due to the pandemic, you will have the opportunity to use your award during a future term. Visit our scholarships page for more information.
  • We recommend that you wait until the month prior to departure to revise your financial aid for next autumn. If your program is cancelled, you will not have to revoke your revision if it hasn’t already been completed. 

UW travel restrictions

  • UPDATE – September 10, 2021: Please review the updated UW International Travel Rules and Restrictions policy.
  • UPDATE – June 15, 2021: Please review the updated UW International Travel Rules and Restrictions policy.
  • UPDATE – April 2021: The U.S. Department of State (DOS) updated its methodology for determining COVID-19 related travel risks, causing a significant number of countries to be raised to a “Level 4: Do Not Travel” travel advisory level. While travel advisories are only one of the many factors UW Study Abroad is considering as part of the decision to run programs, the timeline of when these travel advisories are lowered may impact UW Study Abroad’s decision-making and planning timelines for future quarters.
  • For the 2021-22 academic year, UW faculty-led study abroad programs will likely include the following limitations: 
    • Programs will be limited to taking place in one country (no international border crossings)
    • During the program dates, personal overnight travel outside the program location will not be allowed. Students will be permitted to take day trips out of the host city. 
    • All program excursions/field trips will be limited to day trips (no overnights) 
    • These restrictions on travel are being considered to reduce complications due to factors such as differing levels of pandemic control between countries, possible border crossing restrictions and/or quarantine policies, regional lockdowns within the host country, etc.
  • For students who have been accepted to a partner or exchange program:
    • If you are participating in a partner or exchange program, there may be similar limitations (to those above) imposed on travel by your program provider, the host university, or the host country/region.

UW COVID-19 resources

Information & key updates for students

Update – September 17, 2021: Our ability to send & and support students on study abroad is strongly linked to the State Department’s travel advisories. It’s a 4 level system with Level 4 being the highest warning level (“Do Not Travel”) and Level 1 being the lowest warning level (“Exercise Normal Precautions”).

  • Level 4 (Do Not Travel): We cannot send any undergraduate students on study abroad to any country at Level 4 due to UW policy.
  • Level 3 (Reconsider Travel): effective January 1, 2022 – the UW recently approved travel to countries at a Level 3 travel advisory (“Reconsider Travel”) subject to review and approval by UW Study Abroad and by the UW Global Travel Security process. A number of our most important study abroad destinations are currently at Level 3.
  • Level 2 (Exercise Increased Caution) and Level 1 (Exercise Normal Precautions): Undergraduate students are already permitted to travel to Level 1 and Level 2 countries subject to approval by UW Study Abroad.

For a detailed description of the Travel Advisory terms, please see this resource created by the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC).

Next steps for Winter quarter

  • We will share more updates soon on how individual students can get approved for travel to Level 3 countries.
  • For faculty-led programs, the program directors will apply for permission to travel to any Level 3 countries.
  • We will continue to monitor the health and safety situation in your intended country of study.
  • We expect to make decisions between November 1 and November 15, 2021 as to whether Winter quarter study abroad programs can proceed
  • Depending on the type of program you are participating in, you may hear from us about the status of your program sooner. 

Click here for previous updates

  • UPDATE – September 1, 2021: In the Autumn of 2020, UW Study Abroad announced a new enrollment option, Direct Enrollment in Country of Citizenship Abroad (DECCA), which allowed UW students to study at a local college in their country of citizenship. This option was open for the Winter, Spring and Summer quarters of 2021 since the University of Washington was committed to virtual learning. The UW has decided to hold UW courses in-person during Autumn Quarter 2021 and has decided to not offer the DECCA enrollment option to UW students in the near future.
  • UPDATE – August 5, 2021: Please review the updated UW International Travel Rules and Restrictions policy. UW Study Abroad has cancelled most autumn faculty-led programs due to constraints on timing and logistics. If you are committed to a faculty-led program, you will have received an email informing you about the status of your program and next steps. UW Study Abroad has cancelled most partner programs. If you are committed to a partner program, you will have received an email informing you about the status of your program and next steps. We have yet to determine the viability of winter 2022 programs.
  • UPDATE – June 15, 2021: UW Study Abroad has cancelled some faculty-led programs due to constraints on timing and logistics. If you are committed to a faculty-led program, you will have received an email informing you about the status of your program and next steps.
  • UPDATE – June 4, 2021: UW Study Abroad has cancelled semester-long partner programs departing in autumn quarter 2021. If you are participating in this program type, you will have received an email directly from UW Study Abroad with more information. We have not yet made decisions about faculty-led program or quarter-long partner programs departing in autumn 2021.
  • UPDATE – May 13, 2021: UW Study Abroad has cancelled university and departmental exchanges departing in autumn quarter 2021. If you are participating in this program type, you will have received an email directly from UW Study Abroad with more information.
  • UW Study Abroad has cancelled all study abroad programs for Summer Quarter (Summer Full-term, Summer A, and Summer B terms) and Early Fall 2021 due to COVID-19. If you have applied to one of these programs, you have been emailed directly.


Our commitment

  • UW Study Abroad is trying to be nuanced in our decision-making because of the ever-changing landscape.
  • We want to accurately manage your expectations, while remaining cautiously optimistic.
  • Programs proceeding with the planning process are not guaranteed to run. But we are committed to keeping in regular contact with you if you have opened a study abroad application.

How is UW making decisions about study abroad?

  • The UW Study Abroad and Global Travel Security Teams meet every other week to assess the feasibility of study abroad.
  • Factors in our decision-making process include: program location, duration of program, program type and support available, access to visas and consular networks, and vaccination distribution progress – both domestically and internationally.
  • We are assessing programs that are still open for applications regularly and, unfortunately, we may have to cancel them at any time, regardless of whether or not students have been accepted to the program.
  • If you have questions, email