Travel: Spring Recess and Beyond

March 03, 2020

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

At this time of year, my predecessors traditionally have issued a message noting that during spring break many will be traveling abroad for research, teaching, and learning. Unfortunately, this year is different. In the context of the international reach of COVID-19, there is no choice but to outline restrictions on travel imposed by the spread of the virus. Further, as U.S. travel regulations for citizens of certain countries recently have been expanded, I must describe these as well.  

All Columbia affiliates are strongly urged to postpone any non-essential international travel. For students, all upcoming travel outside the United States organized, led, or financed by Columbia is suspended until further notice. 

Further, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued guidance that institutes of higher education should “consider postponing or canceling student foreign exchange programs.” This advice is motivated in part by an awareness that, in the near future, “students may face unpredictable circumstances, travel restrictions, challenges in returning home or accessing health care while abroad.” Sharing that concern, I have asked the Center for Undergraduate Global Engagement to contact our students on study abroad programs and begin the process of determining the options for a safe and orderly return home.

As you know, the University has restricted all Columbia Travel to China, South Korea, and now Iran and Italy until further notice in light of the CDC’s Level 3 Travel Warning. Please contact [email protected] if you believe your trip warrants exemption from these restrictions. The CDC also has issued an Alert Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions for Japan.

Persons who still must travel overseas should make every effort to stay up to date regarding often fast-changing governmental regulations, including Executive Orders and guidance issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Department of State, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Visa and entry restrictions have been placed on Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Myanmar, Sudan, and Tanzania in addition to Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.

Please be assured that active oversight and planning take place every day by a policy task force that consults closely with members of our University faculty who are leading research virologists and epidemiologists. Based on their expert guidance, as well as that of the CDC and the New York City and New York State health departments, the University’s core campuses continue to operate normally. 

Current circumstances manifestly are uncertain, just the kind of situation that can generate deep anxiety. It is important that all of us modulate our responses to be consistent with the facts and the best information on hand.

I close with appreciation for the professionalism and thoughtful calm that characterize how our community is grappling with difficult current pressures.


Ira Katznelson
Interim Provost
Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History

Additional Resources:

Columbia Preparedness
Columbia International Students and Scholars Office
World Health Organization (WHO) Information about Coronavirus
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Situation Summary
NYC Department of Health Information About Coronavirus