International travel - important reminders

October 24, 2022
Ian A. Waitz, Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate and Graduate Education | Maria T. Zuber, Vice President for Research, 2013–2024 | Richard Lester, Associate Provost for International Activities, 2015–2023 |

Dear undergraduates,

The improvement in public health conditions is making travel throughout the world easier than it has been these past two years. Great opportunities for global experiences in learning and discovery are available to you, whether through internships, study abroad, or research collaborations. We are writing now to remind you of some important MIT policies and useful resources. Any travel involves some level of risk, and we want to help you prepare for a safe and successful trip.

Most undergraduate travel abroad happens through MISTI. MISTI will provide you with essential information on staying healthy and safe while traveling, logistics, and cultural resources. Even if you are traveling independently or through another program, you can use MISTI’s resources. Just contact for assistance.

Register your MIT-related travel

All MIT-related travel by undergraduates is subject to the Institute’s Student Travel Policy. MIT-related travel includes travel required or run by MIT or financially supported through any MIT account. You must register any such travel, including side trips, in the Institute’s Travel Registry. (Purely personal travel is not considered to be MIT-related travel, but can still be registered if you would like MIT to be aware of your location in case of an emergency. Consider obtaining personal travel insurance.)

The policy does not permit MIT-related travel by students to destinations given a risk rating of level 3 or 4 by the U.S. Department of State. In exceptional circumstances, students may apply for a special high-risk waiver for such travel. Note that applying for a waiver to visit these countries is different from registering your travel.

International students: As a reminder, before any travel outside the U.S., be sure you have all appropriate documentation (visas) to enter your destination country and to return to the U.S. Please view the travel resources and reminders provided by the MIT International Students Office (ISO) on its Visas and Travel webpage. Feel free to contact your ISO Advisor if any questions arise.

Protect MIT data and materials

Data security: During your time at MIT, especially when engaging in research outside of normal course-related research, you may have access to sensitive data and materials. It is important to understand that there are risks involved in taking them abroad. You have obligations to protect MIT data and materials when traveling, under the Institute’s policies and procedures. You and your faculty advisor must discuss appropriate protocols, including information security protections, if you intend to take research data or materials with you when traveling internationally. This is especially important if your research involves working with personally identifiable information, export-controlled data, or other confidential or sensitive information.

MIT materials: When traveling internationally, take with you only what you need. You should not bring MIT research materials or specialized equipment (i.e., other than laptops and personal electronic devices) with you while traveling internationally unless there is no alternative available. Instead, such materials should be shipped through third-party carriers to ensure proper compliance with environment, health and safety regulations, export control clearances, and other procedures.

Understand what to expect at the border

MIT’s Office of the General Counsel has prepared guidance that you should review so you know your rights and obligations in case border and customs officials ask to speak with you. The guidance includes an example of documentation that we suggest you carry in the rare event that you must travel internationally with MIT data or materials.

While MIT’s international travel policies apply broadly for all destinations, we do urge particular vigilance when traveling to or from China, Russia, Iran, or Saudi Arabia, due to increased risks in-country and at border crossings.

To be clear, we encourage every student to take advantage of available opportunities for travel. International programs are transformative experiences that will inspire you and enrich your MIT studies in incalculable ways, and we deeply believe that global engagement will better prepare you for impactful careers of service to society.

Nevertheless, a little preparedness goes a long way. We wish you safe travels.


Ian A. Waitz
Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate and Graduate Education

Maria T. Zuber
Vice President for Research

Richard K. Lester
Associate Provost for International Activities