This update is provided for archival purposes only.

Public Health guidance and University of Waterloo operations may have changed. For the most up-to-date information, please visit one of the following COVID-19 information pages:

International travel

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

University of Waterloo travel guidelines continue to be reviewed and updated. Please refer to our COVID-19 Travel Guidelines page for the most up-to-date information.

This message was originally sent to faculty by James W.E. Rush, Vice President, Academic & Provost and Charmaine B. Dean, Vice-President, Research and International.

As we emerge from the global pandemic, attention is being drawn to the prospect of a return to international travel for Waterloo members. This memo states Waterloo’s current position on international travel and a process for requesting international travel exemptions for exceptional circumstances.


  • In alignment with the Government of Canada’s current global advisory, the University’s decision to suspend international travel remains. 
  • Exemptions may be permitted on an exceptional basis, following set procedures and requirements.
  • Student exchanges administered through the Student Success Office are not eligible for this exception.

The current situation regarding outbound international travel

The University of Waterloo, and other Canadian higher education institutions, consider guidance from the Canadian Government's Travel Advice and Advisories to determine the suitability of allowing travel to a particular international destination. The Canadian Government’s travel advisory level of ‘Avoid non-essential travel outside Canada until further notice’ is currently in place and therefore the University continues to restrict outbound international travel.

However, unique and exceptional cases may arise that will permit the consideration of international travel on rare occasions. The following details the steps required to put forth such cases.

Process to request an exemption during university travel suspension 

Documents Required

To request an exemption to the current international travel suspension, depending on the traveler type (student, staff or faculty) and purpose of their travel, the following are the documents to be submitted and processed for consideration of such exemption:  

  1. An itinerary of the planned travel including dates of travel, locations that will be travelled to, activities undertaken while at the locations, transportation methods taken, and accommodations. 
  2. A written case for why the proposed travel is ‘essential’ that addresses: 
    1. the rationale for the travel to this particular location and why delaying the travel or conducting the work remotely is not possible (for example, exceptional cases related to unique research purposes, guided by existing limits imposed by the federal government)
    2. the importance/significance of the experience, and why it cannot be achieved through other means
  3. A letter of support from the requester’s Unit Head and Faculty Dean that addresses:
    1. the rationale for the travel to this particular location and why delaying the travel or conducting the work remotely cannot be chosen 
    2. the importance/significance of the experience and/or the benefits that the University of Waterloo will receive through this travel, and why it cannot be achieved through other means 
  4. A signed letter acknowledging the risk of COVID-related travel that answers the following questions:
    1. Do you understand the risks involved in undertaking this travel during the COVID-19 pandemic knowing that the travel and medical situation could change between your arrival in (destination) and your return to Canada, and that if the situation changes the University may be limited in its capacity to assist you? 
    2. Do you understand the risks that if the travel and medical situation changes you may not be able to return to Canada on your scheduled return date and may have to remain at your destination for an extended amount of time? 
    3. Are you willing to complete an additional waiver or release form from the University of Waterloo indicating that you acknowledge and accept the above risks if asked?
  5. For sabbatical and long term (several months) travel requests, the requester also submits, through Safety Abroad:
    1. a letter of invitation from the host institution
    2. an itinerary of the planned travel including the dates, location and activities, transportation and accommodation
  6. For international research travel, 1-4 above is provided by the requester through the international travel safety plan obtained at COVID-19 Traveler Information website and submitted to the resume research portal; as well, the requester submits the following document through
    1. a letter of invitation from the host institution
    2. a safety plan from the host institution (or URL link to it), if available 

Details on the process as well as the decision-makers can be found here.

Workflow for approval processes

If the travel is approved, Safety Abroad will work with the requester to develop a trip-specific Travel Safety and Security Plan. Depending on the destination and the nature of activities, this may be done in consultation with Legal and Immigration Services as appropriate and/or with the Anvil Group. The travel safety and security plan will include enhanced risk mitigation measures that the requester must complete to mitigate risk prior to, during, and after travel. This may include but not be limited to, the following:

  1. Co-completion of a Field Work Risk Management Form with the traveler and their supervisor. Note that since travel during the travel suspension is considered a High-Risk activity, this form applies even if field work is not taking place. 
  2. Completion of the pre-departure travel checklist (For StudentsFor Staff and Faculty) by the traveler.
  3. Review and sign off by the traveler of the Travel Safety and Security Plan indicating an understanding of, agreement to, and willingness to be bound by, the conditions and procedures outlined in the Travel Safety and Security Plan.  
  4. Registration of the approved travel by the traveler with Waterloo International (Waterloo International will enroll the individual with the University’s travel safety and security provider, Anvil Group, to enable real time travel alerts and real time travel tracking). 

To allow for sufficient time to gather information, assess and evaluate, please, where possible, submit the request for approval for exceptional travel several weeks in advance of travel dates. Please note that travel costs anticipated to be reimbursed using University administered funds must not to be incurred prior to travel being approved. In the case where travel costs are not incurred, for example, where an institution invites a researcher to visit and covers all travel related costs, the approval process described here still applies as the travel is considered to be official University business.