IEGI COVID-19 FAQ

Current Program Operations

  • How does Binghamton University assess the risk of an education abroad program location?

    Binghamton University determines location safety by following information provided by the U.S. State Department Travel Advisories, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Warning level alerts, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC). The IEGI also follows guidance from our campus Office of Risk Management and the International Travel Safety Committee, and considers procedures implemented by our fellow SUNY study abroad offices. At any time, Binghamton University’s assessment and decision making can be superseded by decisions made by the State University of New York and the State of New York.

    As of August 6, 2020, the U.S. Department of State provides country-specific Travel Advisory levels. As of November 21, 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also enacted country-specific, COVID-19 Travel Health Notices with a four-level scale focusing specifically on COVID-19 in addition to their standard Travel Health Notices. The IEGI typically operates programs in countries with a U.S. State Department Level 2 and CDC Level 2 (for both COVID-19 and standard Travel Health Notices) or lower. Any elevation in advisory levels indicates a change in condition, prompting us to review the situation, assess impact on our students and staff, and evaluate whether we can maintain our programs.

  • Is Binghamton University running education abroad programs in Spring 2022?

    Binghamton University received guidance from New York State Executive Chamber (NYS) and SUNY regarding spring 2022 education abroad programming on Friday, October 15, 2021. The guidelines indicate that while the blanket suspension of SUNY-sponsored education abroad programs has been modified, programs will be permitted to operate only if they meet several specific criteria and receive SUNY approval following an individualized review process. The IEGI is currently assessing Binghamton University’s programs to determine if they will satisfy the current mandates.

    The updated guidance from NYS will allow SUNY to approve programs to operate in countries assigned a CDC Level 1 and Level 2; only some programs will be approved for Level 3 locations. Please note that if a program is approved to run, students will be required to have both the COVID-19 vaccination and to purchase a travel insurance policy for $250. At this time, students who have committed to Binghamton University’s education abroad programs for Spring 2022 should maintain back-up plans for on-campus course registration and housing. IEGI staff will communicate with committed participants for Binghamton University programs regarding their program’s status as decisions are finalized. Students who are considering programming through another SUNY campus should remain in close contact with their program sponsor regarding their program’s status, and also maintain back-up plans for on-campus course registration and housing.

    Students who plan to go abroad will need to consider their risk tolerance and comfort level carefully, and should closely review the DOS travel advisories and CDC Travel Health Notices for their host country as part of their personal risk tolerance assessment. The IEGI Risk Assessment Self Survey may assist you with this process. 

    Students should be keenly aware, whether or not they are personally exposed to the virus, that the local response to the virus could dramatically alter their travel plans.  Many locations already have guidelines for quarantine upon entry and activities may be greatly restricted. If the pandemic escalates, there may be rapidly changing conditions and serious disruptions, including public transportation curtailment, mandatory health screening, regional entry and exit prohibitions, mandatory quarantine, and/or other significantly impactful public health measures. Due to the large number of program providers and locations available, Binghamton University is unable to assess programs that are organized by other institutions and providers (Non-SUNY Programs) regarding safety protocols, risk management procedures, and overall program quality.  

  • Is Binghamton University running education abroad programs in Winter 2022?

    On October 6, 2021 SUNY announced the cancellation of all university-sponsored undergraduate student international travel for Winter 2022. This cancellation includes programs operated by Binghamton University. Students with open applications and partners have been notified of this update.  

  • Can I still participate in a Winter 2022 program sponsored by another SUNY campus or non-SUNY program provider? 

    It is not possible to go on another SUNY program for the winter session as all SUNY programs for Winter 2022 have been cancelled.

    If you are still considering participating in a non-SUNY program for Winter 2022, you will want to be in close contact with your academic advisor about earning transfer credit and with the administering provider about any updates to whether the program will indeed run. It is highly important that students planning to participate in a non-Binghamton program complete Binghamton’s online application related to their program.

Application Process

Traveling Abroad & Returning

  • I do not have a valid passport for six months past the end of the program date. What is the current status of U.S. passport operations?

    Students must have a passport valid for at least six months after their program end date. As of October 2021, new passports may take as long as 14 weeks to process. Click here for current processing times. 

  • How can I learn more about entry requirements, quarantine protocols, and COVID-19 testing availability for my education abroad location? 

    Travelers should review, understand, and continually check the U.S. State Department’s  COVID-19 Country Specific Information to learn about these details and remain aware of any changes. The COVID-19 Country-Specific pages provide information on the availability, turn-around time, and expected costs of COVID-19 testing.  It is important to also research and plan for additional costs related to quarantine requirements, COVID-19 testing, vaccines, and transportation changes related to the pandemic. These additional costs are not included in the individual program’s “Estimate of Costs” sheet provided by IEGI.

  • What do I need to consider when it is time to purchase airfare?

    Students who are admitted to an education abroad program should wait for their program advisor to indicate it is a good time to purchase airfare. Students are responsible for making their own flight arrangements. We strongly recommend that students purchase airline tickets that permit a change of date or cancellation of the flight, and to purchase tickets directly from the airline rather than a third-party vendor (like Expedia or Travelocity). Current airline guidelines indicate this is normally allowed with a penalty.

    Students should not purchase non-refundable airline tickets even though they may be less expensive. Non-refundable tickets often do not provide adequate protection for unforeseen circumstances. Be sure to read all of the provisions associated with any airline ticket or independent travel purchase. 

    Travel agents and insurance companies are sources of information about available trip cancellation insurance policies. Students purchasing trip insurance should be aware of what it does and does not cover.

  • What COVID-19 expenses are covered by the SUNY International Health Insurance Policy? 

    Participants in SUNY education abroad programs--including those managed by Binghamton University--are required to enroll in the SUNY-sponsored international health insurance through United Healthcare (UHC) for the duration of their education abroad program. The UHC policy provides coverage for all medical expenses, including COVID-19 tests for symptomatic individuals and treatment for those diagnosed with COVID-19, while the participant is overseas. Students should review the UHC website after enrollment to understand the policy in detail. 

    As of July 2021, the UHC policy will not cover expenses relating to asymptomatic testing (for example for entry or travel requirements), quarantine accommodations, changes to travel arrangements, or lost academic costs related to the pandemic; it is for medical expenses only. Students may want to contact a travel agent to inquire about travel insurance for these non-medical expenses, and be sure to confirm if COVID-19 related losses qualify for coverage, as they are commonly excluded. Also, UHC will not continue coverage for COVID-19 treatment once the participant returns to their home location. Students should contact their domestic insurance carrier to learn more about how their coverage would work if they return from a program and need continuing medical care. Students should not cancel their home (U.S.) coverage when they study abroad.

  • Can I complete personal travel to other locations before, during, and/or after my education abroad program?

    At this time, the IEGI strongly recommends that you do not pursue travel before your departure date, as this may complicate the entry process to your program location and increases the risk of exposure ahead of your program start date. We also recommend that students remain in their host country during their education abroad experience. This reduces the possibility of being stranded in a different location if travel becomes restricted. We recommend monitoring the U.S. State Department’s country-specific Travel Advisory levels, and the CDC’s country-specific Travel Health Advisories for any location that you intend to visit while abroad.

    Students should be keenly aware, whether or not they are personally exposed to the virus, that the local response to the virus could dramatically alter their travel plans. Many locations have guidelines for quarantine upon entry and activities may be greatly restricted. If the pandemic escalates, there may be rapidly changing conditions and serious disruptions, including public transportation curtailment, mandatory health screening, regional entry and exit prohibitions, mandatory quarantine, and other significantly impactful public health measures. While Binghamton University provides pre-departure information to assist students in making good choices to minimize risk, the risk assumed (health, safety, and academic/program) by traveling inside and outside of their country of study is their own. 

    If you choose to travel outside the dates of your program, within your host country, or to other countries:

    • Ensure that you have all of the required documents to return to your host location and the U.S. Be prepared for the possibility of being unable to return to your program location. Have a plan in case you are not able to return to your education abroad program location or the U.S. at the time you originally planned.
    • Understand any travel restrictions that may apply based on where you are traveling. Be aware that restrictions and requirements may change without warning. Monitor the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and New York State COVID-19 Travel Advisory  pages for updated information. The CDC and NYS recommend delaying international travel until the traveler is fully vaccinated.
  • What do I need to consider about returning from my program? 

    Like most aspects of this pandemic, travel requirements have often changed rapidly depending on the departure and arrival location of the traveler. Some of the practicalities that education abroad participants need to consider include:

    • Requirements for your port of entry: Depending on a student’s return plan, this may be New York, another U.S. state, or a different country. New York State’s guidelines are found online.
    • Requirements set by your airline carrier: This may include testing before boarding, masks, proof of vaccination, and other details set by your specific airline.
    • Testing: This may be required either before departing your program location or upon arrival at your port of entry. Understand where you can obtain this testing within the required timeframe.
    • Quarantine: Be aware of the length of time and circumstances required for a successful completion of any quarantine regulations when you return. You will be required to meet these guidelines. 

Program Cancellations 

  • Will Binghamton University, SUNY, or NYS suspend any future education abroad programs?

    The timing of our program suspension decisions will be based on a balance of global health information, public health and safety advisories, travel restrictions, visa application dates, and program deadlines, as well as institutional and student feedback. Once a decision has been made to suspend a program, staff in the Office of International Education and Global Initiatives (IEGI) will promptly notify our applicants and institutions with details about alternative program options.

    Because this is a rapidly evolving situation, we ask that students currently abroad or planning to study abroad in the future stay in touch with the IEGI and watch for updates from our office.

  • What if my program is canceled by Binghamton, SUNY, NYS, the institution abroad, or another entity abroad after I have committed to the program?

    Should your education abroad program be canceled after you commit to it, you are still financially liable for all billable program costs. The IEGI will be able to refund your $150 commitment fee if the program has not yet started. If the IEGI is refunded by a partner on your behalf, that refund will be passed on to you by our office via Student Accounts. This is not inclusive of any other outside entities (such as a landlord/housing, excursions, flights, visa costs, etc...) you may have paid pertaining to other costs associated with your program.  You may also be liable for those costs, which would be determined by those outside entities. 

  • What happens if Binghamton University, SUNY, or NYS suspends an upcoming program that has not yet started?

    If an upcoming program should be suspended, we will immediately notify students, partner institutions, and program leaders. If a student on a Binghamton University program has paid their Commitment Fee (the internal fee paid through their online application) and the program is administratively cancelled due to safety concerns or low enrollment, the Commitment Fee will be refunded by the IEGI. The IEGI will also direct students to campus offices for assistance with academic planning, financial aid, and other considerations.  

    Students are reminded not to pay “independent” fees (such as airfare or housing deposits) in advance of receiving direction from their advisor, as these fees are typically not refundable through the University and students would be liable for costs incurred. Applicants for Spring 2022 education abroad programs should also maintain back-up plans for on-campus course registration and housing. 

  • What happens if Binghamton University, SUNY, or NYS suspends a program that is currently running, and students are overseas?

    If a Binghamton University-administered program is suspended while students are overseas, we will immediately notify students, the partner institution, and any faculty or staff leading the program (program leaders), as appropriate. Students should contact their airlines to inquire about rebooking their return airfare home (unless students are directed to shelter in place). Ideally, students have purchased tickets which provide flexibility in date changes and/or cancellation.

    In the event that any charges may be reimbursable (determined by the program host abroad), the IEGI will assist in trying to recoup applicable portions of those costs, though refunds are not to be expected. Additional guidance would be provided on a program by program basis.

  • What academic contingency plans exist when current programs are suspended?

    If a program is suspended, and the overseas partner offers distance learning, Binghamton University expects the returning student to complete their term through the distance learning option. If students are offered by their host institution to continue coursework remotely due to COVID-19, coursework will be designed for students to continue learning through alternative means to satisfy course completion. Coursework might be delivered in a multitude of ways, allowing for maximum flexibility.

    If a Binghamton University program is cancelled, and the university partner abroad does not offer distance learning, Binghamton University will work with students and their academic advisors to identify options that will assist them to retain full or partial credit, depending on the timing of suspension and the options available which meet the student’s academic needs. The IEGI cannot guarantee that alternative credit options will be available for every student’s situation, and some options may have additional costs involved.  

  • What if a student wants to return from a program that is not suspended?

    The IEGI understands that in some cases a student may wish to return home from a program that is within our risk tolerance. The IEGI will provide guidance to the student regarding implications for academic progress and financial impact. Once the student confirms their plan to depart in writing, the IEGI will take any steps necessary to advise students on safety procedures, to communicate with the overseas partner, and to update necessary departments on the student’s home campus regarding their program departure. Students should also refer to the IEGI Withdrawal Policy listed on their program’s Estimate of Costs sheet to review the financial implications.