Covid-19 Guidelines


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CIEE provides advisement regarding best practices for mitigating conceivable risks of acquiring and/or transmitting Covid-19. It is, however, a communal effort to create a safe environment for students, staff and host communities. We strongly encourage everyone at CIEE centers – students, faculty and staff – to receive any vaccination for Covid-19 that becomes available upon eligibility. Please review our vaccine FAQs if you have additional vaccination questions.

As vaccinations expand, we anticipate many foreign entry/immigration requirements to include vaccination as a qualification for entry. Once abroad, student life may be restricted or severely limited for the non-vaccinated. 

CIEE Guidelines

Guiding Principles for Programs

These principles serve as guidelines and define assumptions used in the formulation of CIEE best practices as it relates to reducing the risk of acquiring transmitting Covid-19 based on scientific expertise from leading health organizations.

  • Covid-19 will remain a pandemic in 2021 and perhaps endemic throughout 2022 and beyond. Travel by its very nature increases risk of exposure and every effort will be made to prevent incoming students from infecting students, staff, families, or any host community.
  • Covid-19 is primarily an “airborne” disease. It is important to note that cleanliness and hygiene will inhibit some spread, as well as the spread of other diseases. However, most importantly, every effort will be made to increase ventilation in buildings, classrooms, and housing. Outdoor activities/classes are always preferred and the best defense against transmission.
  • “Covid Smart” behaviors such as face coverings, social/physical distancing, staying home if unwell, avoiding crowded environments, creating well-ventilated areas, and enhanced hygiene measures will be employed across all sites.
  • Controlling “density” is a key concept. The more space we provide students and staff for all activities, the better the mitigation. Fewer students in the classroom, on an excursion, and in any housing allows for appropriate physical distancing.
  • Each location will have sufficient personal protection supplies readily available – face masks, hand sanitizer, etc. – as well as sufficient health care infrastructure in case of any local outbreaks. Further, participants will be advised to travel with PPE and thermometers.
  • Governments will continue to alter and adjust policies relative to the prevalence of the virus in the community and/or country. Staff and students are expected to be aware of and adhere to current regulations and remain vigilant. Intentional disregard could result in disciplinarian action up to (and including) students’ dismissal from the program.
  • Independent travel is strongly discouraged, and CIEE can extend no support for independent travel. Additionally, if there is an outbreak that prevents the return to program, any extended stay is entirely at the cost to the travelling student. Travel between countries increases the risk of travel interruptions and in-country travel is recommended.
  • Vaccines play a key role in ending the pandemic. CIEE strongly advises all students, faculty and staff to receive a Covid-19 vaccine for logistical, ethical and practical reasons to study abroad in academic year 2021-2022. Given the effect the virus has millions of people worldwide and the supportive statistical scientific data which demonstrates real-world efficiency and sanctions its use, those who can receive a vaccine, should receive a vaccine.

Key Elements of CIEE Guidelines

In this section, specific guidelines are grouped by category. These guidelines are designed to be applied globally but are intended to serve alongside local health authority ordinances. City-specific requirements regarding details on restrictions, norms and mitigation efforts maybe be different than those described below.
Ventilation, Mask Wearing, and Social Distancing Are the Best Prevention Measures
The Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is mostly spread by respiratory droplets released when people talk, sing, breathe, cough, or sneeze. Some are larger particles that quickly fall to the ground or on surfaces, and others are microparticles that can remain airborne for a significant amount of time.
From the US CDC on 5 APR 2021, “The principal mode by which people are infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is through exposure to respiratory droplets carrying infectious virus. It is possible for people to be infected through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects (fomites), but the risk is generally considered to be low."
Testing is an important component for minimizing risk on programs, in addition to the basic prevention measures listed above.
CIEE’s policy for 2021 programs for arrival testing as of April 2021 is:
  • CIEE will work with host institutions and local governments on understanding and complying with their testing polices, to include randomized testing where appropriate. Students must seek assistance from staff to secure testing if they believe they have symptoms or have been exposed. Throughout the program, CIEE and host institutions may employ varying testing methods as the accuracy, reliability, and availability of various techniques evolve.
  • Program dependent, CIEE will employ a mixture of cohort/pods or quarantines for the first seven days of a program (unless a local government requires quarantine for a greater period of time), and arrival testing on day 5-7 of the program, in order to minimize the risk of virus spread at the beginning of the program.
  • Students who are fully vaccinated prior to the start of the program will not be required by CIEE to quarantine (if applicable) at the start of the program (unless required by local government).
  • As always, local staff will ensure testing in the staff and student population for the presence of Covid-19 whenever there are symptoms or exposure that indicate the possibility of infection.
Surveillance Testing – In some locations (depending upon availability, the prevalence of spread of COVID-19 in the host country, the length of the program, and the number of students) staff will facilitate the testing of 25% of the population of students, staff, and faculty once per week. This randomized testing, also known as “surveillance testing” is meant to capture asymptomatic persons. Participants are required to participate in any mandated CIEE randomized testing.
As of February 2021, the U.S. CDC is requiring all incoming travelers carry proof of a negative Covid-19 test (or note from physician confirming recovery from Covid-19). Each location will assist departing students with obtaining a test within the 72-hour window as required by the CDC and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services effective January 12, 2021. The cost of return testing is not covered by CIEE, and participants should be prepared to cover this cost.

Community Social Contract

The approach CIEE has designed and outlined is predicated on all students and staff sharing the responsibility for adhering to the best practices for preventing – and responding to – Covid-19 transmission.

The health and safety of all relies on each individual adhering to basic mitigation measures, and we will ask each member of the community to sign a COVID-19 social contract as part of the admissions process before arrival. Failure to comply could lead to dismissal from the community/program. We are responsible for each other’s wellness and all actions and behaviors should reflect that reality.

Covid Smart Practices

General Illness Prevention

  • Social Distancing (also called physical distancing) – Keep space between oneself and other people when realistically possible. To practice social or physical distancing, the CDC recommends:
    • Stay at least 6 feet/2 meters (about 2 arms’ length) from other people
    • Do not gather in groups
    • Stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings in close proximity
    • Follow local regulations related to social distancing, group gatherings, and the use of face mask.
  • Face Coverings – All students must arrive with face masks or face coverings and be prepared to use them following local regulations.
  • Hand Washing – Individuals will be regularly reminded to wash their hands frequently.
  • “Covid Smart” Education –Upon arrival, students will be briefed by center staff on the following COVID-19 smart topics:
    • Covid-19 information
    • Ventilation
    • Cough etiquette
    • Symptoms associated with Covid-19
    • Stop the spread of germs
    • Physical distancing
    • Handwashing
  • Ventilation – CIEE is ensuring that ventilation systems within our facilities operate properly. This includes (but is not limited to) increasing circulation of outdoor air as much as possible by opening windows and doors, using fans, and upgrading HVAC systems/filters.

Windows and doors will not be opened if doing so poses a safety or health risk for current or subsequent occupants, including children (e.g., allowing outdoor environmental contaminants including carbon monoxide, molds, or pollens into the building). When possible, use of outdoor seating areas and social distancing for any small group activities such as lunches, breaks, and meetings, and classes are encouraged.


  • Monitoring – Students will be required to bring their own thermometer and maintain it throughout the duration of their stay. During the first seven days, they will be required to take and record their temperature daily.
  • Symptoms – Students feeling symptomatic must self-isolate immediately and notify center staff, who will assist them in securing medical attention.
  • Contact Tracing – Students are required to participate with all contract tracing requests of CIEE or local authorities if there is suspected virus exposure. In certain countries, entry may include a mandatory download of a contract-tracing application by mobile.
  • Immunocompromised individuals – For participants who report being immunocompromised, our intent is to support and accommodate those needs within our ability to do so. Participants should discuss their specific needs with their doctor(s) and CIEE study abroad advisor prior to arrival. The student should understand and seek clarity regarding the extent of CIEE’s ability to accommodate them and whether that will comport with their medical requirements.

    CIEE strives to accommodate within our controlled environments but cannot do so for the entirety of the travel and location experience. Exposures and limitations will be made clear as it is incumbent upon the student to make an informed choice and select an enhanced mitigation posture as necessitated by their condition or to defer participation until medical advice and the student’s risk/benefit analysis deem it safe to travel internationally.

Enhanced Cleaning

  • Hand Sanitizer – CIEE will ensure that dispensers of alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol are installed throughout all student use facilities at key locations, particularly entrances. This includes housing units, classroom spaces, and staff offices.
  • Cleaning and Hygiene – Enhanced cleaning and custodial practices at all centers including common areas, classrooms, housing, and transport vehicles is currently in practice. These practices include frequently cleaning and disinfecting touched surfaces (e.g., door handles, sink handles, drinking fountains, hand railings, bathroom stalls, dining hall tables) within facilities. Use of shared objects (e.g., kitchens, lab equipment, computer equipment, desks) should be limited when possible, or cleaned between use. Students will be asked and expected to wipe down the space they occupied if a shared space like a classroom or common room.

Before Leaving Home / Pre-Arrival

Health Monitoring

Students will be asked to monitor their health for the 14 days prior to departure and CIEE requires Covid-19 testing within 48-72 hours prior to arrival in country. It is highly recommended students bring test results with them during the entire course of their travel to program. It is very likely that their negative PCR test will need to be shown to airline personnel or host countries immigration officials. Without documentation onward transit or entry is not guaranteed. Note that any airport(s) where a student may make a connection may have differing requirements than their arriving country and students should understand those requirements prior to embarkation.

If an incoming student is exposed to someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 prior to their arrival or they have tested positive, CIEE requires that they complete a 14-day self-quarantine at their home prior to arriving at their CIEE location. If an incoming student is experiencing Covid-19 symptoms (even with a negative Covid-19 test), CIEE requires that they complete a 10-day self-quarantine at their home prior to arriving at their CIEE location. They must be symptom free for 24-hours prior to departure and travel with their negative PCR test in transit to program.

For these reasons, we highly recommend that all participants purchase refundable flights so that changes can be made for the situations listed here. CIEE staff will work with our participants to minimize any program/academic impacts due to a late arrival due to Covid-19 precautions.

Packing List

Students should bring a thermometer for daily temperature monitoring, hand sanitizing gel, and their own supply of face coverings to use for the during of the program as well as for protections during transit

Mobile Phones

Students must have a functional smart phone with an international data plan. Not only is it needed for emergency alerts, but countries may require visitors to download an application upon entry to the country to monitor exposure to the virus for contract-tracing.


Below are approved housing options for programming during the Covid-19 pandemic.

  • Homestays with a separate bathroom from family
  • Shared apartments
  • Single-occupancy dorm room
  • Double-occupancy dorm room

Additional details regarding homestay safety:

  • Homestays present approximately the same risk as a student living with their own family in their home country.
  • Homestays provide a normal family support network if the student tests positive for Covid-19 or have any other illness or injury.
  • Homestays represent less density and less exposure than commercial housing which may have many people moving in and out of the space
  • Homestays foster a community and, with it, a community’s need to promote positive engagement and connection as well as a commitment to be responsible to each other.

Guest/Visitor Policy – No guests or visitors are permitted in CIEE housing, offices, or classroom spaces. This includes family members and friends visiting from anywhere. Students in homestays should not receive visitors to their homestays and must abide by any house-rules set by the host family to safeguard the family.

Kitchen and shared eating space – Upon student arrival, shared eating spaces will operate under minimum use. Onsite staff will work with students to create a plan to keep these areas clean and safe for all to use. Student failure to adhere to their own cleaning/maximum capacity/rotational use plan will result in the spaces being closed. Generally, students will be required to sanitize after each use following specific instructions on proper cleaning. In addition, CIEE staff will also ensure to enhance the cleaning frequency of shared commercial kitchens on CIEE property. It is not CIEE’s intent to close said facilities but will act as necessary to maintain safety for all.

Program Safety

Academics/Classroom Safety

  • Academic Policies – CIEE policies on missed classes will accommodate isolation, quarantine, and late arrival due to infection or exposure.
  • Academic Continuity – All programs have been selected – and in some cases modified – based on their ability to guarantee academic completion. If needed, all coursework can be moved to delivery online.
  • Pre-arrival Coursework - On some programs, students will complete a block of academic coursework before departing the U.S., which further ensures the semester will deliver the normal number of semester credits.
  • Local Health Regulations – For CIEE-delivered courses, staff must follow all local requirements for education safety, which will presumably require 3-6 foot distance between desks and seating.
  • Social Distancing / Hybrid Learning – For CIEE-delivered courses, lecture halls and classrooms should tape off or eliminate seats and rows to ensure at least 3 foot distance between seats. Instructors should maintain maximum distance from students (six feet or more) whenever possible. Additionally, if possible, they should:
    • host smaller classes in larger rooms or outside.
    • offer distance learning in addition to in-person classes to help reduce the number of in-person attendees.
    • create a flexible rotating schedule of live sessions for students to abide to maximum capacity of class size and social distancing measures.
    • provide adequate distance between individuals engaged in experiential learning opportunities (e.g., internships, labs).
    • plan academic arrangements to support students who are in quarantine or isolation, should they wish to or be able to continue with their academic program fully online.
  • Face masks/coverings – CIEE instructors and staff must wear facemasks in all enclosed environments and in situations outside where social distancing cannot be maintained. 

Online, “Flipped” and Hybrid Learning
CIEE instructors must be equipped and prepared to employ various technology-driven methods for learning, including:

  • Flipped Learning – Content, including teaching resources such as presentation slides, is provided to students via a learning management system (LMS) in advance of an in-person teaching session.
  • Blended/Hybrid Learning – Instructional activities that involve online learning activities are combined with in-person learning activities.
  • Fully Online Learning – All aspects of the course delivered using technology for the student wherever he or she is located.
    Students will have fewer hours in traditional classroom learning to uphold social distance practices. Co- and extra-curricular activities are designed to accommodate social distancing requirements while showcasing the host city and culture as far as practical.

For CIEE-delivered courses, staff will follow all local requirements for education safety, including mandated distancing between desks and seating. Where practical, CIEE will supplement in-person classes with online learning to help reduce the number of in-person attendees. If necessary, CIEE may employ a flexible rotating schedule of live sessions for students to abide to maximum capacity of class size and social distancing measures.

Host institutions will also adhere to local rules regarding risk mitigation and CIEE staff will keep students apprised of these requirements. When proper safeguards have been implemented, many studies and experiences of schools have shown Covid-19 risk in the classroom to be low.

Programming and Activities

  • Independent Travel – International independent travel in 2021 will be strongly discouraged by staff. Students will be instructed to limit travel to solely within the country of study to minimize exposure brought about by travel as well as travel disruptions. Travel forms must be completed and submitted to site staff no later than 24 hours before proposed independent travel.

    Staff is asked to reasonably know the conditions in country to advise students in avoiding any in-country “hot spots” or reported outbreaks. However, staff cannot be expected to know the local conditions or relative risk of all potential travel destinations inside or outside of their national borders.

    Students will be asked to follow all Covid Smart protocols when on independent travel, and to self-quarantine on their return if they suspect they may have been in close contact with an infected person/s. For summer and fall 2021 programs, the expectation is that all students will overnight at their program’s location.
  • Program Excursions – 2021 programs will not feature any international or overnight excursions and local day trips only.
  • Breaks in Programming – CIEE will eliminate long weekends and breaks to discourage student travel.

Understanding the Covid-19 Vaccine

Everyone can help stop the pandemic by getting vaccinated when called to do so. As vaccines become available, it is strongly advised that all center staff, students and employees obtain a vaccination as soon as possible.

Known Assessment of SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine

  • Independent peer reviewed studies show that Covid-19 vaccines are effective at keeping individuals from becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2 and developing Covid-19. Further, data indicates that current vaccines dramatically (or entirely) reduce serious illness and hospitalizations from Covid-19.
  • Covid-19 vaccines teach our immune systems how to recognize and fight SARS-CoC-2. On average, it takes two weeks after vaccination for the body to build protection (immunity) against the virus. That means it is possible a person could still get Covid-19 just after vaccination.
  • Continuing Covid Smart practices will reduce risk of acquisition and transmission of the virus until vaccination. Even after you get vaccinated it is important to continue using all the tools available to help stop this pandemic as new data emerges on vaccine efficacy in real-world conditions.

Ongoing Assessment of SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine

  • Initial data suggests vaccinated individuals possess little to no risk of transmitting the SARS-CoV-2 virus.2
  • While this data is reviewed, we ask everyone to continue using all the tools available to help stop this pandemic as we learn more about how Covid-19 vaccines work in real-world conditions.3
  • Students and staff who have been vaccinated may choose to disclose their status to program staff, however they are be required to do so and our staff will not disclose students’ private medical information (eg., vaccine status) to others. However, self-disclosed vaccinated students/staff with will not need to participate in weekly or randomized testing (with proof of vaccination).
  • Immigration requirements to host countries may evolve regarding vaccination requirements for entry. As of the writing of this document, vaccinated students are not exempt from quarantine on arrival in a new program location and will be grouped together in pods in accordance with protocols.

CIEE COVID-19 Response Protocol

What is the difference between quarantine and isolation?

  • Quarantine is used to keep someone who might have been exposed to Covid-19 away from others. Quarantine helps prevent spread of disease that can occur before a person knows they are sick or if they are infected with the virus without feeling symptoms. People in quarantine must stay home, separate themselves from others, monitor their health, and follow directions from their state or local health department.
  • Isolation is used to separate people infected with the virus (those who are sick with Covid-19 as well as those with no symptoms) from people who are not infected. People who are in isolation must stay home until it’s safe for them to be around others. In the home, anyone sick or infected must separate themselves from others by staying in a specific “sick room” or area and using a separate bathroom (if available).1
Quarantine and Isolation
  • Arrival –Staff will assist students with the logistics of receiving three meals daily such as food delivery service contact information, mobile applications, confirming that food was delivered and assisting where necessary daily during the full period.
  • Direct Exposure – If a student is known to have been in close contact with an infected individual at any time during the program, they must quarantine for 7-10 days. The timeframe of quarantine may vary based on scientific knowledge gained by the time programming commences, local laws, and whether testing is available for the exposed person on days 5-7 of quarantine. They may leave quarantine following 10 days of being symptom free the entire time, or on day 7 following a negative test taken between day 5-7, with no symptoms.
  • Symptomatic – If a student or staff member has the symptoms of Covid-19, they must immediately self-isolate in their room or at home for a period of 10 days from the day first symptoms appeared. They may only leave isolation following being symptom free for 24 hours on Day 10. Immediate communication to relevant center staff is essential.
  • Covid-19 Positive – If a student tests positive for Covid-19, they must immediately self-isolate in their room or at homestay for at least 10 days following the test result. Students may leave isolation after 10 days AND being symptom free for 24 hours. The student must also assist staff in contact tracing to identify any other possible close contact exposures for quarantine/isolation and testing.


Additional CIEE Resouces

Program Assurance Advantage - Peace of mind as you plan your study abroad adventure, should a health, safety, or security concern cause CIEE to cancel or suspend your program.

Additional External References and Resources


1 U.S. CDC 
2 ScienceNews, 31 March 2021
3 U.S. CDC