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. All participants for CIEE high school and college study abroad, teach abroad, or gap year programs with start dates on or after October 1, 2021, must be fully vaccinated no later than January 1, 2022. Please read our updated policy and FAQS for more information.

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 including KN95 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 available. Participants will be advised to travel with PPE including KN95 masks, thermometers, hand sanitizer etc. Some supplies are available onsite. CIEE's analysis of safety begins with establishing if sufficient health care infrastructure is available for non-Covid emergencies.
  • As of January 1, 2022, all students and staff must provide proof of vaccination on all programs. Government  or local regulations regarding vaccination, testing and quarantine will always supersede CIEE's requirements and it is incumbent on the student to understand mitigation efforts including reading all materials, asking questions (as needed) and attending any onsite meetings e.g. - arrival orientation.
  • 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. COVID-19 vaccines reduce the risk of people spreading COVID-19. Vaccines do not necessarily prevent infections but will greatly reduce the risk of disease and hospitalization. CIEE’s COVID-19 protocols are aimed to reduce the transmission of severe disease within the CIEE and host communities. It is acknowledged that vaccinated people may still get COVID-19 and would need to follow the guidance for those who test positive for COVID-19, regardless of being vaccinated. CIEE requires 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. Please see our Vaccine FAQ section.

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.
Testing is an important component for minimizing risk on programs, in addition to the basic prevention measures listed above.
CIEE’s policy for testing is:
  • CIEE will work with host institutions and local governments on understanding and complying with their testing polices, to include periodic testing for unvaccinated students/staff where appropriate. Students must seek assistance from staff to secure testing if they believe they have symptoms or have been exposed, regardless of vaccination status. Throughout the program, CIEE and host institutions may employ varying testing methods as the accuracy, reliability, and availability of various techniques evolve.
  • All students who have not provided proof of vaccination to site staff will be quarantined upon arrival for 5-7 days.  These students will be tested on Day 5, and subsequently re-tested weekly during the program. A government required test upon arrival does not take the place of the CIEE mandated test on Day 5. CIEE will NOT cover the costs of these tests for unvaccinated students.  These students will be released from quarantine upon receipt of the results of the Day 5 testing (provided it is negative and they remain asymptomatic).
  • 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.
As of December 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 no more than one day before travel as required by the CDC and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The cost of return testing is not covered by CIEE, and participants should be prepared to pay for this out-of-pocket.

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 KN95 face masks or face coverings and be prepared to use them following local regulations. Note: KN95 are considered the only acceptable facemask in many locations.
  • 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.
  • 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

All students will be asked to monitor their health for the 14 days prior to departure. CIEE also requires unvaccinated students to complete COVID-19 testing within 72 hours prior to arrival in country and be prepared to show a negative test result upon arrival onsite. 

CIEE is requiring all students to be fully vaccinated to participate on program. Further, you should expect airline and country immigration officials to require this documentation as well. It is extremely unlikely that religious or medical exemptions will be granted to students entering for the purpose of study abroad. It is important to understand and seek all needed documents several weeks prior to departure.

It should be expected that during one’s program, a student may be asked to produce a recent negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination. As such, it is required that students keep recent negative Covid-19 test results or their U.S. CDC COVID-19 vaccination card (or home country equivalent documentation) with them during the entire course of their travel to program. All countries will require a negative viral test or vaccination card/documentation to be shown to airline personnel or host country’s immigration officials. Without documentation onward transit or entry is not guaranteed and CIEE will be unable to intervene on the student’s behalf. Take special note of any transiting airport(s) which may have differing requirements than their arriving country. It is student’s responsibility to understand those requirements prior to embarkation.

If an incoming unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated student is exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 prior to their arrival, or they have tested positive (even if fully vaccinated), CIEE requires that they complete a 14-day self-quarantine at their home prior to arriving at their CIEE site. If an incoming student is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms (even with a negative COVID-19 test and regardless of vaccination status), CIEE recommends that they complete a 10-day self-quarantine at their home prior to arriving at their CIEE location. The student should be symptom free for 24 hours prior to departure and travel with their negative viral test in transit to their 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 or academic impacts due to a late arrival due to COVID-19 precautions.

Packing List

Students should bring a thermometer, hand sanitizing gel, and their own supply of KN95 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.


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.

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

  • Face Masks – Due to COVID-19 variants we have returned to universal masking indoors. Students, CIEE instructors and staff should wear KN95 facemasks in all enclosed environments and outside where 2m distances cannot be maintained. Local ordinances may require mask use even if outdoors.
  • Independent Travel – International independent travel in 2021/2022 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 possibly self-quarantine on their return if they suspect they may have been in close contact with an infected person/s.
  • Program Excursions – A determination is being made by CIEE HSS and each location if spring 2021 programs will feature overnight excursions. Please contact your CIEE enrollment advisor to learn more.
  • Breaks in Programming – CIEE will work to reduce long weekends and breaks to discourage student travel.

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


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