UW updates research and international travel guidelines


For the majority of the COVID-19 pandemic, international travel for academic purposes at the University of Waterloo has been prohibited, but not anymore. As of Jan. 12, UW has lifted its international travel restrictions. Students are now permitted to travel outside Canada for research, work terms, study and co-curricular activities. 

The eligibility for international travel, however, is not the same as it was pre-pandemic. Students who want to travel must be fully vaccinated and must meet UW’s travel safety requirements. As stated on the UW website, these requirements include “obtaining approval, registering travel, and completing pre-departure and travel risk mitigation activities.” These new conditions enable UW to carry on with international travel.  

The approval process for international travel is also different compared to what it was before the pandemic. Currently, the government of Canada requires proof of vaccination to travel within and outside the country. 

 Provided that students are vaccinated, they can proceed to the next step of approval. UW has divided the approval system into two categories, depending on the country the student is travelling to. Students travelling to countries classified as Level 1 (Exercise normal security precautions) or Level 2 (Exercise a high degree of caution) on the government of Canada’s travel advisories must receive authorization from their respective Approving Authority and must fill out the International Travel Approval Form.

Conversely, students travelling to countries classified as Level 3 (Avoid all non-essential travel), or Level 4 (Avoid all travel), on the travel advisory are required to fill in the approval process for high-risk travel, which can be found on the UW website. Students are advised against travelling to these locations but may request an exemption in unique or urgent circumstances. 

Currently, all countries are either listed as Level 3 or Level 4 in the travel advisory. Therefore, anyone interested in international travel must complete the approval process for high-risk travel. It is still encouraged to only travel if absolutely necessary. 

Although international travel is making its return, in-person research involving vulnerable populations is still on hold at least until Feb. 7, 2022. For any exceptions, the Office of Research is to be contacted at researchqueries@uwaterloo.ca.

Other principal investigators are strongly advised to pause their in-person participant research until Jan 27, 2022. If the research is to be conducted, it is recommended that they review their protocols and ensure a safe environment for themselves and their participants.

Researchers must stay patient for more flexible international travel possibilities, which will depend on the rate of COVID-19 infections.