NAFSA Guidelines for Safety Abroad

The Association of International Educators has composed safety guidelines for program providers, participants, and the families of participants.


If you are working with a program, it is the sponsor's responsibility to:

  • Conduct periodic assessments of health and safety conditions for the chosen program, and develop and maintain emergency processes and a crisis response plan.
  • Provide health and safety information for prospective participants so that they and their parents / guardians / families can make informed decisions concerning preparation, participation and behavior while on the program.
  • Provide clear information concerning aspects of home campus services and conditions that cannot be replicated at overseas locations.
  • Provide orientation to participants prior to the program and as needed on site, which includes information on safety, health, legal, environmental, political, cultural, and religious conditions in the host country, dealing with health and safety issues, potential health and safety risks, and appropriate emergency response measures.
  • Consider health and safety issues in evaluating the appropriateness of an individual's participation in a study abroad program.
  • Either provide appropriate health and travel accident (emergency evacuation, repatriation) insurance to participants, or provide information about how to obtain appropriate coverage. Require participants to show evidence of appropriate coverage.
  • Conduct appropriate inquiry regarding the potential health and safety risks of the local environment of the program, including program-sponsored accommodation, events, excursions and other activities, on an ongoing basis and provide information and assistance to participants and their parents / guardians / families as needed.
  • Conduct appropriate inquiry regarding available medical and professional services; provide information for participants and their parents /guardians / families; and help participants obtain the services they may need.
  • Provide appropriate and ongoing health and safety training for program directors and staff, including guidelines with respect to intervention and referral, and working within the limitations of their own competencies.
  • Communicate applicable codes of conduct and the consequences of noncompliance to participants. Take appropriate action when aware that participants are in violation.
  • Obtain current and reliable information concerning health and safety risks, and provide that information to program administrators and participants.
  • In cases of serious health problems, injury, or other significant health and safety circumstances, maintain good communication among all program sponsors and others who need to know.
  • In the participant screening process, consider factors, such as disciplinary history, that may impact on the safety of the individual or the group.
  • Provide information for participants and their parents / guardians / families regarding when and where the sponsor's responsibility ends, and the range of aspects of participants' overseas experiences that are beyond the sponsor's control.

In particular, program sponsors generally:

  • Cannot guarantee or assure the safety of participants or eliminate all risks from the study abroad environments.
  • Cannot monitor or control all of the daily personal decisions, choices, and activities of individual participants.
  • Cannot prevent participants from engaging in illegal, dangerous or unwise activities.
  • Cannot assure that U.S. standards of due process apply in overseas legal proceedings or provide or pay for legal representation for participants.
  • Cannot assume responsibility for the actions of persons not employed or otherwise engaged by the program sponsor, for events that are not part of the program, or that are beyond the control of the sponsor and its subcontractors, or for situations that may arise due to the failure of a participant to disclose pertinent information.
  • Cannot assure that home-country cultural values and norms will apply in the host country.

It is your responsibility, as a participant, to:

  • Read and carefully consider all materials issued by the sponsor that relate to safety, health, legal, environmental, political, cultural, and religious conditions in host countries.
  • Consider your health and other personal circumstances when choosing to go abroad.
  • Make available to the sponsor accurate and complete physical and mental health information and any other personal data that is necessary in planning for a safe and healthy international experience.
  • Assume responsibility for all the elements necessary for their personal preparation for the program and participate fully in orientations.
  • Obtain and maintain appropriate insurance coverage and abide by any conditions imposed by the carriers.
  • Inform parents / guardians / families, and any others who may need to know, about your participation in the work abroad program, provide them with emergency contact information, and keep them informed on an ongoing basis.
  • Understand and comply with the terms of participation, codes of conduct, and emergency procedures of the program, and obey host-country laws.
  • Be aware of local conditions and customs that may present health or safety risks when making daily choices and decisions. Promptly express any health or safety concerns to the appropriate individuals.
  • Behave in a manner that is respectful of the rights and well-being of others, and encourage others to behave in a similar manner.
  • Accept responsibility for their own decisions and actions.
  • Become familiar with the procedures for obtaining emergency health and law enforcement services in the host country.
  • Follow the program policies for keeping program staff informed of your whereabouts and well-being.