Travel Guidance

Updated March 3, 2021

As circumstances around the COVID-19 pandemic continue to evolve, UCSF will update its travel guidance in accordance with the latest public health orders. This guidance is effective until further notice.

  • UCSF is restricting all non-essential university-sponsored travel – both domestic and international – and strongly recommends against all non-essential personal travel.
  • Avoid domestic travel outside of California or more than 120 miles from one's residence.
  • Avoid international travel. University-sponsored essential international travel requires an approval process.

See more detailed guidance:



NOTE: Public health authorities have updated their guidance for anyone traveling, moving or returning from outside of California or more than 120 miles from their place of residence. UCSF has updated its travel policy in response. UCSF's travel policy applies to all employees and learners regardless of vaccination status. Travelers should also be aware that local public health authorities may enact quarantine and testing orders in addition to UCSF requirements.

Requirements Upon Return From Travel

Employees returning to UCSF with questions about COVID-19 and high-risk travel or high-risk exposure (close contact with someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, regardless of travel) should call OHS at (415) 514-7328 for further evaluation. Students should send questions to the COVID Nurse at Student Health and Counseling Services (SHCS) via MyHealthRecord. Please call OHS immediately if your COVID-19 test comes back positive.

Individuals may be encouraged or required to quarantine after travel. To quarantine after travel, individuals should remain in their hotel or residence for 10 days, mask and stay 6 feet away from people with whom they did not travel, wash hands frequently, and only go out for essential activities like obtaining food, medical care or individual outdoor exercise. Exceptions that allow travel to and from onsite work at UCSF during the travel quarantine period are described below.


U.S. Travel Outside California or More than 120 Miles from Place of Residence

UCSF employees and learners who live or work in California should avoid non-essential US travel out of state or more than 120 miles from their place of residence, and should undergo post-travel quarantine upon their return, in accordance with guidance from the California Department of Public Health. Regular commuters are exempted.

If you do undertake U.S. travel beyond your place of residence, be aware that some state and local governments require you to test and/or self-quarantine for up to 14 days upon arrival. Also consider the associated risks and ways of protecting yourself while traveling as noted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


International Travel

UCSF strongly recommends against personal international travel as part of a broader effort to limit the transmission of COVID-19 from place to place. For those who travel abroad, please be aware of the following policies that apply when returning to the U.S. and to UCSF after international travel.

Before Returning to the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requires all air passengers entering the United States (including U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents) to present one of the following:

  • A negative COVID-19 test taken 72 hours or less before boarding a flight to the U.S.​; or
  • Proof of recovery from the virus within the last 90 days.

Check the CDC website for additional information and frequently asked questions.

Before Returning to UCSF

Before returning to UCSF after international travel, all faculty, residents, fellows and staff, and students must:

1.  Monitor and record any COVID-19 symptoms for 10 days, beginning on the first day back in the U.S. This includes taking your temperature twice daily, and one of the following:



2.  Employees contact OHS at (415) 514-7328 for a post-travel interview. Students send a secure message to SHCS nursing to initiate an assessment:

  • You may not return to UCSF without a clearance letter or email from OHS
  • A COVID-19 test may be required.

3.  Contact your supervisor or educational program to discuss your return to work/campus.

  • Employees must bring a copy of the clearance letter or email from OHS to your department/unit when you return to work.
  • Students must provide a copy of the SHCS clearance letter to their educational program.

4.  Quarantine at home for 10 days from your return date.

  • Working or learning from home, may be available if approved by your supervisor or educational program, but you are restricted from any UCSF on-site work or educational program activities for 10 days. Students must contact their educational program Dean’s office to arrange remote learning opportunities while quarantining.
  • Exceptions to the 10-day quarantine may be made for clinical, or essential staff, or students (with a required rotation/placement) without symptoms, but these exceptions need OHS or SHCS approval.

5.  Follow testing requirements.

  • On-site workers and students with a required rotation/placement who are unable to quarantine must still complete steps 1-3 and are also required to complete three COVID-19 tests.
    • The first must be completed on Day 1, which is the day you return to UCSF.
    • The second must be completed on Day 3 to 4.
    • The third must be completed on Day 7 to 9.
  • Researchers, and remote workers, and students who are occasionally needed on-site must choose one of the following:
    • A 7-day quarantine with COVID-19 test taken on day 5-7 if required to be on site.
    • A 10-day quarantine. After completing 10-day quarantine, testing is optional but not required. If you do not get a post-travel COVID-19 test, you should limit contact with immunocompromised persons for 14-days.

3-Step Testing Protocol Following International Travel

visualization of international testing protocol


UCSF-Sponsored Essential Travel

Frequent changes to air travel or government restrictions like mandatory quarantines or border closures are beyond UCSF’s control and may affect your ability to return.

International Travel

We are restricting all non-essential university-sponsored international travel to any country.

  • We realize this may affect some researchers who are under contractual obligation to complete projects within a given timeframe. 
  • Requests for approval of essential university-sponsored international travel to any country must follow the approval process outlined below. If you do undertake personal international travel, review travel recommendations by country from the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Department of State prior to departure. Also be aware that in accordance with guidance from the CDC, UCSF requires you to stay home and monitor your health for 10 days upon your return.
  • If you are a health care worker who believes a 10-day quarantine after travel would create an unrealistic staffing burden or, call OHS at (415) 514-7328 to discuss plans before you travel and after you return.

Domestic Travel

We are restricting all non-essential university-sponsored domestic travel.

  • We encourage finding other ways of conducting business, such as videoconferencing.
  • Requests for approval of essential university-sponsored domestic travel must follow the approval process outlined below. If you do undertake such travel, be aware that some state and local governments require you to self-quarantine for up to 14 days upon arrival and return. Also consider the associated risks of domestic travel noted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Anyone who travels more than 120 miles from their place of residence, or outside California, should refer to the guidance above before returning to work.

Approval for Essential Travel

Anyone planning to travel internationally or domestically for university-sponsored purposes must obtain prior approval according to the information in this section.

  • Deans of the Schools and the Graduate Division are responsible for ensuring that students residents, and fellows are aware of this requirement.
  • Department Chairs and Institute/Organized Research Unit directors are responsible for ensuring that their faculties, staff, and postdoctoral scholars are aware of and adhere to this requirement.
  • University leadership may consult with the UCSF Recovery Operations Center (ROC) regarding specific circumstances.

Defining Essential Travel for Faculty and Staff

Defined as travel that is required — and cannot be postponed — in order to preserve the:

  • Safety of a patient or research subject or
  • Results of a research activity.

Essential faculty and staff travel does not include travel to attend educational conferences. Many other activities would also be considered non-essential travel.

  • Faculty and staff approvers: Approval for university-sponsored travel outside the nine Bay Area counties or Fresno area by faculty,  research-project staff (including postdoctoral scholars), and independent contractors may only be provided by the appropriate Dean of the School of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, or Graduate Division, or the Executive Director of the Institute of Global Health Sciences. Research-project staff, including postdoctoral scholars, and independent contractors must have essential approval requests submitted by the UCSF principal investigator or chief administrator of the project.
  • Administrative staff approvers: Approval for university-sponsored travel outside the nine Bay Area counties or Fresno area by administrative staff may only be provided by leadership based on the departments where they are assigned: Chancellor (for staff in the University Development and Alumni Relations, Offices of Communications, Community & Government Relations, Diversity and Outreach, Legal Affairs, Science Policy & Strategy, and Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer); Executive Vice Chancellor & Provost; UCSF Health CEO; or Senior Vice Chancellor Finance & Administration.

Defining Essential Travel for Students, Residents, and Fellows

Defined as travel that is required – and cannot be postponed – in order to:

  • Meet a graduation or completion requirement.
  • Student, resident, and fellows’ approvers: Approval for university-sponsored travel outside the nine Bay Area counties or Fresno area by students, residents, and fellows may only be provided by the Dean of their respective school or the Graduate Division.

Obtaining Approval for Essential Travel

  1. The Requester should complete the Pandemic Travel Approval Request Form. ​If you have not heard about your approval within 10 days after your request, please notify Travis Pentz, and include these details: dates of trip, location of trip, your designation (faculty, staff, student, resident, fellow, or postdoc), and to whom the Travel Request was submitted.
  2. After the Requester clicks Finish, the form will automatically be routed through DocuSign to the appropriate Approver based on how the requestor selected their UCSF affiliation as faculty, staff, fellow, resident or student, and jurisdiction within UCSF. Broader approval may be granted for multiple travel events for an individual traveler in one identified country at the discretion of the Approver and within a clearly defined period of time, and according to the laws and regulations of that country.
  3. The Approver receives and reviews the Request. Based on the travel itinerary and justification, the Approver accepts or does not accept the Request, and signs and dates the form. This documentation is automatically sent via DocuSign to the Recovery Operations Center with copy to the Requester and Approver.
  4. ROC reconciles these requests with the UC Insurance Travel registration list in the case of international travel, and
  5. If travel approved, ROC will contact the Requester to share standard links and a person to contact for travel safety information if needed, and will require email confirmation that the Requester has registered for UCSF travel insurance.
  6. If travel not approved, ROC contacts anyone planning travel without approval to verify travel has been cancelled. If Requester wants to appeal the non-approval of travel, the ROC will send an email with the appeal process.


If You Need Travel Assistance

Many country borders are closing and flights are limited. If you face challenges when attempting to return to the U.S., please read the following guidance:

  • Members of the UCSF community who are currently abroad and intent on returning to the United States are urged to work with their airlines to update travel arrangements. 
  • UCSF travelers who are stranded and cannot get a return flight to the U.S. AND who are traveling on UC-related business (e.g., rotations, research, meetings, consultancies, etc.) can contact United Health Care Global Assistance:
    1-800-527-0218 (US and Canada)
    1-410-453-6330 (Call collect from outside the USA)
    Email: [email protected]
  • UCSF travelers on personal travel or vacation who are US citizens, and who cannot obtain a flight back to the US, should contact American Citizen Services (ACS). Lawful permanent residents (LPRs, or "green card holders") are included in emergency evacuations when there is the capability to do so.
    • ACS may be inundated with a high volume of inquiries from travelers currently impacted by the widespread flight cancelations, so please excuse any delay in response.
    • Rest assured that ACS (globally) is monitoring the situation closely and working on solutions for U.S. citizens abroad.
    • For country-specific information, travelers need to contact the local ACS at the Embassy or Consulate nearest to them. Get Embassy and Consulate information abroad.
  • Non-U.S. Citizens from many countries are not being allowed to enter the U.S. Please check current border restrictions before you attempt to return to the United States.
  • Please be aware that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises you to stay home and monitor your health for at least 10 days after returning from abroad, due to the risk of exposure during transit. See the following section for UCSF-specific requirements on return to work.