An activity is deemed "high risk" if it involves risks that cannot be minimized by strategic planning. There are strict requirements for travelling to high risk destinations for University-sponsored activities. Students, faculty and staff should read this page carefully to understand their responsibilities.


What is high risk? Categories/levels of risk
What is extreme risk? Activities in countries which should be avoided
Requesting permission Work with your supervisor, your department and the SAO to ensure that all the necessary steps are met

What is high risk?

An activity is deemed high risk if it entails high levels of risk that cannot be minimized by strategic planning. Indicators of high risk include locations where participants would have limited or no access to health care resources and access to communications devices as well as regions or countries where DFATD recommends that persons avoid non-essential travel (Level 3).

As a publically funded institution, the University of Toronto refers to The Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) to assess the risks associated with a particular country. DFATD country advisories put a country or region into one of four categories or levels:

  • Level 1 – Exercise normal security precautions
  • Level 2 – Exercise a high degree of caution
  • Level 3 – Avoid non-essential travel
  • Level 4 – Avoid all travel

Activity Sponsor responsibilities

In addition to the general responsibilities articulated in the Safety Abroad Guidelines, if a risk is deemed high, Activity Sponsors must:

  1. NOT permit undergraduate students to participate unless exceptional circumstances exist. (When exceptional circumstances do exist, the activity must be approved by the Dean.)
  2. Permit graduate students to travel only if they have demonstrated a familiarity with the region and the activity is familiar to their academic pursuits.
  3. Review any safety concerns with Safety Abroad Office.
  4. Forward Safety Planning Record to Department or Division Head.

What is extreme risk?

An activity is deemed extreme risk if there is substantial risk to participants, which strategic planning cannot minimize.  Such activity would include countries or regions that Foreign Affairs have advised persons to avoid all travel (Level 4).

In addition to the responsibilities above, if a risk is deemed extreme, Activity Sponsors must:

  1. Permit travel only in exceptional circumstances where the work must be conducted in that place and at that point in time AND the output is critical to the person’s academic success;
  2. Develop a communication and emergency plan with participants;
  3. Consult with DFATD, high commission and/or consulate and host institution (if applicable);
  4. Have extreme risk activities reviewed and approved by the Division Head in consultation with the Office of the Vice-President and Provost.

Activity-specific risks

In addition to risks associated to travel destination, Activity Sponsors should consider specific risks associated with the activity in question. Activity Sponsors should consult with the Office of Environmental Health and Safety when evaluating risks associated with work being done (e.g. field research).

Requesting permission

If you are a graduate student interested in travelling to a level 3 or 4 country or region, we encourage you to work closely with your supervisor, your department and the SAO to ensure that all the necessary steps are met.  

The approval process for high risk travel is not taken lightly and timelines for approval vary. As such, you should consider alternative travel plans while your case is being stated and reviewed.

For more information about high risk travel, please contact the CIE.