Within this single learning module, it is not possible to explore all the potential logistical problems that could occur prior to or during a visit, nor all potential solutions. But you will find some of the most important logistical considerations for non-U.S. visits outlined here.
A. Important Notes and Advisories
When planning for the visit, it is always advisable to ask, “What if?” and to have a conceptual Plan B available. Proper planning can reduce a stressful situation to an enjoyable diversion.
You are strongly encouraged to use ABET’s travel agency to book international flights (unless the flight arrangements are made by the institution). The agency can help you understand potential flight delays and connection problems and is available to assist when those delays and problems occur. Frequent flier mileage requests can be accommodated. However, you must be willing to fly on airlines for which no frequent flier miles or points are available. ABET allows business class accommodations, under conditions stated in the Travel Policy and Procedure Manual (TPPM), Section C. Volunteers or staff traveling on ABET business shall purchase coach/economy non-refundable tickets except where business class is indicated. Business class (non-refundable) is indicated on the international flights that are greater than eight hours in total (layovers included), or one international leg alone is greater than six hours.
ABET’s travel agent is American Express Travel. To access these services online please log in to the MyABET travel page.
Please be aware that today’s world political climate may impose some travel restrictions at the last minute. For example, as of this writing (spring 2017) laptop and tablet computers have been banned as carry-on items on flights from several Middle Eastern airports to the United States (although they can be put in checked luggage). ABET and American Express Travel can provide you with the latest travel restrictions and how best to work around them.
Please make good use of the the applicable checklist to help you manage your travel and visit logistics. This checklist contains important reminders and useful links and resources.
B. Travel Waiver and Release Agreement
All volunteers traveling to any country outside the U.S. as a member of an ABET visit team or on other ABET business are required to execute the Travel Waiver and Release Agreement prior to initiating such travel. It is important that each volunteer read, understand, and sign the agreement before commencing travel arrangements.
Log in to access the Travel Waiver and Release Agreement as well as medical and insurance information, country reports and other important information for international travel.
Program Evaluators on teams on visits outside the U.S. must send the completed agreement to the Team Chair to receive approval to make travel arrangements. Team Chairs must send the team’s completed agreements to ABET HQ (e-mail as a scanned document to the accreditation department) prior to making any travel arrangements. Please follow the instructions stipulated in ABET’s Travel Policy and Procedures Manual (TPPM) when making travel arrangements. ABET will provide clearance to ABET’s travel agency for those who have turned in a signed Travel Waiver and Release Agreement to make appropriate travel reservations.
C. Passports and Visas
You will need a passport to exit and re-enter the United States. If you do not have a passport, please read the passport information page on the U.S. Department of State website.
The costs for pictures and for obtaining or renewing a passport are your responsibility and will not be reimbursed by either ABET or the institution being visited.
Along with your passport, visas may be required to enter and exit certain countries. Log in to read the country reports for additional information. The availability of visas and their costs can be obtained by contacting the country’s consulate office in the United States.
Typically, a tourism visa should be obtained; not a business visa with the exception for some countries (i.e. Saudi Arabia, China, or Russian Federation) where a business or government type of visa is required. In this situation, ABET recommends that the Team Chair (TC) request the institution to provide necessary assistance in facilitating the team’s visa applications.
ABET now partners with VisaHQ to provide visa expediting services to ABET volunteers and staff members. Log in for instructions regarding how to contact VisaHQ and/or place a visa order by using the ABET account.
While ABET VisaHQ will try to provide you with information/assistance with visas, it is your responsibility to file the applicable visa application and obtain the required visa prior to embarking on the trip. ABET will not obtain the visa for you. Check with the Team Chair prior to making arrangements to obtain a visa, as the institution may be able to assist the team with obtaining visas. Do this as soon as possible to avoid any delays or issues with obtaining the visa. ABET will reimburse the cost to obtain a visa for a particular visit trip.
Special Note: You should not accept a non-U.S. assignment without having a current, valid passport.
PEVs and TCs who already have passports should check the passport expiration date before accepting an assignment on a visit outside the U.S. Some countries require that passports remain valid for a certain period of time, e.g., at least six months beyond the date of entry. Early renewal of a passport is possible in such cases.
Also note that additional restrictions apply for visiting certain countries. For example, some countries in the Middle East restrict visitors who have a stamp from Israel in the passport. Many countries also require a minimum number of blank pages in the passport.
D. Hotel Accommodations and Transportation
On U.S. visits, the Team Chair arranges for transportation between the hotel and the institution. For visits outside the U.S., however, the Team Chair should request that the institution arrange for transportation. Use of rental vehicles or taxis is strongly discouraged.
As with U.S. visits, it is intended that the review team stay at the same hotel. To reduce travel time to and from the hotel, the Team Chair will ask the institution being visited to suggest a hotel nearby. The institution may make hotel reservations for each member of the team and may have the room costs directly billed to the institution.
All institutions outside the U.S. will be invoiced for reimbursement of actual travel expenses generated by the review team. Please keep in mind that institutions often request a copy of the original receipts and/or itemized expenses. Also, it is typically more cost effective (without currency exchange fees or credit card transaction fees) for the visit institution to directly pay for expenses (i.e. meals, ground transportation, hotel, etc.) relevant to accreditation review that are incurred inside the visit institution’s country.
In some cases, rather than having reservations made by the institution, the Team Chair and PEV will make individual hotel reservations using their own credit cards. When this occurs, you are responsible for payment for hotel accommodations. ABET will reimburse the individual team member for those expenses. Check with the Team Chair prior to making any hotel arrangements
Where available, it is acceptable for the individual team member to acquire frequent stay points from the hotel. However, no special arrangements or accommodations at a second hotel will be made to benefit any individual with frequent stay points. Although most accommodations will be similar to those found in the United States, team members should be prepared for and not complain about accommodations of lesser quality.
E. Travel Warnings
ABET recognizes, as you should, that in today’s world there are certain risks associated with travel outside the United States. Although you are requested to serve as a volunteer on behalf of ABET, the decision to accept an assignment involving travel to any foreign country, including those on the travel warning list, is solely yours. Please log in to read the ABET International Travel Policy in the Travel Information section.
ABET protects traveling personnel by partnering with Global Rescue, the premier provider of medical, security, advisory and evacuation services worldwide. The life-saving value of these services cannot be overstated.
If you become ill or injured while traveling and require inpatient hospitalization, Global Rescue will come get you by any means necessary and evacuate you to your home country hospital of choice. Their Field Rescue teams deploy worldwide to the most remote regions, regularly saving lives. Global Rescue’s security services ensure that if you are trapped in a security situation, their teams of special operations veterans will extract you and bring you to safety.
ABET personnel are protected with the following services:
- Evacuation from the point of illness or injury to the home country hospital of your choice
- Advisory services for security emergencies and natural disasters
- Deployable medical and Field Rescue teams
- 24/7 operations center staffed by critical-care trained paramedics, doctors and special operations veterans
- Medical consultation by Johns Hopkins Medicine physicians and specialists
The health and well being of ABET travelers is of the highest concern. The partnership with Global Rescue ensures that all traveling members are protected with the finest emergency medical, security, advisory and evacuation services. For more information please visit www.globalrescue.com.
|Special Note: ABET protects its volunteers and staff traveling outside the U.S. by providing coverage for travel accident and medical insurance as well as emergency medical, security, and evacuation services. Due to logistical challenges for visits outside the U.S. and security concerns regarding potential emergencies which could occur during international travel, ABET does not support spouses, family members, or significant others accompanying ABET volunteers on visits outside the U.S.
For urgent situations during international travel and on-site reviews, please contact Joe Sussman at (410) 347-7733 or (443) 255-5839/ email@example.com, Jane Emmet at (410) 347-7736/ firstname.lastname@example.org, Sherri Hersh at (410) 843-7169/ email@example.com, or Jessica Silwick at (410) firstname.lastname@example.org at ABET headquarters. E-mails should be sent to all listed staff.
If you cannot reach any ABET headquarters staff during an urgent situation or if anyone on the team is facing life threatening conditions, please call Global Rescue directly at (617) 459-4200 (collect calls are accepted).
To ensure an efficient response and reduce redundant/confusing communications, the ABET team chair or the designated backup Team Chair should be the primary team contact for any emergency or non-emergency at all times.
To ensure coverage by the ABET international travel accident insurance plan, PEVs must return the signed Travel Waiver and Release Agreement to ABET HQ prior to traveling to the institution outside the U.S.
PEVs should also read the Travel Accident and Excess Medical Plan information as well as print the Euro Assistance information card and carry it on their person at all times during travel and visit. The ABET Euro Assistance insurance ONLY covers emergency medical care; it does not cover pre-existing conditions.
Log in and click on Travel & Reimbursement to find the Travel Waiver and Release Agreement and the Euro Assistance information card.
In addition, PEVs need to assess their own health condition and the relative safety of travel to the visit country before accepting any non-U.S. assignment. As access to health care may be very different from that in the U.S., visit team members should check with their own physician prior to travel regarding any pre-existing conditions, obtain copies of prescriptions and medical history, and discuss contingency plans should the condition worsen during travel.
Information on health risks within various countries and the need for vaccinations or other medications can be found on the U.S. State Department website. The decisions to accept a visit assignment to a country with health risks and to obtain or not obtain vaccinations are yours. ABET will reimburse for medications or vaccinations required for travel to a given country or region.
G. Cash and Credit Cards
Credit cards may not be as widely accepted in some countries as they are in the U.S. The Team Chair should research this and provide information to the visit team in advance. If cash is required for entry or exit to the country in the country’s currency, it is recommended that it be obtained through your local banking institution prior to leaving home as the exchange fees are often higher at currency exchange centers at the airport. Be sure to check with the bank in advance as it may take several days to obtain the currency. ABET will reimburse exchange fees.
Also, notify the banks or financial institutions of all credit cards that you plan to carry with you of the dates and locations of travel. Otherwise, they may think that any charges to your card are fraudulent and put a hold on the card, leaving you unable to use it during your travels. There have been multiple cases of team members who have not cleared use of their credit cards in a foreign country prior to traveling, and as a result have not been able to use their credit cards during the visit.
H. U.S. State Department Resources
To assist U.S. citizens’ travel abroad, the U.S. Department of State maintains information about travel to other countries. The Office of American Citizen Services (ACS) issues Travel Alerts, Travel Warnings, Consular Information Sheets, and Country Background Notes.
- Travel Alerts are issued for short-term events that have the potential to disrupt travel to a country. These could include local elections with a high chance of protesting, health alerts like an Ebola outbreak, or evidence of an increased risk of terrorist attacks. When these short-term events are over, the Travel Alert is canceled.
- Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department recommends that U.S. citizens avoid a certain country. Travel Warnings are for general travel by U.S. citizens. Typically, a country is placed on the Travel Warnings list when there is a terrorism, kidnapping, or criminality risk to U.S. citizens within the country. Travel Warnings are reviewed periodically. Because of economic loss due to reduced tourism, each country on the Travel Warnings list provides as much pressure as it can to get removed from the list.
- There is a Desk Officer for each country in Washington, DC. He or she is the one person most knowledgeable about that particular country and can provide more and better information about the risks of travel to that country. Because Travel Warnings are for the general traveler, it is possible that certain areas within the country have more risk for a U.S. citizen than others. The Desk Officer can provide that type of information. ABET staff will contact the Desk Officer to learn about the country to be visited and share that information with team members.
- Within each embassy, the U.S. has a “Duty Officer” who is available 24/7 to assist U.S. citizens within the country. The embassy information and how to contact the duty officer shall be printed out from the website and kept by each ABET team member throughout the visit. Air ambulance can be acquired through the Duty Officer. The Duty Officer also has names of doctors, hospitals, and attorneys, should they be necessary. Charges for air ambulance, doctors, hospitals, attorneys, and other such services are the responsibility of the individual user. They are not reimbursable by either ABET or the visiting institution. Medical and evacuation insurance are available from a number of vendors.
Special Note: It is reasonably possible for team members to experience travel delays or for checked luggage to be delayed or lost. Contingencies for those potential occurrences should be considered, including adding a day of rest onto the front end of the visit, which could also aid in overcoming jet lag. When checking luggage with the airline, it is also advisable to include a change of clothing along with other necessities, such as prescription medications, in a carry-on bag. All visit team members should carry emergency contact information for the Team Chair, other team members, the institutional contact, and the US embassy on their person at all times.
Note: Due to security concerns regarding potential emergencies which could occur during an ABET team’s on-site review or international travel, ABET does not support spouses, family members, or significant others accompanying team members on visits outside the U.S. Please bring any issues with this directive to the attention of your team chair. If the issue cannot be resolved by the team chair, the Senior Director for Accreditation Operations must be made aware of the problem immediately so that timely decisions/actions can be made or taken as necessary.
I. Campus Logistics
Schedule of Visit
The schedule for an accreditation review in another country usually differs from the normal Sunday through Tuesday schedule of a U.S. review visit. The actual length of the visit and what will occur each day will be determined by the Team Chair in consultation with the institution. Normal variations include an additional day of rest from the flight before the actual review begins and an extra half or full day to conduct the review. After pre-visit reviews of information, you should discuss specific time requirements anticipated to conduct the individual program review. Team members are expected to participate in all team meetings and activities.
In scheduling the visit, the Team Chair and institution must consider the school calendar, including the affect of southern hemisphere locations; holidays; and significant political, religious, or sporting events within the country. Additionally, the normal work week in many countries varies, e.g., Sunday through Thursday is typical in most Middle Eastern countries, and must be considered for availability of faculty and students during the review visit.
The Team Chair will coordinate with the institution regarding availability of computers and printers for use by the team during the visit. However, team members should expect keyboards to be in the language of the host country, not in English “qwerty” format, and, therefore, very difficult to use. Translation stenographers or typists will not be provided. ABET strongly encourages each team member to bring a laptop computer with appropriate universal power cord attachments to modify the higher voltage electricity outlets of other countries. Check carefully that the equipment that you plan to use will function properly on the electrical power that is used at your visit location, and that you have all needed adaptors to use the available electrical power. A good resource for this is Electricity Around the World.
Paper size will likely be in millimeters, which has never been a problem for previous ABET teams. Although most locations can provide limited access to the Internet, team members must be prepared to conduct the review without internet access.
Use of cell phones or telephone communications to access home or office is allowed. Disruptions to the ABET review business by those communications is not allowed. ABET will reimburse up to $10/day for calls to team members, institution/representatives, restaurants, hotel, cab, and calls home while on the visit.
Although the program is not required to be provided in English, most materials for review by the team are required to be in English. This often requires translation, which may not accurately reflect the actual meaning in the host country language. Team members need to be cognizant of English text in pre-visit materials which appears to be abnormal, relative to what is being described. This could be a potential indicator of inaccurate translation, which requires additional communication between the Program Evaluator and the program. Translation services are not available through ABET, and reliance is placed upon the team to resolve communication issues. Seeing student work in the original language is also frequently beneficial, especially in technical subjects. Some teams have requested that a student or faculty member, fluent in English, be available in the area where course materials are displayed to provide translation for student work in the original language.
The draft and final report will be written in English. Be aware those reports may later require translation by the institution into the host country language. Writers are cautioned against using slang or jargon that may be uncommon outside the United States.
Observers from In-Country Accreditation Agency or Department of Higher Education
It is ABET’s policy to secure permission to review non-U.S. programs from the in-country accreditation agency and/or the in-country governmental authority over higher education. The institution is normally required to provide evidence of those permissions to ABET. During the process of obtaining that permission, it is typical to invite an observer from that agency to participate with the team in the review. All observers must abide by ABET Guidelines for Observer (PDF). These observers can be a valuable asset to the team in translating information and providing understanding of cultural differences.
ABET headquarters will provide information regarding observers from in-country accreditation agencies and/or department of higher education to the Team Chair prior to the visit. Should the institution not approve, the Team Chair should not disclose the institution’s decision to the observer candidate or his/her representing agency. ABET HQ will communicate with the observers’ agency. Once approved, the Team Chair should make sure that the observer submits a signed Observer Confidentiality and Conflict of Interest (COI) Form and understands his/her role before accepting him/her on the team. The Team Chair can then welcome the observer to the team and provide information regarding visit logistics and schedule. Should an observer show up unannounced to the visit, the Team Chair should first make sure that the institution approves and that there are no conflicts of interest. The Team Chair should carry an extra copy of the Guidelines for Observers and Observer Confidentiality and COI Form for such situations. If the institution does not approve, the Team Chair should respectfully decline the participation of the observer in the visit without disclosing the institution’s decision.