Is Cornell preventing students from leaving Ithaca during the pandemic?

Date: March 2020


Dear Deans:

I am an international graduate student who would like to go to my home country for the spring and summer. I am able to continue my research remotely as I’m in the dissertation phase of my studies. I want to confirm that Cornell is not preventing students from leaving Ithaca, assuming that I can make travel arrangements to my home country. Is that correct?

Obviously things are evolving by the day, including different nations restricting travel and I wouldn’t take any action that would jeopardize others in this climate. At the moment I am staying in Ithaca for now, but would like to know whether Cornell graduate school has any restrictions as I develop travel plans. Thanks!


Homesick Student


Dear Homesick,

Cornell has no restrictions on students’ leaving Ithaca; however travel restrictions have tightened worldwide and are changing daily.

While we encourage students to relocate wherever they are most comfortable and supported, we are advising students that their return travel to the United States may be difficult, especially if the University resumes normal operations before borders are fully open. We are also anticipating long backlogs at consulates and embassies so it may be slow to get visas.

There is another potentially significant consideration.  Although there will be no suspension in spring semester assistantship stipends it seems unlikely that the University will be able to appoint students on summer or fall assistantships if they are outside the US.  We’ve been working on this, and there are some challenging laws and regulations that may make this impractical.  As you consider your options you should be aware that this is an unresolved issue that presents a risk if you plan to be supported on an assistantship (TA, GRA, RA, or GA) in the summer or fall.

Students supported on fellowships are generally not required to be in the US, so the above restriction only applies to assistantship support.

I hope this information is helpful as you make decisions in consultation with your committee and field. Please let me know if you have more questions.



Jason Kahabka
Associate Dean for Administration