Academic study and work will often take you overseas. But it’s important to remember that the risks may be different for you while travelling.
Before you go
It's your responsibility to understand the risks of travel and plan for your safety.
- Read the travel advice for the destinations you plan to visit. Subscribe for updates.
- Understand the risks you might face.
- Find out what visas, permits and credentials you may need.
- Think about your cyber security and the potential for foreign interference.
Risks to consider
Read the travel advice for your destination thoroughly. If the advice level is 4, we advise against all travel. If the advice level is 3, our advice is that you reconsider your need to travel. If despite our advice you travel to a higher-risk destination, we recommend you take extra precautions.
Conduct a risk assessment of your destination in consultation with your local contacts, your institution, and its security advisers. It's important to understand the risks you might face and have a plan if things go wrong.
When assessing your destination, carefully consider:
- the cultural or political sensitivity of what you’re doing. Think about how your area of research or academic specialisation could be viewed by the local government or people of the destination you're visiting. Particularly if the topic is potentially controversial in the local context, including both international and local issues.
- your public-facing online content or commentary. If you've been outspoken against the government or politics of the destination you're travelling to, it may increase the risk to your personal security or the risk of you being arrested or detained.
- your previous travel or links to third countries that may be a source of suspicion for the authorities in your destination.
- the local attitude towards academics and academic freedom. The Scholars at Risk Network provides information on destinations where academics may be targeted.
- local laws and culture. Understand what laws may affect where you can go, what you can say, and who you can talk to. Also be aware of laws and attitudes towards women, LGBTI and people of a specific ethnic or cultural background.
- the political and security situation. Political and social unrest can increase the risk of arrest or detention if you're in the wrong place at the wrong time.
- the risk of
- arbitrary arrest or detention
- espionage and cyber crime
- dual nationality. If you’re a dual national this can impact how and when we can help you overseas. If you’re in your other country of citizenship, the government there may restrict what consular services we can provide.
- any health risks you might face.
Be sensitive to any risks you may create for locals when you ask them to participate in interviews, surveys or other research activities.
Local authorities have detained travelling academics, including Australians, under false accusation of serious crimes. Seriously consider the risks you face.
Visas, permits and credentials
Research entry rules and apply for the correct visas. You may need a specific visa if you're travelling to take part in research or teach as a visiting academic.
Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. We can’t pay your fines or stop you from being deported if you don’t have the right visa or breach your visa conditions.
If you bring equipment or samples, you may need a special permit. If you don't have the correct paperwork, they could be taken from you at the border.
Be careful what equipment you take into the field. Some devices may be considered suspicious or banned outright by local authorities. Ensure you get any permits you need for the equipment and always keep them with you. Also carry evidence of your research activity and the equipment’s purpose.
The information you have access to is a valuable commodity. Travelling businesspeople and academics are key targets for cybercrime and espionage. It's important to consider
- the information you're responsible for
- your online footprint and the information about you available to others
- the potential motivation of anyone who goes out of their way to connect with you.
Assume that your devices will be scrutinised when crossing international borders. Information found on personal devices during a police search has been used against Australian travellers in the past, including personal emails and search history.
Before you travel
- Do a stocktake of your public online presence, including social media. Lock down accounts or remove anything that may compromise your safety while overseas.
- Audit information stored on devices you're taking with you, including personal documents and photos. Save anything you don't need to take on a different device and leave it at home. Consider setting up new email accounts for your trip or backing up and deleting your email history.
While you're away
- Avoid accessing your accounts on a public computer, for example, at an internet café or library. Don't use free public wifi.
- Use your own charging cables and plugs.
- Use a data blocker when charging your device.
- Be careful who you connect with on social media.
- Log out of your accounts after you use them.
- If legal in your destination, use encrypted messaging apps to communicate. Look for apps that offer end-to-end encryption.
- Don't leave your devices unattended, including charging cables. Even in hotel safes.
- Regularly back up data on your devices to an encrypted hard drive or cloud service. Clear sensitive information off your devices after backing up.
Read our full advice on cyber security while travelling.
- Understand how the Australian Government can help you overseas. Read the Consular Services Charter.
- Know what to do if you’re arrested overseas.
- Read our advice on preventing kidnapping.
- Learn about protecting your health while travelling.