Legal Considerations

Students who find their own internships abroad independently or through student organizations on campus—as well as the faculty who work with them—are often unaware of the campus requirements for international experiences. Sometimes students reach out directly to faculty to supervise credit, so it is important to know about the legal and risk management issues associated with working with students who are abroad. If you advise or work with a student planning to go overseas but not through our program, please be aware of the considerations below.

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Only the Chancellor and a small group of designated representatives have contract signing authority on behalf of the university. Therefore, you MAY NOT sign a student’s internship agreement with an external organization unless one of these representatives has signed as well. Our office can help facilitate this, or you can work directly with Legal Services and the Risk Management Office. Faculty or staff who execute agreements without delegated contract signing authority are not considered to be acting within the scope of their employment, and as such, may not receive the legal protections provided to state employees under Wisconsin law, and therefore risk personal liability for the contents of the agreement.


If enrolled for credit or in any overseas activity affiliated with/arranged by a UW entity, students MUST have CISI health and travel insurance for the duration of their time abroad. IIP can advise all continuing undergraduate students not enrolled for credit, but planning on going abroad on how to obtain this insurance. (It is included for students enrolled in our credit-bearing Worldwide Internship Program option.)


The UW System mandates that safety advising and emergency response must be provided to UW students who are overseas and enrolled for credit; see Administrative Policy 145 for details, including liability waiver requirements. If you agree to have a student who is overseas enrolled in a course with you (e.g. directed study, distance education), who is not under the guise of an official study abroad office, you assume this responsibility. If this is not something you are prepared to do, please contact us about having the student participate in an official program. If our current opportunities do not meet your needs, we are happy to work with you to customize programs for you which also address the legal requirements.


Having the appropriate visa is imperative, whether enrolling for credit or not. It is a student’s responsibility to obtain the right visa for the experience, and IIP will help advise students in this process. If you are working with a student who you know is going overseas, please have them consult the appropriate embassy/consulate and work with our office. We don’t want the repeat of some horror stories we’ve heard, where students are turned around and put back on a plane upon landing (as was the case for two SoHE students trying to enter the UK on tourist visas for summer internships), or even worse – held by police in-country for having an inappropriate visa.


Depending on the student’s destination, there may be additional considerations such as applying for a waiver for travel to a location with a Travel Warning from the U.S. Department of State. Please refer to the UW-Madison International Travel website for additional information and resources for travel safety.