What is International SOS (ISOS)?

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Columbia University has adopted International SOS (ISOS) as the 24/7 emergency assistance provider for individuals on Columbia Travel. Their worldwide helpdesks can assist with urgent medical issues, security and logistical questions, medical advice, or other concerns and situations that may arise. ISOS can be contacted by phone, online, or using the ISOS app (available in your mobile phone's app store). You can view the ISOS Assistance App 6.0 on the ISOS website

International SOS also partners with Aetna to provide health insurance for Columbia affiliates on official international Columbia-related Travel. 

The University uses the ISOS Global Risk Ratings to fulfill the International Travel Planning Policy (ITPP) pre-departure travel requirements, such as pre-travel itinerary review and trip registration.

The Global Risk Ratings are intended to provide travelers with safety, security, and health advice for their destination(s). Travelers should visit the ISOS Global Risk Ratings to determine the highest level of risk of their proposed location. (Location can refer to country, city, or region.)

University policy requires students traveling to locations defined as Medium, High, and Extreme Risk to have their itinerary reviewed by ISOS. While this is required for Students, Officers or Administration and Support Staff, it is highly recommended for faculty.

Additionally, students and employees traveling with students (Officers of Instruction, Officers of Research, Officers of the Libraries, Postdoctoral Fellows/Scholars) are required to register their trip(s) in ISOS MyTrips. This registration provides the university with the traveler’s trip details and allows our office to assist in an emergency. Again, this is not required for faculty, but you are strongly encouraged to register your trip.

International SOS offers a training hub for those preparing to go abroad. Courses range in topics such as Food and Water Safety, Hotel Safety, Petty Crime, and more. 

To visit the ISOS Training Hub, please click here

Upon course completion, users have the option of printing a completion certificate. 

For more information regarding the ISOS Training Hub, please read the ISOS Training Hub Learner Guide

Columbia University's agreement with ISOS provides a number of resources and services, including online, medical, travel, security and enhanced emotional support. 

Online Resources

  • Communications portal
  • Emailed health, safety, and security reports
  • Emergency records
  • Country briefs
  • Global Risk Ratings 

Medical Assistance

  • Arrangements and Payment for medical evacuations and repatriations
  • Emergency & routine medical advice
  • Travel Health Information
  • Medical & Dental referrals
  • Out-patient case management
  • Dispatch of Medication & Medical Supplies*
  • Medical Monitoring
  • Guarantee of Medical Expenses*
  • Access to International SOS Clinics*

*ISOS is NOT health insurance

Travel Assistance 

  • Emergency message transmission
  • Emergency translation & interpreter services
  • Lost document advice & assistance
  • Emergency cash advance*

Security Assistance 

  • Arrangements and payment of evacuations 
  • Legal referrals
  • 24 hour access to SOS Security Specialists
  • Real time security and safety information
  • Access to Security Crisis Center

Enhanced Emotional Support

  • Connect with counseling services through ISOS
  • Chat capabilities in place of a phone call
  • Up to 5 sessions per person, per trip via telephone, teleconference or in-person (depending on location)
  • Assistance with locating a provider who speaks the traveler's preferred language and who has a high standard of care
  • Can connect the traveler with Columbia's Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS), or CUIMC Student Health Service's Mental Health Services (MHS), for continuity of care. 


You can review additional, detailed information regarding ISOS service benefits on the ISOS Membership E-Guide.  

For more information, visit the Columbia ISOS Global Assistance Program page.

Faculty and Staff

Columbia faculty and staff have a few different options for Emergency Travel Assistance:

For Columbia Travel, all faculty and staff should use ISOS.  

For Personal Travel, most faculty and staff should use Cigna Secure Travel. If you are a J-1 Visa holder, however, you should use United Healthcare Global.

Note that for eligible staff, Cigna Secure Travel and American International Group (AIG) is available to benefits-eligible employees who are covered under Columbia University’s Term Life Insurance through Cigna. If the employee's life insurance coverage is provided by their union, these benefits do not apply. Please visit the Human Resources page regarding Officers - Emergency Travel Assistance to learn more.

For more information, visit the Columbia ISOS Global Assistance Program page.

If you need an ISOS wallet card, please send an email with your mailing address to globaltravel@columbia.edu or you can download one here.