Pandemic Travel Guidelines
Summary of Permissible Travel
Frequently Asked Questions
- What constitutes “travel”?
A journey or trip is considered to be “travel” for the purposes of the pandemic travel guidelines if it:
- Involves a journey of any duration outside of the metropolitan statistical area in which a traveler’s usual home is located (for the United States), or outside the first-level administrative division of a non-U.S. country in which a traveler’s usual home is located; and/or,
- Involves any overnight stay outside of a traveler’s usual home, including paying rent for accommodations, even if in the vicinity of one’s usual “home” (the exception being, a student experiencing homelessness who might require rental assistance).
- Does attendance at conferences or courses constitute a critical purpose for travel?
Where international travel is involved, conferences or courses are not automatically considered a critical purpose for travel. Travelers and approvers must apply the “critical purpose” test criteria contained in the pandemic travel guidelines to the circumstances of the conference or course in question.
- Can I plan or book University-sponsored international travel or other international programs not permitted under the current guidelines, if they will take place in spring or summer of 2022?
Although there remains substantial uncertainty regarding the international-travel environment in the first half of 2022, the overall outlook for some destinations is positive, given vaccination rates and other indicators. As such, you may wish to undertake preliminary planning for international travel involving undergraduate groups in spring and summer 2022. In all cases, you should only make travel commitments where there is sufficient flexibility to prevent the loss of funds or other financial penalties if the travel must be canceled up until the date of planned departure.
- Can I arrange and/or fund travel for visitors to come to campus for conferences, events, or other University purposes?
Before hosting any visitor on campus, you should carefully review the current visitor policy to ensure you are complying with its requirements.
If the visit is permitted under that policy, and the visitor’s travel would meet the definition of “University-sanctioned” were they a University affiliate, then the permissible travel guidelines apply to the trip. This is true regardless of whether or not the visitor is normally affiliated with Princeton.
Visitors who are currently students at another institution of higher education or are prospective students at Princeton are subject to the standards for University undergraduate or graduate students, according to their current of prospective status. All other visitors are subject to the standards for faculty or staff, depending on whether the sponsor is a department/academic program or administrative office.
- I have been vaccinated, why is Princeton still restricting my ability to travel internationally?
There is clear evidence that FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective and that all eligible individuals who are medically able should be vaccinated to protect themselves and their communities. Our travel restrictions are not a judgement on the efficacy of vaccines.
Instead, the travel guidelines reflect the reality that many governments continue to maintain travel bans and entry requirements even for those who have been vaccinated. In addition, travel restrictions remain a primary public health tool to which countries still turn – with little notice – when their governments perceive travelers as a risk to their progress in controlling the pandemic.
As a result, vaccination status alone is, unfortunately, insufficient to ensure the safety and feasibility of travel in all instances.
- I am an emeritus faculty member. What parts of the permissible travel guidelines apply to me?
For all emeriti, the same restrictions on University-sanctioned domestic and international travel apply as those in place for all faculty members.
Emeriti who regularly work on campus are strongly encouraged to enroll the details of their personal travel under the same conditions as other faculty members.
Those emeriti who will only be visiting campus occasionally should ensure they are following applicable University guidelines for on-campus faculty prior to visiting campus.
Travel Reviews and Approvals
- The travel advisory levels issued by the State Department can and do change over time. How do I determine which level is applicable to an international trip I am planning so that I know which set of University travel requirements apply?
The University guidelines for destinations subject to Level 1 and 2 advisories apply to your trip if on the date of your departure and for at least the entire 14 days prior to your departure, the destination country was only subject to either a Level 1 or Level 2 advisory.
The University guidelines for destinations subject to Level 3 advisories apply if either on the date of your departure or at any point during the 14 days prior to your departure, the destination country is subject to a Level 3 advisory.
The University guidelines for destinations subject to Level 4 advisories apply if either on the date of your departure or at any point during the 14 days prior to your departure, the destination country is subject to a Level 4 advisory.
- Where required, how should department chairs, program directors, deans, and cabinet officers decide what travel can be approved for their faculty, researchers, and staff members? How should this decision be documented?
The process for determining whether or not a proposed trip can be approved may vary according to a department or office’s approach to administrative issues. Approving officials may designate a senior staff person to manage this process. However, all departments and offices should establish a review process that ensures the two following conditions are true for any approved trip:
- The trip meets the critical purpose test in that:
- There are no remote options for accomplishing the purpose of the trip to a sufficiently acceptable degree, or available remote options are otherwise ineffective; and,
- There is a time urgency involved such that the trip cannot be deferred until January 2022 without irreparably impeding a University affiliate’s (as defined in the Travel Guidelines) academic progress or scholarship, or causing substantial hindrance to the University’s scholarship, teaching, or operations.
- The trip is feasible, meaning that, at a minimum, it is:
- Possible for the traveler under applicable entry and exit control rules instituted by the destination country’s government;
- Does not require the traveler to quarantine in a government-controlled facility;
- Not to a location under a local or national stay-at-home order or similar public health lockdown measures;
- Performed via regularly scheduled commercial common carriers such as air or rail providers (i.e., not by charter or other special conveyance); and,
- Possible without University intervention to ensure any of the above conditions.
GS&S has created a decision guide to assist reviewers in determining whether or not a proposed trip meets the criteria for critical purpose. Reviewers may find the current version for download in GS&S’s online resources.
Where necessary, department chairs, program directors, deans, and cabinet officers may approve their own travel, so long as they determine it meets the appropriate criteria; in such instances, they must notify GS&S of their self-approval by email to email@example.com.
Each sponsoring and funding entity should maintain a record of its reviews and decisions, even if only by retaining the emails involved in the process.
Even if a trip can otherwise be approved, the traveler must retain final choice of whether or not to travel, given their individual concerns regarding risks to their health. International travelers must review and sign an advisement prior to their journey, which details more thoroughly the risks involved.
- The trip meets the critical purpose test in that:
- How should department chairs and program directors determine what international travel to destinations under a Level 3 State Department travel advisory can be approved for a graduate student?
The department chair or program director must determine that the proposed travel meets the critical purpose test, in that:
- There is a time urgency involved such that the trip cannot be deferred until January 2022 without irreparably impeding the student’s academic progress.
The individual approving the purpose of the proposed trip need not consider questions of feasibility or risk. The Global Safety & Security unit is responsible for reviewing these issues and making a final determination if the travel can proceed. Additional information on the overall process for a graduate student to obtain approval for international travel is available in a separate guidance document found in the GS&S online resource.
- Am I required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to participate in University-sanctioned international travel?
Participation in University-sanctioned international travel generally requires that a traveler be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Prospective international travelers who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 but have received an exemption from the University’s vaccine requirement must contact Global Safety & Security for further review and approval by the appropriate University offices prior to travel.
Undergraduate and Graduate Students
- If I am an undergraduate student are there any restrictions on personal travel during the semester?
Yes, if you are enrolled for the semester, you may not travel for personal reasons internationally between August 31 and December 15, 2021, unless granted permission by your DSL for compelling personal circumstances.
Additionally, if you have been approved to participate in a Study Abroad Program, you may not travel outside of your program country without approval from the Office of International Programs and the Global Safety & Security unit. Contact your study abroad advisor if you believe you have a compelling personal need for such travel during your program.
- As an international student, I am expected to return home at the end of the fall semester. Do I need permission from my DSL to make that personal international trip when I am ready to leave campus?
No, travel home for international students at the conclusion of the fall term does not require DSL approval.
Please note that only students who meet the criteria for Continuous Housing will be able to remain on campus between the end of the fall term and the start of Wintersession.
- Do the pandemic guidelines supersede the pre-pandemic policy that required undergraduate and graduate students to seek approval for travel to higher-risk locations?
No. To the extent a trip is permitted under these guidelines, that travel is still subject to the Policy for Travel to Higher Risk Locations. If you are unsure if you require permission before traveling to a given location, contact Global Safety & Security before you travel, as a failure to obtain a needed approval can affect your funding and possibly result in disciplinary action.
- How can I prepare for my travel? What information should I review before traveling, either for University-sanctioned or personal reasons, and what special items should I take with me to ensure I am prepared?
To prepare for your trip, it is important that you understand and are prepared for the public health requirements of your airline or other travel carrier, those in effect at your destination(s), and those applying in locations from which you will depart and to which you will return. At a minimum, all travelers should review:
- The latest disease-status information and recommendations on travel from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC);
- The COVID-19 policies and requirements of your airline, if applicable, which should be prominently available on the airline website;
- For international destinations, the latest COVID-19 reporting from the relevant U.S. embassy;
- For domestic destinations, the CDC online travel planner, which provides summaries of and links to public health guidance for locations in the United States; and,
- Current guidance and policies from Princeton’s University Health Service (UHS), Environmental Health and Safety (EHS), HR, and others, available on the University COVID resources site.
You should also consider consulting with your personal medical provider to evaluate your individual health circumstances and determine any additional measures you may wish to take to protect yourself and to prepare should you become ill while traveling.
International students, faculty, and staff in the United States on University-sanctioned visas, who are considering travel abroad, should consult with the Davis International Center regarding potential implications for their U.S. immigration status.
For University-sanctioned travel, you are encouraged to consult with UHS regarding relevant non-COVID vaccinations and other, non-COVID travel health information.
Please also take the time to review and familiarize yourself with the general travel planning information available in the GS&S travel toolkit. The downloadable ISOS app, which provides destination-specific safety and health alerts, is available for you to use even if you are engaging in personal travel.
You should always plan to travel with a sufficient supply of items necessary to comply with public health recommendations, such as face coverings, as these items may not always be available in your destination(s). For University-sanctioned travel, you may contact EHS for further details on obtaining personal protective equipment for your trip.
- How should I go about booking University-sanctioned travel, if I have been approved to do so under the permissible travel guidelines?
The University has a dedicated team of travel experts who can assist with reservations, review pricing and penalties, and apply the University’s negotiated rates and complimentary amenities. As such, approved University-sanctioned travel by faculty and staff should be made through the Concur Travel online booking tool or by calling the University's travel management company, World Travel.
In the limited circumstances where University-sanctioned travel for them is permitted, students may also make use of these booking resources and are encouraged to do so, given the complexities and uncertainties of travel arrangements during the pandemic.
As an additional benefit, booking through Concur or World Travel will automatically begin the required process of trip enrollment for you in the Enroll My Trip system by populating your itinerary in the online tool. For more information, see the Enroll My Trip resource page.
- The definition of “group travel” in these guidelines is not the same as that used by the group travel program in Finance and Treasury. Why the difference?
In these guidelines, group travel is defined strictly as a means to address the risks of disease transmission and individual health attendant on travel undertaken together by any number of University affiliates. The definition used by the group travel program continues to apply to issues involving booking and possible discounts.
- If I am traveling for a University-sanctioned purpose, will the University supply me with personal protective equipment (PPE) required for the journey?
Yes. Please contact EHS for further details on obtaining PPE for your trip.
- What should I do if there is a health, safety, or logistics problem on my University-sanctioned trip? Whom should I call?
Please review the GS&S online resources for responding to emergencies abroad. The guidelines and information provided there are up to date.
- What am I required to do before returning to living, working, or studying on campus if I travel outside of Princeton, whether on a personal or University-sanctioned trip?
If you are fully vaccinated, or If you are unvaccinated and your travel has been solely within the United States, no action is necessary prior to your return.
If you are not fully vaccinated and have traveled internationally, you must complete the UHS risk assessment form no more than 72 hours prior to your planned return. The UHS Global and Community Health team will review the submission and respond to you with guidance on whether or not you may return to campus and on what additional steps you may be required to take before doing so.