Pandemic Period Travel Guidance
Even in the midst of the current worldwide pandemic, there remains a need for the Princeton community to be connected to the broader world of research and learning opportunities outside of the University campus. At the same time, however, we cannot ignore the great risks and uncertainties of travel during a global pandemic. In traveling, we not only risk our own personal health, but we can also contribute to the spread of disease on our campus or into the communities we visit. Some of these risks can be managed; given rapidly changing global conditions and highly variable government responses, the vast majority cannot be. These guidelines reflect such difficult realities, while allowing for some of the University’s most critical travel requirements to move forward in a measured way.
To address the challenges of travel during the pandemic, as well as our obligations to support local, state, and national disease-tracing efforts, we must also expand our requirements for the registration of travel details to encompass all of our University-sponsored travelers. This will now include not only students, but faculty and staff as well. Under certain circumstances, this extends to personal travel by students living, working, or studying on campus. Cooperation with these new registration requirements is critical to supporting our travelers during these extraordinary times and assisting our communities in controlling the pandemic.
Frequently Asked Questions on Pandemic Travel
- What constitutes "travel?"
In general, a given trip is considered "travel" for the purposes of these guidelines if the trip 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 is currently residing; and/or,
- any overnight stay outside of a traveler’s usual home, including paying rent for accommodations, even if in the vicinity of their usual “home."
For further clarification, or to determine if a given trip constitutes "travel" governed by the permissible travel guidelines, feel free to contact Global Safety & Security.
- How should department chairs and cabinet officers decide what domestic travel is essential? How should this decision be documented?
The process for determining whether or not a proposed trip is essential may vary according to a department or office’s approach to administrative issues. Chairs and cabinet officers may designate a senior staff person to manage this process. However, all such entities should establish a review process that ensures the following conditions are true for a trip to be considered essential:
- There are no suitable remote options for accomplishing the purpose of the trip;
- There is a time urgency involved such that the trip cannot be deferred, even if to do so would be a great inconvenience;
- The use of funds for the trip is consistent with University-wide guidance on cost reduction;
- There is no form of stay-at-home order for the proposed destination(s); and,
- The logistics for the trip are feasible (i.e., commercial flights and accommodations are available, conditions in the destination(s) would not prevent carrying out the trip’s purpose, recommended quarantines would not interfere with the timing of the trip, etc.).
The GS&S unit has created a decision guide to assist reviewers in determining whether or not a proposed trip is essential.
Department chairs and cabinet officers may approve their own travel, so long as they determine it meets the appropriate criteria; in such instances, they are asked to notify GS&S of their self-approval by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 is determined to be essential, the traveler should 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 as part of registering their trip with GS&S, which details more thoroughly the risks involved.
- Does attendance at conferences constitute essential travel?
For conferences that involve only domestic travel, the chair or cabinet officer may determine if attendance meets the definition of essential; however, reviewers should always keep in mind that this is only the case where there is no remote option for attending a conference. Where international travel is involved, conferences are not considered essential research and so University-sponsored travel to them is only possible if an exception is requested and granted.
- Given positive developments and news about vaccines, can I plan or book University-sponsored travel or other international programs not permitted under the current guidelines, if they will take place in the summer or fall of 2021?
Despite the approval and initial distribution of vaccinations in some countries, there remains substantial uncertainties regarding the timeframe within which worldwide vaccination programs can and will make travel safer and more feasible. Even under the most optimistic projections, international travel in particular is likely to remain significantly disrupted throughout 2021. Therefore, we discourage the booking of future University-sponsored travel not permitted under the current guidelines. In all cases, you should only make travel commitments where there is sufficient flexibility to prevent the loss of funds or other penalties if the travel must be canceled up until the date of planned departure.
- I am an emeritus faculty member. What parts of the permissible travel guidelines apply to me?
For all emeriti, the same restrictions on University-sponsored 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.
- Do the permissible travel guidelines apply to visitors coming to Princeton?
Yes, if the visitor’s travel is supported through funds disbursed by the University or a University-affiliated entity, and/or, is related to or in support of University operations, including research and teaching. This is true regardless of whether or not the visitor is normally affiliated with Princeton.
In addition, before hosting any visitor on campus, you should carefully review the current Visitor Policy to ensure you are complying with its requirements.
Undergraduate and Graduate Students
- If I am an undergraduate student, am I permitted to engage in University-sponsored or personal travel?
Undergraduates subject to the conditions of the social contract are generally restricted from personal or University-sponsored travel during the semester. The social contract specifies limited exceptions for personal travel in certain instances, and University-sponsored travel may be permitted under an individual exception from the Associate Provost for International Affairs and Operations.
- 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 by is permitted under these guidelines, that travel is still subject to the Policy for Travel to Higher Risk Locations.
- How can I prepare for my travel? What information should I review before traveling, either for University-sponsored 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 risks of travel, as well as for the public health requirements in your destination(s) and your home location when you return. At a minimum, all travelers should review:
- The latest disease-status information and recommendations for travel-related precautions 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, online COVID-19 resources from the applicable state or local government(s), which can be found through an internet search; and,
- The local public health guidance in your home location, to which you will return at the end of your trip and which can be found through an internet search.
- 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-sponsored visas, who are considering travel abroad, should consult with the Davis International Center regarding potential implications for their U.S. immigration status.
For University-sponsored 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.
You should always plan to travel with a sufficient supply of items necessary to comply with public health recommendations, such as face coverings and hand sanitizer, as these items may not always be available in your destination(s). For University-sponsored travel, you may contact EHS for further details on obtaining personal protective equipment (PPE) for your trip.
- How should I go about booking University-sponsored 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-sponsored 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 extremely limited circumstances where University-sponsored travel for them may be 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.
- What should I do if there is a health, safety, or logistics problem on my University-sponsored trip? Whom should I call?
Please review the GS&S unit’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?
No earlier than a week prior to returning to campus, you must complete the online COVID-19 Risk Assessment for Princeton University community members.
The UHS Global and Community Health team will review the submission and respond to you within 72 hours 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.
- Is personal travel prohibited?
For those subject to the social contract, there are restrictions on personal travel contained in that agreement.
Otherwise, the University is not imposing direct restrictions on personal travel for those not covered by the social contract. However, travel of any type carries with it risks to you as a traveler and risks to the communities you visit and to which you return. The purpose of the trip is immaterial to these risks, and so it is critical for all University affiliates — especially those who are part of or interacting with the on-campus community — to limit their travel as much as possible and only to those journeys that are absolutely necessary.
As President Eisgruber emphasized in his July 6 message, “Our collective success will depend on all of our individual actions.” This is as true for choices on engaging in personal travel of any sort as it is for all of the other measures in place to prevent, detect, and control outbreaks that could threaten our ability to continue on-campus life, teaching, and research.
- Why are students required to enroll the details of their personal travel under certain circumstances? What happens with the data collected?
This information is meant to assist us in conducting contact tracing, complying with state and/or federal requirements around quarantines and other disease control measures, and monitoring adherence to our own travel guidelines. The data will be confidential and only be routinely available to those in GS&S, UHS, and governmental public health authorities, or by request from the Dean of Undergraduate Students and the Dean of the Graduate School. The details students provide will be retained until they are no longer living, working, or studying on campus or for 30 days, whichever is longer. After that time, individual data will be purged, although statistical abstractions of data may be retained.