Travel Toolkit

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Pandemic-Period Permissible Travel Guidelines

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.

Permissible Travel Guidelines Summary Chart 

Policy Statement

To further the safeguarding of the University community’s health and safety, University-sponsored travel must be strictly limited until further notice. These restrictions must balance the need to conduct essential travel against that of protecting against harm to travelers, outbreaks on campus that could impact University operations, and the spread of COVID-19 into the communities we visit.

At the same time, those who will be part of or closely interacting with the on-campus community have an obligation to act responsibly in choosing whether or not to engage in personal travel. While the University cannot impose restrictions on such choices, individuals must make thoughtful decisions that consider both personal desires and community impacts. The University must also implement reasonable and appropriate measures to prevent, detect, and respond to outbreaks that may inevitably result from personal travel.

This policy is in effect from August 10, 2020, until modified or withdrawn. A review of this policy will occur prior to the beginning of each academic term throughout the pandemic period.

The requirements and restrictions in this policy supersede all previous guidance regarding permissible University-sponsored travel during the pandemic.

Definitions

Country of current residence: For University affiliates not living, working, or studying on campus, the country in which they are residing during the academic year, regardless of their ordinary or permanent residence.

Domestic travel: Travel solely within the United States (including its territories) or solely within a University affiliate’s country of current residence, if not the United States.

Essential travel: Travel that fulfills a purpose that cannot be addressed through remote options during the pandemic period; that cannot be deferred, even if at great inconvenience; and, that is consistent with University-wide guidance on cost reduction. The person who determines if proposed travel is essential varies by the type of travel. See below in Section III and in our FAQ for additional details.

Group travel: Any trip on which more than two University affiliates intend to travel together to the same destination over the same period for the same purpose and following the same itinerary.

Personal travel: Any trip that does not meet the definition of University-sponsored travel below, regardless of length, destination or purpose, except for daily commuting by faculty, staff (including postdocs, research staff, and library employees), and graduate students.

University affiliates: All undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and staff (including postdocs, research staff, and library employees) and all persons conducting travel that is paid for by a University entity.

University-sponsored travel: Any trip that:

  • 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; and/or,
  • Results in work that will be considered for academic credit or is otherwise related to a student’s program of study.

Guidelines

A. General Requirements

1. Enrollment of Travel and Contact Information

University-Sponsored Travel

All University affiliates must register the details of University-sponsored trips to any destination, as well as their contact information, with the Global Safety & Security (GS&S) unit prior to departure. Specifically: 

  • The pre-pandemic requirement for undergraduate and graduate students to register their University-sponsored international travel remains in effect.
  • This requirement now also applies to faculty members and staff.
  • There is a new requirement for students, faculty members and staff to enroll the details of all University-sponsored domestic travel outside of Mercer County, New Jersey. This replaces and expands prior requirements for undergraduate students to register their travel outside the New York-to-Philadelphia corridor.

Personal Travel

While living, working, or studying on campus, or are otherwise required to participate in the COVID-19 testing program, undergraduate students who have been invited to campus for  the current academic term are required to enroll the details of their personal travel outside of Mercer County, New Jersey, regardless of duration or purpose, with the GS&S unit. This requirement applies even if an undergraduate student, otherwise invited to campus, chooses to live off campus and visit campus regularly.

Graduate students studying on campus, regardless of residence, are required to enroll the details of non-routine, overnight personal travel outside of New Jersey (or the state in which they are residing while studying on campus). Faculty members and staff who are living or working on campus are encouraged, but not required, to register their non-routine, overnight personal travel outside of New Jersey (or the state in which they reside).

Graduate students, faculty members and staff who commute to campus from outside of Mercer County do not need to enroll the details of their commutes, even where the University subsidizes their commuting costs.

Enrollment Procedure

Enrollment is accomplished through completion of the form for  enrolling University-sponsored travel information or enrolling personal travel information ; use of the Concur Request system for students is no longer required. A new permanent solution to replace Concur Request is being developed and will be launched this fall. University affiliates are responsible for ensuring the information they provide is accurate and for updating this information as their travel plans or contact details change.

Table 1: Travel Enrollment Requirements

Chart summarizing registration requirements.

2. Compliance with Public and University Health Guidelines

While conducting University-sponsored travel, all University affiliates must comply with University and local, state, and national-level government public health guidelines. This includes compliance with mask and other disease-control and physical distancing recommendations, as well as with mandatory and recommended quarantines at both destination and upon return from travel. Travelers are solely responsible for determining applicable guidelines; however, the GS&S unit and University Health Services (UHS) can assist travelers in researching these prior to departure.

Travelers may not return to in-person, on-campus activities unless and until they have complied with any applicable quarantine, testing, or other screening guidance from UHS.

3. Group Travel

All University-sponsored group travel involving undergraduate and/or graduate students is suspended, including student activities, research, conferences, faculty-led groups, and for any other University-related purpose. The Associate Provost for International Affairs and Operations may grant exceptions in order to facilitate critical University requirements. (GS&S maintains separate guidelines for exceptions and can provide these where a prospective traveler believes they have a critical need.)

4. Higher-Risk Destinations

Any University-sponsored travel permitted under these guidelines must also comply with the Policy for Travel to Higher Risk Locations. Travelers are responsible for timely submission of requests for approval to travel to designated higher-risk destinations.

B. International Travel

All University-sponsored international travel is suspended, except under the following circumstances:

  • Travel by individual faculty members and research staff to conduct essential research, as determined by their department chair or the cabinet officer to whom they report (where such travel involves a chair or cabinet officer, they may make the determination for themselves, notifying GS&S by email - globalsafety@princeton.edu - that they are approving their own travel);
  • Travel for the purposes of critical recruitment or relocation of new employees, as determined by the VP for HR or the Dean of the Faculty;
  • Travel necessary for a student to reach campus or return to their place of ordinary residence, where Princeton normally supports this travel as part of financial aid; and,
  • In any other case where, on the basis of a specific request, the Associate Provost for International Affairs and Operations grants an exception in order to fulfill a critical need of the University. (GS&S maintains separate guidelines for exceptions and can provide these where a prospective traveler believes they have a critical need.)

University-sponsored travel under any of these exceptions must be:

  • Permitted by the destination’s government(s);
  • Feasible in light of logistical constraints and government public health requirements both at the destination and at the location to which a traveler intends to return;
  • Performed via regularly scheduled commercial air service (i.e., not by charter or other special flight); and,
  • Possible without University intervention to ensure any of the other listed conditions.

Departments chairs or cabinet officers are responsible for ensuring these conditions are met before approving any travel. The GS&S unit is available to consult with departments and offices in reviewing these criteria.

C. Domestic Travel

All University-sponsored domestic travel is suspended, except under the following circumstances:

  • Travel for essential purposes for individual faculty members and staff, as determined by their department chair or cabinet office (where such travel involves a chair or cabinet officer, they may make the determination for themselves, notifying GS&S by email - globalsafety@princeton.edu - that they are approving their own travel) ;
  • Travel for the purposes of critical recruitment or relocation of new employees, as determined by the VP for HR or the Dean of the Faculty;
  • Travel by individual graduate students to conduct essential research, as determined by their department or program chair;
  • Travel to conduct essential research by individual undergraduate students who are not living, working, or studying on campus, or are not otherwise required to participate in the COVID-19 testing program, as approved by the student’s faculty advisor;
  • Travel necessary for a student to reach campus or return to their place of ordinary residence, where Princeton normally supports this travel as part of financial aid; and,
  • In any other case where, on the basis of a specific request, the Associate Provost for International Affairs and Operations grants an exception in order to fulfill a critical need of the University or to meet a humanitarian need. (GS&S maintains separate guidelines for exceptions and can provide these where a prospective traveler believes they have a critical or humanitarian need.)

University-sponsored travel under any of these exceptions must be:

  • To a destination not under any form of stay-at-home order; and,
  • Feasible in light of logistical constraints and government public health requirements both at the destination and at the location to which a traveler intends to return.

The offices specified above are responsible for ensuring these conditions are met before funding or approving any travel. The GS&S unit is available to consult with departments and offices in reviewing these criteria.

D. Personal Travel

In addition to the conditions on personal travel established by Princeton's social contract for undergraduate students, while living, working, or studying on campus, all University affiliates are strongly encouraged to refrain from:

  • Any personal international travel, except in an emergency; and,
  • Personal domestic travel that can be deferred or is otherwise strictly for leisure purposes.
 

Frequently Asked Questions

General

A number of countries outside the United States have seen success in controlling COVID-19 and are reopening their borders for visitors. Why am I not permitted to travel to those countries without limitations, as it would seem to be safer there in terms of

While disease conditions in a given country are an important gauge of an individual’s potential risk of exposure to COVID-19, they are only one factor in evaluating how best to protect our community and affiliates. The conduct of travel itself, especially transit through airports and time spent in airplanes, trains, and buses, carries risks of exposure. The dynamic nature of both the pandemic and governmental responses to it create significant uncertainties about the ability to complete any journey without unforeseen and significant disruption. In addition, a traveler can inadvertently spark an outbreak in their destination or introduce COVID-19 into our local community upon return from travel. For these reasons, we seek to limit potential sources of COVID-19 outbreaks in every way possible.

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 globalsafety@princeton.edu.

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.

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.

Can I plan or book University-sponsored travel for the winter, spring, or summer of 2021?

We discourage the booking of University-sponsored travel given the significant uncertainty associated with the pandemic. 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. We will review the current guidelines at the beginning of each academic term (fall, Wintersession, spring, and summer) and will alert the community if this advice changes.

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.

Undergraduate and Graduate Students

If I am an undergraduate student approved to live on campus for the fall semester, am I permitted to engage in University-sponsored or personal travel?

Undergraduate students who are living, working, or studying on campus, or are otherwise subject to the University’s COVID-19 testing regime, are generally not permitted to engage in international or domestic University-sponsored travel, unless granted an exception by the Associate Provost for International Affairs and Operations. These students should also strictly limit their personal travel outside of Mercer County to that which cannot be deferred and is not solely for leisure purposes and must enroll the details of any such travel with the Global Safety & Security unit.

 

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.

Travel Practicalities

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, which can be found here;
  • 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 Fall 2020 website.

 

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 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?

All approved University-sponsored travel should be made through the Concur Travel online booking tool or by calling the University's travel management company, World Travel.  Concur can be accessed via the University’s travel website,  and World Travel can be reached at 1-888-530-4087 or by emailing princeton@worldtravelinc.com.  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.

If I am traveling for a University-sponsored 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-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.

Personal Travel

Is personal travel prohibited?

The University is not imposing direct restrictions on personal travel for anyone. 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 who are living, working, or studying on campus, or otherwise required to participate in the COVID-19 testing program, required to enroll the details of their personal travel? 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.

Do students who are living, working, or studying on campus, or are otherwise subject to the University’s COVID-19 testing regime, need to register personal day trips outside of Princeton?

Yes, if that trip takes a student outside of Mercer County, New Jersey (or their county of residence, for graduate students). Any trip of any length must be registered, even shopping or dining trips.

Other Travel Resources, Tools, and Guidance