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Planning and Paying for Travel

*This information has been updated to reflect policy revisions effective January 2017.

Plan Carefully to Ensure the Best Possible Value

The University of Virginia is a public institution governed by the Commonwealth of Virginia. As such, all expense records, regardless of fund source, are open to the public under the Federal and State Freedom of Information Act. All trips must support the mission of the University of Virginia, receive the appropriate approvals, and be carefully planned to ensure that expenditures are necessary, prudent, and as economical as possible. University faculty, staff, students, and others acting on behalf of the University must obtain required approvals, stay within established spending limits, and comply with other requirements established in policy FIN-004: Travel, Meals, and Entertainment Expenses Incurred on Behalf of the University. 

If you are traveling outside the United States, please review the International Travel page before making arrangements.

Book your trip with TravelUVA for special guidance on University Travel Policy, discounts with preferred airlines, rental car companies, and local contracted hotels, Duty of Care, and more.

 

Employee Travel

All travel must be authorized by someone who has knowledge of the traveler’s plans and the authority to question or reject it prior to any cost being incurred (usually the traveler’s supervisor or designated approver).

Bundled travel packages (where airfare, hotel, and car rental costs are included in a single quote) are not an allowable expense unless purchased through TravelUVA.

Sponsored Program Funds Note: 

  • Grant rules prevail in cases where the individual grant or contract specifies restrictions on purchases, i.e. some grants may not allow travel expenses. Please review "Sponsor's Notice of Grant Award" for more information.
  • If your grant includes federal funds, it will also be subject to federal regulations including the "Fly America Act". Visit the Office of Sponsored Programs website often to be sure that you are aware of issues relating to travel on these funds.

Transportation

Travelers should seek the least expensive mode of travel and travel fares.

Air and Rail Travel: Justification and approval of the supplemental approver is required for:

  1. Domestic business or first class ticket purchases
  2. International first class ticket purchases
  3. Airline upgrades costing more than $350
  4. Purchase of rail sleeping car ticket

Unused Tickets: Unused tickets purchased by the University should be retained for future University travel. TravelUVA will automatically track and apply unused tickets to future travel.

Private or Chartered Air Travel: Private or chartered air travel is permitted when authorized by the traveler's dean or vice president prior to making the purchase. All private and chartered air travel must be handled by a PSDS buyer and purchased with a Purchase Order. Documented Pre-approval should be attached to the request to the buyer.  (For use of the University airplane, see PRM-001, Use of University Airplane or Private Air Transportation Service.)

Mixing Personal Travel with University Paid Travel

When mixing a personal trip with University paid travel the traveler must print a cost comparison of the itinerary he/she would have taken for the business trip portion of the trip at the same time the ticket including the personal trip is purchased. The less expensive of the two itineraries will be reimbursed. A trip including personal travel can only be purchased using a T&E card if it is equal to in cost or less expensive than the business trip would have been.

Both itineraries must be submitted with the expense report in ExpenseUVA with an explanation in the Description field.

Global Entry and TSA Precheck: Application fees related to trusted traveler programs, such as TSA Pre-check and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Global Entry Program, are allowable expenses for Employees who travel frequently for University business. TSA Pre-check application is available at many DMV locations. Visit U.S. Department of Homeland Security for info about Global Entry.

Vehicle Rental: Visit the Vehicle Rentals page.

Personally-Owned Vehicles: The use of personally-owned vehicles will be reimbursed at current Standard Mileage Rates established by the IRS. The University cannot reimburse for fuel only for personal vehicles for domestic travel. Travelers must be paid for mileage when using a personal vehicle domestically. When using personal vehicles for international travel, the University will reimburse the actual cost of operation of such a vehicle. Reimbursement cannot be claimed for both mileage and fuel. Travelers should make sure their personal auto liability insurance is in force while driving in or outside of the U.S. While on authorized University business, the University provides excess liability coverage above the individual’s personal auto liability insurance limits, but the individual’s personal auto liability insurance must always provide the primary coverage.

Parking Fees:  Parking fees incurred while traveling on official University business are an allowable expense.

Parking Fines:  Parking fines are not an allowable expense for University faculty, staff, or students.

Commuting:  Commuting to and from work is not considered business travel and mileage is not reimbursable. Parking costs associated with commuting are not an allowable expense.

Car/ Limo Service: Car/Limo service is an allowable expense and can be reserved and paid through TravelUVA or through a CBT agent. A credit card will be used to guarantee the reservation at time of booking. Approximately 48 hours prior to arrival the card will be pre-authorized for the charge. A receipt will be sent after travel is complete. The preferred method of payment is the T&E card.

Charter Bus Service: UVA Parking and Transportation is our internal service provider and should be considered first when charter bus services are needed. We also have contracts with three other bus companies. Visit our Contracts Page for more details.The preferred method of payment is the T&E card.

Lodging

Visit the Lodging Page.

Travel Meals

Per Diem: When claiming per diem, meals cannot exceed the per diem rate for the location of travel. Meals provided at no-cost to the traveler, whether not purchased, provided as part of a conference package, paid for by another person, or claimed as a business meal, must be deducted from the per diem. Travelers will receive 75% of the per diem rate for the first and last day of travel regardless of the actual meals purchased. For trips involving multiple travel destinations, use the rate in effect for the location where the traveler spent the night.   For the departure day, use the rate in effect for the location where the traveler will spend the night.  For the return day, use the rate in effect for the location where the traveler spends the night before returning home.  Meal tipping and taxes are included in the expense limit for the meal.  Travelers do not need to provide receipts for meals when claiming per diem limits.

Actual Meals: When claiming actual meals Employees should follow the University’s standard daily limit of $75. Exceptions over $150 per day require justification and supervisor approval.

Day Trip Meals: Day trip meals will be reimbursed as actual meals and require itemized recceipts. They may not exceed the limits listed in the Rate Guide and are a taxable expense. Day trip meals will be reported to Payroll. The amount will show on your payslip as taxable income and appropriate taxes will be withheld from your salary.

Incidentals

For employees claiming per diem, incidentals are included in the per diem rate at $5 per day. No incidentals are provided for day trips. For employees claiming actual meals, actual incidental expenses may be claimed. Incidentals that may be reimbursed are tips to hotel staff, phone calls, and other business-related expenses. Tips and gratuities are allowed for service industries where it is customary. Tips should be reasonable and follow best practices.

Other Allowable Expenses

Allowable business travel expenses include:

  • Telephone calls, telegrams, facsimiles, and hotel room internet access for official University business;
  • Passport, visa and traveler’s check fees when required for University business;
  • Global Entry & TSA Pre-Check expenses when required for University business;
  • Registration fees for functions related to University business may be allowed when employees are expected to attend as part of their job duties.

Companion Travel

  • Must have bona fide business purpose
  • Reimbursed or paid at actual cost with an itemized receipt
  • Must never be paid directly to the companion
  • Requires justification and approval by the employee’s supervisor

Paying for Travel

Travel and Expense Card - The Travel and Expense Card, also known as the T&E Card, is the preferred method of payment for all employee initiated travel, meals, and entertainment expenses for the following reasons:

  • Does not incur international fees, cash advance fees, or sales tax on goods and services that are exempted from sales tax
  • VISA provides cardholder assistance, insurance, and services
  • More efficient than processing a travel reimbursement
  • Cash Advance option on the Travel and Expense Card

Please see University Travel and Expense Card Program  for details on how to obtain a card to pay for travel expenses. 

Cash Advance: Employees may obtain a Cash Advance  when it is the only means of paying for  travel expenses. A T&E card and direct payment to service providers should be used before requesting a cash advance. To  request a Cash Advance email travel@virginia.edu. Cash advances must be repaid to the University within 30 days from the last date of travel.  Failure to repay within 30 days will result in collection which could include payroll deduction. If you have a cash advance that you cannot repay within 30 days from the last date of travel, please contact travel@virginia.edu immediately.  Payroll deduction could occur as soon as 35 days after the last date of travel. A cash advance cannot be paid from sponsored program funds.

Reimbursement: Expenses paid with personal funds should not be submitted until after the completion of the trip.  Employees have 30 days from the completion of travel to submit an expense report in ExpenseUVA. Expense reports submitted later than 30 days after the last day of travel require justification which describes why late submission was unpreventable, as well as approval by the supplemental approver.

See Completing an Expense Report in ExpenseUVA for more details.