Pandemic-Period Permissible Travel Guidelines

Dec. 17, 2020

Revised and effective as of January 10, 2021

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.

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. 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.

A review of this policy will occur prior to the beginning of each academic term throughout the pandemic period. The details of substantive revisions made as a result of these reviews are listed below for ease of reference.

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

I. Summary of Substantive Revisions

  1. Travel by non-enrolled undergraduate and graduate students is not considered University-sponsored, even if it eventually results in the granting of transfer credits by the University.
  2. Those permitted to undertake University-sponsored international travel must complete and submit an advisement of risks prior to traveling. This does not apply to relocations or to students traveling to/from campus at the start and end of semesters.
  3. Undergraduates may not engage in University-sponsored domestic travel unless granted an individual exception by the Associate Provost for International Affairs and Operations.
  4. Personal travel restrictions for undergraduate students subject to the social contract are now established in and by that document.
  5. Undergraduates are no longer required to register permissible personal travel to and within Plainsboro Township.

II. 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,
  • Is undertaken by an enrolled undergraduate or graduate student and results in work that will be considered for academic credit or is otherwise related to a student's program of study.

III. General Requirements

A. 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 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 otherwise required to participate in the COVID-19 testing program, undergraduate students are required to enroll the details of their personal travel outside of Mercer County or Plainsboro Township, 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 the “Enroll My Trip” online tool. 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.

B. 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.

C. 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.)

D. 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.

IV. Permissible Travel

A. 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 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.

Except in cases of relocation and aid-funded student travel to/from campus, affiliates engaging in University-sponsored international travel under these guidelines must review and acknowledge an advisement of risk. This is in addition to the registration requirements above, although the advisement is integrated into the “Enroll My Travel” tool for convenience.

B. 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 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 by an individual undergraduate student that is otherwise permitted under the terms of the social contract;
  • 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 as having the authority to approve exceptions 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.

C. Personal Travel

Undergraduate students bound by Princeton’s social contract must comply with the personal travel restrictions contained in that agreement. All other 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

How should department chairs and cabinet officers decide what 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. International travelers must review and sign a notification and waiver prior to their journey, 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.

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;
  • 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.

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.

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?
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.