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Travel Policy Overview

Before Traveling:

Familiarize yourself with the University (and any funding agency) policies and regulations. If you have any questions, please contact

When making arrangements:

  • Lodging expenses should not exceed $350 per night in the U.S., $400 per night in international locations.
  • Transportation fares (e.g., airline, rail) should be at economy rate.
  • Keep the original itinerary, confirmation or quote provided by the travel agency or carrier.
  • Reimbursable dates of travel/hotel stay -The University will cover the full cost of a flight only if it is equal or lower to the cost of the flight if one had traveled immediately before/after the conference date (unless there is another Columbia related business purpose for the additional days). The costs related to an earlier departure and/or later return for airfare may be reimbursed when the total cost of the airfare is clearly documented and demonstrated to be equal to or lower than it would have been for the dates required for business travel. If your business trip contains additional days or a personal stop, you should run the two itineraries on the same day and print them for comparison. Retain both copies, as the two itineraries will then need to be submitted along with the remainder of your reimbursement request documentation for processing.
  • International travel as part of work to be done on a federally sponsored project must adhere to the Fly America Act: The Fly America Act is a Federal regulation states that any foreign air travel that is financed by Federal funds must be booked on U.S. Flag Air Carriers, regardless of cost or convenience. Only Federally funded sponsored projects are subject to this policy. There are specific exceptions to the Fly America Act that allow travelers to use Federal funds on foreign carriers, but only under certain circumstances. To assist you in identifying these circumstances, please refer to the following:

While traveling:

  • Save all of your original receipts & documentation to submit to your department for reimbursement.
    • Hotel, original ticket, electronic confirmation (e-ticket), travel itinerary.
    • Local transportation (note the destination and arrival points).
    • Conference flyer (documentation, program or other literature describing the event).

Travelers will not be reimbursed for airline tickets purchased, partially purchased or accommodations and upgrades obtained using frequent flyer miles.


Expenses for meals for an individual away on approved University business or among University personnel or peer groups (consisting of research collaboration or administrative meetings) should not exceed $25 for breakfast, $35 for lunch, and $50 for dinner, not including tips or tax.

Expenses for business meals involving certain external parties for fundraising, recruitment or speaking engagements (hosted and paid for by a University employee and attended by business colleagues, donors, students, or prospective employees, which result in a business benefit to the University) should not exceed $100 per person, not including tips or tax. 

For all meals involving two or more individuals, document the business purpose, names of the attendees (if over 10 people, the number of attendees), and the relationship (to the University) of the attendees.

Please note when any alcohol is purchased or included on a meal receipt to segregate this when reporting. Save all meal itemized receipts and submit them to your department.  

When you get back:

Expense Reimbursement

All requests for reimbursement including travel advance reconciliations should be submitted to your department within 10 days business days of the completion of the trip. Travel and Business Expense Reports must include supporting documentation and business reasons. You must submit all original receipts to your department for expenses.

Late Expense Reimbursement Submissions

Employees must request reimbursement no later than 120 days after date of the expenditure. Late submissions may only be reimbursed with the approval of the department and A&S. Supporting documentation must be provided in order to describe the circumstances leading to the late submision in order to evaluate whether it is a taxable event. If the circumstances described would not have prevented the traveler from submitting within the proper timeframe (120 days), they are considered taxable income. Expense reimbursements requested more than one year from the date of expenditure are always considered taxable income to the traveler.

Full Policy Links:

Travel Expense Policy 

Business Expense Policy

Fly America




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