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Update on Stanford travel policy

Categories: Research, Travel

Last modified on

As Stanford continues the  phased re-opening of campus, the university has identified four factors it will consider to determine whether and when travel can recommence:

 1) the threat that COVID-19 poses to the traveler; 2) the likelihood of the traveler being infected; 3) the vulnerability and potential impact to the Stanford community related to new and undetected infections arising from return travelers; and 4) the vulnerability and potential impact of the Stanford traveler on the population at the site(s) to which they are traveling.  

Given the current state of affairs, all university-sponsored travel will remain suspended until at least January 4, 2021. After this date, the university will re-consider the permissibility of travel on a limited basis when the CDC Travel Health Notice for the travel country destination(s) is reduced to Level 2, and the minimum following conditions have been met for the proposed destination:

  • The number of confirmed cases are declining and transmission rates remain low.
  • Robust testing, contact tracing, and symptom tracking are widely available.
  • Self-isolation requirements on the main Stanford campus and the Redwood City  campus and at travel destinations do not impede essential in-person job functions.
  • Travel security restrictions have been lifted to ensure travelers can return immediately if necessary.

Travelers must be aware that while cases may be declining at Stanford or at the destination, other travel-inhibiting conditions may exist, e.g., lack of robust testing, contact tracing and symptom tracking. All of these considerations, as well as issues such as entry conditions, travel restrictions, and changes in screening procedures, must be evaluated before university-sponsored travel is permitted.  

In a limited number of circumstances, exceptions for research-related travel by faculty, staff, graduate students, or postdocs may be approved prior to January 4, 2021 if the research satisfies one of these conditions: 

  • The travel is directly related to research or other functions that support the global response to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic
  • The travel is necessary to complete essential research, defined as either critical research that could not otherwise be repeated or replaced, even at great inconvenience, or research that cannot be performed remotely and is necessary for a subject’s health and/or well-being (see further information from the Research Continuity Team and the Institutional Review Board); and/or, 
  • The travel is in support of a critical university research/scholarship function that cannot be deferred or accomplished remotely. This is true regardless if the funds are coming from Stanford or an outside sponsor.  

Travelers who believe their research satisfies one or more of the above conditions may: 

(1) Request permission from their department and cognizant dean; and (2) request permissions from the Field Research Team and/or Human Subjects Research team (as appropriate) [see here];  and if the traveler receives approvals (1) and (2), then (3) request a travel exception.

Booking travel and reimbursement

 As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become clear that the university requires a centralized ecosystem that can proactively leverage booking data to assess and mitigate emerging risks as well as locate travelers in an emergency. The ability to maintain traveler information within an infrastructure that is easily accessible, reliable and up-to-date is critical to providing robust and timely support, including necessary medical and security services. Therefore, reimbursement for travel will only occur when it is booked through one of the travel agents [1] available through Stanford Travel.  This policy applies to Stanford faculty, staff, postdocs and students on university-sponsored travel when booking airfare, hotel, and/or car rentals. (Personal travel does not need to be booked through Stanford Travel. Visitors and guests are not required to use Stanford Travel whether or not Stanford funds the travel.)  More information about travel booking policies and processes can be found on the Stanford Gateway to Financial Activities website.

It is expected that restrictions on travel will persist well into 2021, or until the threats posed to travelers and the community from COVID-19 have decreased or can be adequately mitigated. The attached matrix describes the anticipated conditions during each phase of restarting travel. Consistent with the university’s approach to re-opening campus, these proposed phases are not time-bound, and are dependent on various factors, including public health conditions and responsiveness. Note  that travel restrictions may be relaxed or tightened at any time depending upon changing public health conditions.

In an effort to mitigate COVID-19’s budgetary impact, the university is suspending all business-class travel until further notice, unless the traveler has a medical exemption on file or the exception has been approved by the dean or unit vice president or their designee.

The university understands the impact that travel restrictions will have on our mission to advance education and research, and will closely monitor the travel landscape with consideration to our mission.

1 There are four travel agents: Casto, Egencia, United Corporate Direct, and Anthony Travel (used exclusively for Athletics).