Domestic and Foreign Travel

Policy Approval Authority President
Responsible Division Division of Research and Innovation Partnerships
Responsible University Office Sponsored Programs Administration
Responsible Officer(s) Assistant Vice President
Contact Person Dara Little,
Primary Audience Faculty
Status Active
Last Review Date 04-15-2016
Policy Category/Categories Sponsored Funding/Grants and Contracts


To ensure compliance with Federal and University regulations governing NIU travel under sponsored awards.

Reason for Policy

Travel for fieldwork, dissemination, and training activities are often essential components of sponsored programs. As such, it is important for NIU to accommodate a myriad of travel, both domestic and foreign, associated with sponsored funding in a manner that meets all travel rules set forth by the University, sponsoring agency, and Federal government. Failure of NIU to adhere to these rules can result in disallowance of travel expenses on an award, increased agency oversight of NIU awards, or loss of sponsored funding.

Intended Audience

  • Director, Department Chair, Division Head
  • Faculty and Staff
  • Departmental/Divisional Business Administrators
  • Finance Personnel
  • Sponsored Programs Administration Personnel 


Travel under University sponsored awards shall be in accordance with the NIU Travel Policy and sponsor regulations. If sponsor specific guidelines for a sponsored program are more restrictive than University policy, then sponsor rules shall apply. All travel expenses charged to federally sponsored awards (both direct and pass-through) are governed by sponsoring agency regulations and 2 CFR 200.413 and 200.474. As such, travel charges must meet the following three (3) tests and adhere to NIU’s travel reimbursement policies:

  • The cost must be allowable under both the provisions of OMB 2 CFR 200 and the terms of the award;
  • The cost must be allocable, that is, the expense can be associated with the project with a high degree of accuracy;
  • The cost must be reasonable, that is, the cost reflects what a “prudent person” would pay in a similar circumstance.


Budgeting Travel on a Sponsored Proposal

Generally, the proposal should include an explicit justification for the travel. Travel is allowable as a direct cost where such travel provides a direct benefit to the project and complies with NIU and sponsor requirements. Travel costs for employees working on the project may include transportation, per diems or subsistence allowances, and other travel-related expenses. A strong budget justification articulates the following elements:

  • Purpose of the travel in terms of the project goals;
  • Number of trips and destinations anticipated and the number of individuals traveling;
  • An explanation of how the costs were estimated. (For example, $XYZ roundtrip airfare + $XYZ lodging for the number of nights, plus $YZ per diem for the number of days.)

For field work and other research-related travel (collaborating with researchers at another institution, for example, or projects at a national laboratory or other external facility), provide information about the number of people making each trip, its duration, and other details such as whether you will be traveling by automobile or by plane, how lodging and meals will be handled, how you estimated the travel costs, etc.

Local Travel via Automobile

In addition to indicating the purpose of the travel as noted above, in the budget justification, indicate the current mileage rate, the approximate number of miles, and how many trips per year or project period.

International Travel

Bear in mind that Federal regulations require that all air travel paid from federal grant funds comply with the Fly America Act; therefore, foreign airfare estimates should be based on the use of a U.S. flag carrier (see below for details and exceptions)

  • The NIH defines foreign travel as any travel outside of Canada and the U.S. and its territories and possessions, or for an organization located outside Canada and the U.S. and its territories and possessions.
  • The NSF includes Canada as a foreign country. Always review sponsor instructions carefully.

Initiating Travel on a Sponsored Award

Principal Investigators (PI) are responsible for understanding all travel regulations and must approve all travel charges to his/her sponsored award. As travel regulations can be complex, PI’s are strongly encouraged to discuss their travel plans with their SPA Grants and Contracts Administrator before making them.

If travel is included in the proposal and the agency issues the award based on that budget, SPA considers that travel to be approved by the agency. Some agencies require prior approval before incurring travel expenses, particularly foreign travel. It is important to understand any restrictions or approval requirements associated with travel for each award.

Faculty and staff should follow NIU required procedures for securing authorization of estimated travel expenses prior to making travel purchases or commitments.

Requesting Travel Reimbursement

To receive reimbursement for travel expenses, the PI or his/her designee must complete and submit a travel voucher with detailed paid receipts to the Grants and Contracts Administrator for review and approval. Upon approval, the Grants and Contracts Administrator will forward the travel voucher to the NIU Accounts Payable office for reimbursement.

  • Reimbursement for airfare may be submitted at the time of fare purchase;
  • Reimbursement for all other travel expenses must be submitted within thirty days (30) of travel completion.

Travel expenses should include the following original receipts for documentation:

  • For conference travel, a copy of the conference agenda, (must name conference hotel and lodging hotels);
  • Hotel receipt – showing as paid;
  • Airline boarding pass or itinerary – showing as paid;
  • Ground Transportation (rental car bill, receipts from taxis or limousines, ticket coupon from rail or bus).

Failure to submit reimbursement on time or produce receipts may result in non-payment. Situations concerning missing or inadequate documentation or the inability to obtain receipts (i.e. when conducting fieldwork in remote locations) should be discussed with the Grants and Contracts Administrator.


Original itemized receipts must be submitted for all meals when claiming actual expenses, as opposed to per diem. Original receipts are not required in cases where the traveler claims per diem for meal expenses. A traveler cannot receive both actual expense and per diem for meals on a single trip. Meal allowances and per diem rates are outlined in the NIU Travel Policy. Alcohol is not reimbursable.


Entertainment is not reimbursable. Entertainment expenses include costs for meals other than the traveler, amusement, diversion or social activities.

Travel Advances

Options for travel advances are available in the form of a “Declining Balance Card” or as “Group Travel with Students”, through the Accounts Payable Office or a Working Fund through SPA.

Principal Investigators are encouraged to discuss travel advances and other non- customary needs with his/her Grants and Contracts Administrator to identify the option that best meets the project’s needs and sponsor regulations.

Domestic Travel

Domestic travel is travel performed within the recipient’s own country. For the U.S., it generally includes travel within and between any of the 50 States of the U.S. and its possessions and territories, and in some cases, federal agencies include Canada as well. Review sponsor regulations carefully as different agencies have different definitions for domestic and international travel.

Standard NIU and State of Illinois travel regulations apply.

International Travel

Foreign travel is travel outside of the U.S., its territories and possessions, and in some cases Canada.

In addition to standard NIU and State of Illinois travel regulations, international travel under federally funded awards must comply with the requirements of the Fly America Act.

The Fly America Act requires that U.S.-flag air carriers be used to the maximum extent possible when commercial air transportation is the means of travel between the U.S. and a foreign country or between foreign countries. This requirement shall not be influenced by factors of cost, convenience, or personal travel preference. The cost of travel under a ticket issued by a U.S. flag air carrier that leases space on a foreign air carrier under a code-sharing agreement is allowable if the purchase is in accordance with General Services Administration (GSA) regulations on U.S. flag air carriers and code shares.

There are exceptions to the Act, including but not limited to instances where the use of a U.S. flag carrier would:

  • Require circuitous routing;
  • Require travel during unreasonable hours;
  • Excessively prolong travel;
  • The alternate airline is a flag carrier from a country with open skies agreement with the United States and there is no city-pair contract flights. (City-pair contracts provide for a discounted airline rate and are normally available only to Federal employees and Federal contractors.)

Such exceptions must be documented to SPA by providing a snapshot of flight availability, flight times and duration. Documentation is required to show that the ticket was issued under a code-share agreement.

Federal regulations prohibit the charging of business class or first class air travel to federally sponsored projects.

Fly America Act and Open Skies Agreements

Generally, if a traveler is traveling on funds provided by the Federal government, the traveler must use a U.S. flag carrier (an airline owned by an American company) regardless of cost or convenience.

When scheduling travel under a federal award, all flights where possible should be scheduled with U.S. flag carriers or on foreign air carriers that code share with a U.S. flag carrier. Code sharing occurs when two or more airlines “code” the same flight as if it were their own. A U.S. airline may sell a seat on the plane of a foreign air carrier. This seat is considered the same as one on a plane operated by a U.S. flag carrier. Compliance with the Fly America Act is satisfied when the U.S. flag air carrier’s designator code is included next to the flight numbers on the airline ticket, boarding pass or on the documentation for an electronic ticket (passenger receipt).

For example, Delta has a code share agreement with Air France to Paris, France. If the boarding pass or e-ticket identifies a flight as DL ##, the requirements of the Federal Travel Regulations would be met, even if the flight was on an Air France airplane. If however, the boarding pass or e-ticket identifies the flight as an AF##, the requirements of the Federal Travel Regulations would not be met.

Open Skies Agreement

The United States Government has entered into several air transport agreements that allow federally funded transportation services for travel and cargo movements to use foreign air carriers under certain circumstances. Open Skies Agreements also provide a limited exception to the Fly America Act. Where an open skies agreement exists, a traveler may use the foreign airline except when a “GSA (General Services Administration) City Pair” exists or the U.S. Department of Defense funds the travel. The Open Skies Agreement does not apply to DOD funded awards.

When traveling to a destination serviced by a European Union airline, NIU travelers flying on a federal award can fly on either a U.S. carrier or an EU (European Union) carrier as long as they touch down in an EU country.

Effective Date: 4/15/16 Approval: Assistant Vice President for Research and Sponsored Programs


There are no comments to show.

Contact Us

Policy Library

Back to top