COVID-19 Travel Guidelines FAQ

As we navigate the coming months and the expected fluctuations with regard to disease outbreak both in the United States and abroad, there will be many restrictions on domestic and international travel with an expectation that there will be very little Penn-affiliated travelOnly essential travel will be authorized. 

What is essential travel?

Essential travel is:

  1. Travel that must be performed at the time in question AND 
  2. Travel whose goal cannot be accomplished through another means

Below are a series of FAQs to help you navigate the new travel guidelines. If you do not find an answer to your question below, please contact travelsafety@pobox.upenn.edu

FAQs
Travel Criteria Matrix
Can I travel for Penn business during the pandemic?

If you have plans to travel during the pandemic, a petition process may be available depending on your affiliation and the category of risk at the destination.

  Suspended Stage I Stage II Stage III
Faculty/Staff/Postdoc Petition Petition Travel authorized Travel authorized
Graduate Student

Not authorized
*some exceptions

Petition Travel authorized Travel authorized
Undergraduate Student Not authorized Petition Petition Travel authorized

Travel Petition Procedures

Who defines heightened risk travel at Penn?

The Committee on Travel Risk Assessment (CTRA) is responsible for defining heightened risk travel for the Penn community and reviews undergraduate requests to travel to these regions.  

A separate working committee was appointed by the Provost to establish additional travel guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Petitions received from graduate students, postdocs, faculty and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic will be reviewed by a combination of school officials and CITRA members. 

More information on CTRA 

 

How do I use Penn’s travel resumption matrix to figure out if I can travel to my destination location?
  1. Identify the CDC Warning Level of your destination country by searching here

  2. Identify the Department of State Advisory Level for your destination country by searching here

  3. Now look at Penn’s travel resumption matrix to see where your destination country falls based on the CDC or Department of State Levels.

    • “Suspended” (red) stage (CDC=Level 3 and DOS=Level 4):  Faculty, staff and postdocs may submit a petition [insert link to petition webpage] for authorization to travel.  Advanced graduate students with research needs may submit a petition for authorization to travel.  Other graduate and undergraduate students are not permitted to travel or submit a petition at this stage.

    • “Restricted” (blue) stage (CDC=Level 2 and DOS=Level 3):  Faculty, staff, postdocs, graduate students and undergraduate students may submit a petition for authorization to travel.

    • “Limited” (orange) stage (CDC=Level 1 and DOS=Level=3): Faculty, staff, postdocs and graduate students are authorized to travel without a petition.  Undergraduate students may submit a petition for authorization to travel.  All travelers are still required to register their travel in MyTrips and book their transportation using Penn’s preferred travel management company.

    • “Normal”(green) stage (CDC=Level 1 and DOS=Level 1-2):  Domestic and international Penn-affiliated travel is permitted.

What if CDC and Department of State risk levels do not correspond to Penn’s matrix?

If there is a discrepancy between the CDC and Department of State ratings of your destination country, the CDC Warning Level will be the prevailing indicator for the duration of the pandemic.  For example, if your destination location is rated Level 3 by the CDC, travel will be in the “Suspended” (red) stage of Penn’s matrix, regardless of the Department of State advisory level.  That said, we will heavily weigh both ratings when reviewing petitions. 

According to the matrix, my destination location is in the “Suspended” (red) stage. Can I travel there?

If your destination country falls in the “Suspended” (red) stage, faculty, staff, and postdocs may submit a petition for authorization to travel. PhD candidates with research needs may submit a petition for authorization to travel. Other graduate and undergraduate students may not petition for travel to this location.

According to this matrix, my destination country is in the “Restricted” (blue) stage. Can I travel there?

If your destination country falls in the “Restricted” (blue) stage, faculty, staff, postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduate students may submit a petition for authorization to travel to this location. 

According to this matrix, my destination country is in the “Limited” (orange) stage. Can I travel there?

Faculty, staff, postdocs and graduate students are permitted to travel in the “Limited” (orange) stage without a petition.  All travelers must register their international and domestic trips in MyTrips.  All travelers must purchase their transportation using Penn’s preferred travel management company.

Undergraduate students may submit a petition to travel when their destination location is in the “Limited” (orange) stage. 

Who will review the petitions to travel?

Travel petitions will be reviewed by Penn’s Committee on Travel Risk Assessment (CTRA) in collaboration with the School or Center of the person submitting the petition.  CTRA is comprised of members from across the University community, specifically Global Support Services, Risk Management, the Office of Research Services and Wellness/Student Health Service. CTRA will consult with external and campus experts on specific requests as needed.  Travelers are asked to submit their petitions for travel early as possible.  CTRA is committed to reviewing petitions quickly and will respond within one week with an answer or request for more information.

FAQs
Domestic Travel
How is the United States rated by the CDC and U.S. Department of State?

As of August 25th, 2020, the CDC continues to rate the United States as a Level 3: COVID-19 Risk is High, leaving domestic travel in Penn’s “suspended” (red) stage. The U.S. Department of State has returned to its traditional travel advisories and, therefore, is no longer providing a risk rating for the United States.

Do I need to follow these guidelines if I’m traveling domestically, even locally?

Yes, the temporary COVID-19 travel guidelines pertain to both international and domestic Penn-affiliated travel that include an overnight stay.  Even if you are traveling by car on a Penn-affiliated trip (with an overnight stay), you are expected to follow these guidelines.  While you do not need to follow the guidelines for day trips, please observe the main tenants of public health throughout your journey, including face coverings, physical distancing and frequent hand washing.

Do I need to register a domestic trip?

Yes, as long as your travel is Penn-affiliated with an overnight stay, we ask that you register your trip in MyTrips. If your domestic trip does not include a flight, please complete the “accommodation” section of your trip so that we have your destination city and travel dates.  If this is your first time using MyTrips, you will be asked to set up your profile first.

What if I’m traveling by car, train or bus?

Even if you are traveling locally, all Penn-affiliated travel that includes an overnight stay must adhere to the temporary COVID-19 travel guidelines. If your destination location is in the “Suspended” (red) stage, bus and train travel is not recommended. When feasible, please use a personal car, rental car or Lyft.

What if I am only taking a day trip (no overnight stay)?

If you are taking a day trip, whether it is Penn-affiliated travel or personal travel, we encourage you follow to local health directives. You do NOT need to follow Penn’s travel guidelines. You do NOT need to submit a petition for travel.

FAQs
Personal Travel and Commuting
Do I need to tell Penn about my personal travel?

You do not need to register your personal travel with Penn.  Penn’s travel guidelines pertain to Penn-affiliated travel only, although you are welcome to use this information as a resource when planning personal trips. If you have questions about returning to work after personal travel, please visit Penn’s Workplace Resources for COVID-19 Control.

Should I register personal travel?

You should not register personal travel in Penn’s MyTrips registry.  Penn’s travel guidelines pertain to Penn-affiliated travel only, although you are welcome to use this information as a resource when planning personal trips.  If you have questions about returning to work after personal travel, please visit Penn’s Workplace Resources for COVID-19 Control.

Do I need to get permission to commute to Penn from another state?

No. You do not need to apply for permission commute to Penn from another state. If you have questions about commuting to work, please visit Penn’s Workplace Resources for COVID-19 Control. 

FAQs
CONCUR Booking Tool
Why do I have to use Concur to book my flights?

Concur insures the lowest airfares and 24/7 support for University travelers from the travel management company and Penn Travel Services.  

All airline tickets booked through Concur or the University’s Travel Management Company (TMC) are direct billed to Penn, reducing out of pocket expenses.  

Booking through the University’s preferred travel vendor and systems guarantees seamless end to end service on any issues that may arise.  For example: 24/7 emergency assistance, ticket reissuance and rebilling through the University’s billing account, and assistance with refunds and unused tickets. 

Furthermore, lowest airfares are guaranteed with World Travel’s price match; and Penn’s airline contracts provide valuable corporate benefits such as complementary preferred seats on American Airlines. 

The Concur booking tool complements My Trips, Penn’s travel registry system, that connects Penn traveler’s to health and safety resources. This fulfills Penn’s critical responsibility for duty of care for Penn travelers. 

Please contact Penn Travel Services or email travel@upenn.edu with any questions.

How can I be sure I am getting the best airfares?

World Travel has a guaranteed fare match policy. If you find a lower fare, contact World Travel for procedures on obtaining a fare match. Please contact them directly regarding the policy and assistance. 1-888-641-9112; uofpenn@worldtravelinc.com 

Can I use my personal credit card to book travel in Concur?

When necessary, a personal credit card may be used to purchase airfare. However, the University policy is to book airfare through Penn’s preferred carriers, using the University’s direct billing account through Concur or World Travel. For all other travel products and services, a personal credit card is required for payment. These charges will be reimbursed upon completion of travel.  

See Concur Instructional Guide: Set up Travel Profile for instructions on including a personal credit card within your Concur profile.  

Please contact Penn Travel Services or email travel@upenn.edu with any questions.

How do I book a rental car?

To access Penn’s discounted rates, rental car reservations should be made within Concur only.  

Note: car rentals in Concur are only the reservation. You will need to provide a credit card upon check-in.

Please contact Penn Travel Services or email travel@upenn.edu with any questions.

How do I book a private car service?

The University has several agreements and special rates for car services. Please contact Penn Travel Services or email travel@upenn.edu for information on car services.   

Do I have to use Concur to book my hotel?

During the pandemic, the best practice for booking hotels is to reserve through Concur.  

Note: hotel bookings within Concur are only the reservation and are not direct billed to Penn. You will need to provide a credit card upon hotel check-in. You may also call World Travel 24/7 for assistance, 1-888-641-9112.

Please contact Penn Travel Services or email travel@upenn.edu with any questions.

What if I want to use an airline credit or an unused ticket?  Do I still have to use World Travel?

Individuals who booked through Concur or World Travel should contact World Travel to utilize unused tickets. World Travel agents will advise on the conditions and apply any credit to a new reservation. Travelers who did not use World Travel should contact the airline or vendor that provided the credit. 

How can I purchase my Amtrak train tickets?

Amtrak tickets may be purchased via the Amtrak Website or by calling 1-800-USA-RAIL. 

Other FAQs
What is essential travel?

Essential travel is considered to be travel that must be performed at the time in question and the goal of the travel cannot be accomplished through another means.

Do faculty have to register their travel?

Yes, the temporary COVID-19 travel guidelines require that all Penn travelers, including faculty, staff, postdocs and students register their Penn-affiliated domestic and international travel in MyTrips.

Do I have to sign a liability form?

If you are authorized to travel to a location in the “Suspended” (red) or “Restricted” (blue) stage, then you will be asked to sign an Assumption of Risk and Release of Liability form.  The liability form will be provided to you once your petition is authorized.  If you would like to view the liability form in advance, please email travelsafety@pobox.upenn.edu.

How do I plan ahead for future travel?

We understand it is difficult to plan ahead in these uncertain times.  If you have future plans for Penn-affiliated travel to a destination that is currently in the Suspended (red) stage, Restricted (blue) stage or Limited (orange) stage, please do not finalize your travel plans.  If you need to purchase flights, accommodations or other bookings, be sure your purchases are refundable.  Consider a back-up plan in the event you will not be authorized to travel.  If/when a time comes that you are permitted to travel or able to submit a petition for authorization to travel to your destination, CTRA is committed to reviewing your petition quickly and will respond within one week with an answer or request for more information.  

What if my destination risk level changes during the petition process or after travel is authorized?

The safety of Penn travelers is a priority. CTRA will continue to monitor locations where travel approval has been granted. In the event the risk level changes and/or the health environment deteriorates, CTRA reserves the right to rescind authorization or revise the conditions of travel.

Scenarios

I’m a Penn employee traveling to central Pennsylvania by car for fieldwork.  Do I have to follow these guidelines?

Yes. 

The temporary COVID-19 travel guidelines pertain to all Penn-affiliated travel, both international and domestic, including local car travel.  The procedures impact travel with overnight stay only, not day trips.

Employees may submit a petition for authorization to travel to a destination in the “Suspended” (red) stage and “Restricted” (blue) stage.  Employees are permitted to travel without a petition to destinations in the “Limited” (orange) stage and “Normal” (green) stage. 

I am a graduate student and I want to do research in a country rated CDC Warning Level 3, can I go?

If your destination country is rated by the CDC as a Level 3, the country falls in the “Suspended” (red) stage according to Penn’s travel criteria matrix.  PhD students who have advanced to Candidacy and have research needs may submit a petition [insert link to petition page] for authorization to travel.  Other graduate students may not travel to a destination in the “Suspended” (red) stage. 

Our school runs a group trip for undergraduates during winter break.  How do I know if undergraduates will be allowed to travel in December?

Based on Penn’s resumption of travel matrix, undergraduates may submit a petition for authorization to travel if the destination is in the restricted (blue) stage.  If your group is traveling to a destination in the blue or orange stage, then the group trip leader may submit a petition for authorization to travel on behalf of the group.   

We understand it is difficult to plan ahead in these uncertain times.  If you have future plans for Penn-affiliated travel to a destination that is currently in the Suspended (red) stage, Restricted (blue) stage or Limited (orange) stage, please do not finalize your travel plans.  If you need to purchase flights, accommodations or other bookings, be sure your purchases are refundable.  Consider a back-up plan in the event you will not be authorized to travel.  If/when a time comes that you are permitted to travel or able to submit a petition for authorization to travel to your destination, CTRA is committed to reviewing your petition quickly and will respond within one week with an answer or request for more information.    

I’m a Penn employee traveling to central Pennsylvania by car for fieldwork.  Do I have to follow these guidelines?

Yes. 

The temporary COVID-19 travel guidelines pertain to all Penn-affiliated travel, both international and domestic, including local car travel.  The procedures impact travel with overnight stay only, not day trips.

Employees may submit a petition for authorization to travel to a destination in the “Suspended” (red) stage and “Restricted” (blue) stage.  Employees are permitted to travel without a petition to destinations in the “Limited” (orange) stage and “Normal” (green) stage. 

I am a graduate student and I want to do research in a country rated CDC Warning Level 3, can I go?

If your destination country is rated by the CDC as a Level 3, the country falls in the “Suspended” (red) stage according to Penn’s travel criteria matrix.  PhD students who have advanced to Candidacy and have research needs may submit a petition [insert link to petition page] for authorization to travel.  Other graduate students may not travel to a destination in the “Suspended” (red) stage. 

Our school runs a group trip for undergraduates during winter break.  How do I know if undergraduates will be allowed to travel in December?

Based on Penn’s resumption of travel matrix, undergraduates may submit a petition for authorization to travel if the destination is in the restricted (blue) stage.  If your group is traveling to a destination in the blue or orange stage, then the group trip leader may submit a petition for authorization to travel on behalf of the group.   

We understand it is difficult to plan ahead in these uncertain times.  If you have future plans for Penn-affiliated travel to a destination that is currently in the Suspended (red) stage, Restricted (blue) stage or Limited (orange) stage, please do not finalize your travel plans.  If you need to purchase flights, accommodations or other bookings, be sure your purchases are refundable.  Consider a back-up plan in the event you will not be authorized to travel.  If/when a time comes that you are permitted to travel or able to submit a petition for authorization to travel to your destination, CTRA is committed to reviewing your petition quickly and will respond within one week with an answer or request for more information.