Travel Policies and Procedures

Updated January 2020

General Information and Domestic Travel:

Staff should understand the  UCAR Travel policy before any travel occurs or is requested. 

The purpose of this document is to provide CISL staff with a clear and easily understood guideline for arranging all travel.  Please keep in mind, the information below is designed to work together with the UCAR policy.  Note – not all guidelines listed below are required by UCAR, yet are required by CISL management.

UCAR's policy is to ensure that travel funded by UCAR is essential to its mission, that persons traveling on UCAR business are properly insured, that the travel cost is reasonable, and that the costs of travel are accounted for properly. It is UCAR's policy to require that all UCAR-supported travel comply with conditions specified in cooperative agreement(s) and all applicable Federal regulations. When traveling on U.S. Government funds compliance with the Fly America Act is mandatory. UCAR reimburses (on a no-loss, no-gain basis) employees and other persons traveling on UCAR official business for eligible costs incurred during properly authorized and documented travel.

All business travel by CISL employees, regardless of who is paying for the trip, must be authorized by the appropriate Supervisor as well as the CISL Director (this also applies to travel that is at no cost to NCAR/UCAR).  UCAR’s policy is that all travel authorizations must be submitted through the automated Travel Web Application.  This form must be completed prior to beginning all trips other than those for which the only reimbursement requested is for mileage in a private auto.   The Travel Authorization form should be submitted through the automated system at least 14 calendar days prior to the commencement of travel.  NO EMPLOYEE MAY AUTHORIZE HIS OR HER OWN BUSINESS TRAVEL, DOMESTIC OR INTERNATIONAL.

Travel authority is limited to specified dollar amounts and account keys. Approval of travel is made by the designated manager for the staff member traveling and/or PI or manager of the funds supporting the trip.

All travel must be approved in writing before any monies are spent.  The first step in this process is to fill out the travel request form.  This form will begin the process of approval and will provide the Administrative Support person information to begin planning the trip.  As stated on the form, once the form has been submitted, an email will be generated to the appropriate administrative staff.  The Administrative Support person will do a quick/short budget and present to the appropriate manager/supservisor for approval.  Once approval has been obtained, the Administrative Support person will contact you and move forward on the request.  This is only approval to start the process.

All permissions must be given before any costs are incurred.  Once the trip has been approved, an estimate of the entire trip must be entered into the Travel Web Application, with the appropriate approvers listed.  Once the trip has been approved by all, the Administrative Support person should move forward with the trip. 

Unauthorized Travel (exceptions to policy are strongly discouraged):  If travel begins before it is authorized, the appropriate member of the President’s Council must ratify the trip.  The traveler will write an "exception to policy" memo to the President’s Council with approval from the CISL Director on why a TA was not processed prior to departure.  The CISL Directorate will then obtain the necessary signatures and approval from the appropriate member of the President’s Council.  

Following is the necessary information to complete the TA Form:

  1. Destination (hazardous areas must be reviewed and the proper authorization obtained from HESS).
  2. Purpose of trip – be specific, (i.e., To present a lecture at the Annual American Meteorological Society Meeting in San Diego, CA  8-13 January 2007; To collaborate with Jim Smith at University of British Columbia on numerical models, 12-13 May 2007, etc.)
  3. Dates of departure and return
  4. Account key
  5. Travel costs reimbursable by another organization.
  6. Exact services required – air/train, hotel, rental car, etc.
  7. If a destination, dates, amounts or purpose of trip needs to be amended, communicate with the Administrative Support person to update through the Travel Web Application.

 All changes increase the cost of the trip, so consider the impacts prior to changing.

In most cases, CISL travel procedures require all staff to go through their Administrative Support person to purchase airline tickets for work-related travel.  The Administrative Support person will assist the staff member in arranging airline reservations and have the ticket costs directly billed to NCAR/UCAR.  The employee should work with his/her Administrative Support person for the best available fares and times. 

Individual Airfare Purchases (individual purchases are strongly discouraged) Prior approval from the CISL Directorate, must be given to anyone wishing to purchase their own airline ticket.  The traveler must explain in writing why they are purchasing their own ticket and assume the monetary value of the ticket should the trip be cancelled.  Please be advised, staff must travel more than five times a year for this to be approved.  

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International Travel:

Even though the Travel process is now automated, all International travel must still be approved by the CISL Director.  This authority cannot be delegated to the “Acting CISL Director”.  However, if for some reason the CISL Director is not available to approve, the CISL Directorate Executive Assistant will give directions on whom to send the approval.  The CISL Directorate is aware of the NCAR Directorate schedules and will be able to direct the necessary approvals for international travel.  The CISL Directorate would prefer not to forward these trips to the NCAR Directorate, so please try to anticipate any foreign travel.  The CISL Directorate is happy to help with the travel coordination surrounding the different calendars.

The 14 calendar days rule also applies for foreign/international travel. 

Following are items that must be complete before the Administrative Support person enters the “international” TA in the Web Application -

  1. Please check to make sure the destination is not on the “hazardous” list.

    If the destination is on the list, please follow the procedures listed on the site above.  This includes the Traveler contacting the Manager of HESS, in writing (via email) that they are visiting a “hazardous” city, and that he/she has read the warnings and understands and agrees to them.  Please cc your Administrative Support person on this communication. The HESS Office will then respond in writing that the trip has been approved or not approved. THIS IS THE ADMINISTRATIVE SUPPORT PERSON'S RESPONSIBILITY TO CHECK THIS LIST. NO TA WILL BE APPROVED WITH A DESTINATION ON THE HAZARDOUS LIST WITHOUT APPROVAL IN WRITING FROM THE HESS OFFICE.  IF THE TRIP IS NOT APPROVED BY HESS, THE TRIP CANNOT TAKE PLACE.  IF A TRIP IS TO A HAZARDOUS AREA AND THESE PROCEDURES ARE NOT FOLLOWED, AN EXCEPTION MUST BE DONE.  


    Please mark the TA appropriately and include the email exchanges between the HESS Office and the traveler when creating the authorization.  The Administrative support person should also make notes in the notes section for the approvers benefit and attach the approved emails.

  2. Account key must have International travel approval.  Not all account keys allow foreign travel.
  3. Please remember to adhere to the “Fly America Act.” On all “international” travel, the Administrative Support person must add in the notes section of the TA that either – “no UCAR funds are used for the airfare”; “all American Flag Carriers used”; or “American Flag Carriers used where available, waiver attached”.  The trip will not be approved without this.
  4. If a visa is required, please work with the Administrative Support person to complete.


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Local Travel:

When private autos are used for business trips to destinations within 100 miles from the traveler's regular work location and no overnight stay is required, mileage is reimbursed but no per diem is paid. Travel during normal working hours between UCAR sites where shuttle service is available is generally not reimbursable.  A local mileage summary sheet attached to a Check Request is sufficient for a day trip.  An email from the traveler may be attached, but a mileage summary sheet needs to be completed.

The standard per diem rate established by the U.S. Department of State for all domestic cities for which specific rates are not determined. This rate can be found noted at the top of the web page for all states when checking domestic per diem.

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Travel Advance:

A travel advance is available to NCAR/UCAR travelers to support out of pocket travel expenses during an approved trip.  The maximum cash advance is $1,200 per month.  Travel advances are to support per diem and hotel expeneses incurred during employee travel on UCAR business.

  • A travel advance should be requested through the automated Travel Web Application Form. Travel advances issued through the UCAR Travel Office may only be issued a maximum of two weeks prior to the trip's start date.
  • Travel advances received from the Travel Office are subtracted from the traveler's total reimbursable expenses at the time the Travel Voucher is processed. A travel advance from the Travel Office must be cleared within two weeks of completion of travel, or a payroll deduction may be imposed. Additional travel advances from the Travel Office may not be issued until the prior advance is cleared. (Exceptions are made under special circumstances, e.g., for back-to-back travel.)

UCAR offers employees a U.S. Bank charge card issued to UCAR business travelers for the payment of travel expenses in order to reduce the necessity for UCAR to issue cash advances and for the traveler to carry cash or traveler's checks.  This can be used at an automated teller machine (ATM) or banking institution which displays the VISA logo.  VISA charges a transaction fee for each ATM withdrawal, and these fees are a reimbursable cost of travel. Most UCAR business travel expenses are chargeable on the UCAR U.S. Bank VISA Travel card, with only miscellaneous charges requiring cash.  The employee card holder is responsible for payment and any balances due. There are some CISL requirements for this card, such as frequency of travel, etc.  To request a card please contact your Lab Administrator.  

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All travel vouchers are to be submitted to the UCAR Travel Office through the online system within 2 weeks of the completion of the trip.  Provide the appropriate Administrative Support person with original receipts as soon as you return so that they can complete the voucher.