Travel Policy

See the Harvard Travel and Reimbursement Guidance for documentation requirements if traveling internationally.

  • While Harvard faculty, staff, students and researchers must still follow Harvard’s vaccination and booster requirements, the vaccination and booster attestation form or letter from the Office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs (VPIA) is no longer required when submitting a reimbursement request.
  • Harvard faculty, staff, students, and researchers traveling internationally must register with International SOS and submit the auto-generated email confirmation with their airfare reimbursement request.

Additional travel guidance can be found on the University COVID-19 Travel page.

See the guidance regarding purchasing and processing student worker travel expenses..

Version 12/01/2015.M02 posted 10/06/2021 contains minor changes to Appendix G.

Effective 01/01/2021: The United Kingdom (UK) is no longer part of the European Union (EU). Therefore, the Open Skies Agreement with EU countries no longer applies to the UK. See the U.S. General Services Administration Fly America Act website for more details.

Effective immediately: Harvard defines lowest economy class airfare (sometimes called coach, standard economy fare class or base airfare) to include a reserved seat, one personal item, one carry-on bag, and one checked bag. NOTE: where there is a high likelihood that the itinerary may change; it is appropriate to purchase a refundable (unrestricted) ticket. Include in the business purpose section of the reimbursement request the reason for purchasing a refundable ticket.

2/24/2020 - Rental Accommodations and Third Party Payments
Historically, Harvard business travelers seeking reimbursement for rental accommodations (VRBO, apartments, etc.) were required to get a Form W-9 from the renting landlord. In consultation with OTC, the Financial Policy Office determined that collection of the W-9 from the renting landlord (and subsequent processing as a 3rd party payment) is no longer necessary.

Effective 01/01/2018, as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), all payments to staff and faculty for permanent relocation (moving) expenses must be treated as taxable income.

Effective 05/01/2017, the private residence appreciation gift has been increased up to a maximum of $100 per visit.

Policy Statement

This policy establishes how Harvard University will reimburse individuals for travel expenses incurred conducting University business. As a public charity that benefits from gifts by donors and sponsored awards, Harvard University has a stewardship obligation to use its funds prudently; all Harvard University employees must use University resources wisely and in the fullest support of Harvard’s mission of education and research.  As such, travel expenses must be reasonable and necessary, and travelers must always use the most cost-effective means of travel.  All travel reimbursements must meet the IRS accountable plan rules in order to be excluded from the traveler’s gross income. While no policy can address every scenario, this document is intended to cover the most common travel-related situations; where unusual circumstances arise, the spirit of this policy – along with good judgment – should prevail. 


Travel Policy Table of Contents

  1. Select your means of travel
    1. Air travel (see Appendix A for detailed guidance for travel not using federal funds, see Appendix G for travel using federal funds)
    2. Ground transportation  (see Appendix B for detailed guidance)
    3. Lodging (see Appendix C for detailed guidance)
    4. Meals, entertainment and miscellaneous travel expenses (see Appendix D for detailed guidance)
    5. Business travel accident insurance
    6. Emergency Travel Assistance Program
  2. Pay for travel using an approved method
    1. Corporate Card
    2. Direct Billing using Harvard General Ledger Coding
    3. Personal Funds
    4. Cash Advances
  3. Get reimbursed for your travel
    1. Business connection, including combining business with personal travel and guidelines for spousal/family member travel
    2. Substantiation
    3. Receipts
    4. Missing Receipt Affidavits (MRAs)
    5. Reimbursee signature required
    6. Timeliness of reporting requirements, including receipt deadlines for standard and extended business trips 
    7. Foreign currencies
    8. Use of per diems
    9. Elective fees
  4. Understand rules for special reimbursement situations
    1. Third-party reimbursements
    2. Employee recruitment
    3. Moving expenses
    4. Fellowships (also called stipends or allowances)
    5. Non-resident aliens

Appendices (PIN required)

Appendix A: Detailed Guidelines for Air Travel

Appendix B: Detailed Guidelines for Ground Transportation

Appendix C: Detailed Guidelines for Lodging

Appendix D: Detailed Guidelines for Meals, Entertainment and Miscellaneous Expenses

Appendix E: Guidance for Combined Business and Personal Travel 

Appendix F: Guidance for Spousal/Family Member Travel 

Appendix G: Requirements for Travel Expenses Charged to Federal Awards