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Travel Guide

This page provides Columbia GSAPP Faculty and Students with policies, resources, and relevant documents relating to Studio, Workshop, and other University-affiliated travel.
1.0 Faculty
1.2. Stipend Disbursement
Upon receiving approval from the Finance Office, the faculty member will need to send the student stipend request form to Carla Call at least 3 weeks prior to the travel dates. Once the collected data has been verified, the Admissions Office will send a disbursement request to Student Financial Services (SFS) authorizing the award of the student travel stipend. Refer here for a sample student stipend request form.
1.3. Hotel/Air Accommodations

GSAPP will reimburse faculty for reasonable hotel and air accommodations at a rate consistent with the approved budget and (approved) travel dates. Faculty may arrange for travel through the STA webform. In addition, travel expenses must conform to University and GSAPP policies, federal and state law, and regulations on sponsored projects, if applicable.

Refer to section 4.0 Travel and Business Expense Reimbursement Guidelines or the Columbia University Finance Gateway website for more information on hotel and air accommodations that qualify for reimbursement.

Faculty may not cover group expenses such as ground transportation (car or bus rentals). Rental fees should be paid directly by the individual student and included in their per student budget, if appropriate. GSAPP does not reimburse for meals or food expenditures.

1.4. STA Approval Process

STA Travel is the University-approved vendor for booking airfare and hotel reservations. Once your travel budget is approved by the Finance Office, you have the option of arranging your airfare and/or hotel accommodations through STA. Request your booking via STA’s Web form.

In the web form include: Department (GSAPP), Approver (Carla Call), and Approver’s contact details (212-854-3415, cc3204@columbia.edu).

Or you may contact STA directly at (212) 473-6100 or nyc@statravel.com.

Send your STA booking and itinerary documents to Carla Call for GSAPP review and approval. In your email request, include the following information:

  1. GSAPP business purpose of travel, name of traveler, date(s) of travel, and destination(s).
  2. Confirmation that the details of the travel booking and itinerary are correct (i.e. name spelling as it appears on passport, date(s) and time(s), and destination(s), etc.).
  3. Attachments of the STA booking and itinerary.

The Finance Office requires 1-2 business days for the approval process.

Once GSAPP sends the approval email to STA, STA will finalize the booking and send the e-ticket itinerary to the attention of the traveler. GSAPP will receive the invoice for payment.

2.0 Students
2.1. Stipends

GSAPP provides travel stipends to qualifying students to offset the cost of studio travel. These travel funds will be awarded and disbursed in accordance with University policy. Faculty and students are advised to review the University stipend policy prior to making travel arrangements as tax and loan implications may apply. Travel stipends are disbursed by Student Financial Services (SFS). Since GSAPP does not dictate the timing of the disbursement, faculty and students are advised to plan carefully when making arrangements.

Stipend payments are awarded directly to the student–not applied to the Student’s University Account. There are two ways to receive a stipend payment:

  1. By the University’s preferred method, direct deposit, and
  2. By picking up a paper check at the Payments and Deposits Office (Morningside) at 205 Kent Hall.
2.2. Visas
Students are required to verify that they meet visa requirements for each destination country. The visa procurement process can take several weeks, so please plan accordingly. For additional information on visa requirements, visit the host country’s Office of the Consulate General website. U.S. Citizens may refer to the U.S. State Department’s Visa service website.
2.3. Hotel/Airfare
Per University policy, GSAPP does not pay directly for students’ hotel accommodations or airfare. Stipends are issued to help offset these costs. Faculty and students are advised to review the University stipend policy prior to making travel arrangements, as tax and loan implications may apply. The stipend policy can be viewed here.
2.4. Risk Management

The University maintains a contract with International SOS to provide worldwide medical and evacuation assistance in the event of an emergency (per ISOS’s evaluation) to eligible travelers on University-related activities or business.

Please note that ISOS does not qualify as health insurance coverage. All registered students at Columbia University are required to maintain health insurance and determine how his/her health insurance plan applies to medical care abroad prior to departing the US.

Faculty and students are also required to register their travel itineraries with ISOS using the new travel registry system MyTrips once their travel plans are finalized or prior to leaving for their trip. Submit a printout of your completed “trip report” to Carla Call at the GSAPP Finance Office after registering.

For more information regarding international travel, please view this Columbia website. Individuals can also download an identification card here.

If an emergency arises during the trip that GSAPP needs to be made aware of, please contact ISOS and Danielle Smoller:

Danielle Smoller, Associate Dean
Phone: 212-854-3450
Email: ds89@columbia.edu

3.0 Studio Travel Forms
3.1. Sample Travel Budget Request
3.2. Sample Student Stipend Request Form
3.3. Student Travel Contact Sheet
3.4. Template Email for STA Travel Request
4.0 Travel and Business Expense Reimbursement Guidelines
4.1. Overview

Columbia University reimburses faculty and assistants for necessary and reasonable business expenses incurred while traveling on behalf of the University or in support of approved and sponsored research activities. Expenses submitted for reimbursement must conform to University and GSAPP policies, federal and state law, as well as restrictions placed on sponsored projects. The University requires that travelers complete and submit an approved Travel and Business Expense Report documenting the business purpose of the trip and the types of expenses incurred.

It is the responsibility of the traveler requesting reimbursement to familiarize themselves with University and GSAPP travel policies, federal and state law, and regulations on sponsored projects (if applicable), to ensure compliance and prudent spending of University funds. Refer to the Columbia University Finance Gateway website for more information regarding these policies and guidelines.

4.2. Responsibilities of Traveler Requesting Reimbursement

U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents must submit a completed and signed W-9 to the Finance Office. A reimbursement cannot be authorized without verification that the traveler’s information in the Accounts Payable System is current and correct.

Foreign Nationals must submit a W-8BEN, a copy of the passport identification page, and a copy of Form I-94 (for international students) or the visa entry stamp. Certain visa types are not eligible for reimbursements. To confirm eligibility for payments by Columbia University, refer here.

A detailed business purpose or justification for each expense must be itemized to provide support for eligibility of reimbursement as opposed to taxable income.

Proper documentation must be obtained for each expense. Typically, supporting documentation will be in the form of a receipt that details the expense and reflects proof of payment.

The Travel and Business Expense Report (TBER) must be completed accurately and in accordance with University and GSAPP policies. Ensure that all applicable documentation (e.g., receipts, foreign currency conversion sheet) and forms are also included (e.g., travel cover sheet, food/alcohol form). It must be signed and dated by Janet Reyes. The traveler should retain a copy.

Requests for reimbursement should be submitted within 10 business days after return from the trip and no later than 120 days after date of the expenditure.

4.3. Compliance

Federal Regulations and the IRS require that certain criteria are met when documenting and submitting expenses for reimbursement. These include the following:

  • Submitting reimbursement requests within a reasonable period of time
  • Detailing the specific business purpose of each expense
  • Providing tangible documentation and proof of payment (receipts)
4.4. Reimbursement Time Submission Limit

Travel expense reimbursements must be reported within a reasonable period of time. The University policy generally sets the submission deadline to be within 10 business days after returning from the trip and NO LATER than 120 days after the date of the expense.

In addition, travelers should be cognizant of the University’s June 30th fiscal year-end. All expenses incurred for that fiscal year should be reported to the Finance Office prior to year-end (June 30th) to ensure that the expense is appropriately captured for accounting and reporting purposes.

After 120 days or the end of the fiscal year (whichever comes first), late submissions for reimbursement require supplemental approval. Expense reimbursements submitted after one year require an exception request and are always considered taxable income to the traveler and will be reported on their annual Form W-2 form.

4.5. Business Purpose

All expenses must be for a valid business purpose that is necessary and reasonable in order to conduct University business. A business purpose must be documented for all expenditures for which a traveler is requesting reimbursement.

The business purpose must be specific. “Travel to Boston, MA to speak at Accounts Payable Network conference” is an appropriately documented business purpose. “Travel to Boston for conference” is not. The business purpose of an expense may be obvious to the traveler, but not to a third-party reviewer. Each travel and business reimbursement request must be supported by a detailed business purpose that includes the following information:

  • Who traveled or attended the event
  • What type of event or activity was attended or what purchase was made
  • When the event or activity took place
  • Where the event or activity took place
  • Why and how it ties in to Columbia University’s business
4.6. Proof of Payment (Receipts)

The traveler is expected to obtain original receipts for all expenses for which they plan to have reimbursed. An original receipt may take many forms (i.e. cash register receipt, copy of an order form, web receipt or confirmation). A receipt must identify:

  • Date of purchase
  • Vendor name
  • Itemized list and unit price of purchased items
  • Total amount
  • For ground transportation receipts include destination and arrival points on TBER form

Receipts should be taped (not stapled) to 8 ½ x 11 paper on one side only. As a note, do not use highlighters to mark receipts.

If payment was rendered via a credit/debit card, the receipt must demonstrate:

  • That the traveler is the account holder of the credit/debit card (e.g., traveler’s name or the last four digits of the credit/debit card). In this instance, a copy of the credit/debit card showing only the last four digits and the payee’s full name should be submitted with the receipt.

  • If the receipt does not show the last four digits or traveler’s name, then a copy of the traveler’s credit or debit card statement identifying their full name and the date, location, and amount of the expense may be submitted. Please black out any private or unrelated information prior to submission.

If the traveler is unable to obtain an original receipt or provide documentation of purchase, a Missing Receipt worksheet must be completed and submitted. Any request for reimbursement that is submitted with a Missing Receipt worksheet will require supplemental approval.

The Travel and Business Expense Report must be submitted in US dollar currency only. For receipts with foreign currencies, travelers must choose the appropriate exchange rate using Oanda.com’s daily or average exchange rate. The converted amount in US dollars must be written on each receipt with the Oanda.com printout as supporting documentation.

4.7. Travel Arrangements
It is recommended that a traveler make arrangements for travel through either a University-designated travel agency or preferred vendor for discounted rates. A list of preferred travel agencies can be found here. Travelers are allowed to use a travel agency or vendor outside of the preferred list. However, the traveler must take responsibility for selecting arrangements that comply with University and GSAPP policy and spending guidelines.
4.7.1. Tax-Exempt Status
The travel industry, unfortunately, does not recognize tax exempt status and in this instance, the traveler will be fully reimbursed for taxes paid. If the supplier requests a tax-exemption certificate, it can be obtained from the Finance Office at 406 Avery Hall.
4.7.2. Air Travel
Economy/Coach Class airline tickets should be purchased aboard a regularly scheduled commercial carrier. Reimbursement will only be issued for the amount equivalent to coach airfare. Carrier selection should be influenced by price (lowest available airfare) and not by frequent flier status/affiliation or other personal considerations. Travel on a US air carrier is preferred, but not required. Reservations should be made at least 14 days prior to the scheduled departure date. GSAPP policy is to not reimburse for business or first class air travel.
4.7.3. Rail & Bus Travel

Rail and Bus tickets should be purchased at the lowest available commercial/economy rate. The University provides a negotiated rate through Amtrak.

Travelers should use Amtrak’s unreserved and reserved coach class of service. If traveling by Amtrak’s “Acela Express” train, a traveler should obtain business class tickets, as this is the lowest class of travel. It is expected that tickets are purchased at the lowest available rate. Reimbursement will not exceed the cost of the lowest available fare.

4.7.4. Ground Transportation

While traveling, it may be necessary to use rental cars, taxis, or personal vehicles. In all cases, travelers should exercise reasonable judgment and either use a University preferred supplier (i.e., Hertz) or the most economical option available.

For more information, please see the University’s policy on rental cars and travel by private vehicle.

4.7.5. Lodging
Travelers will be reimbursed for the cost of lodging accommodations and any applicable taxes and fees while traveling on approved University business. Room rates should not exceed $350 per night (excluding taxes) in the US or $400 per night (US dollars, excluding taxes) in international locations.
4.7.6. Meals
GSAPP policy is to not reimburse for individual meal expenses. Business meals among University personnel or administrative meetings are not to exceed $25 for breakfast, $35 for lunch, and $75 for dinner, per person. A completed food/alcohol form must be submitted with the itemized receipt and proof of payment.
4.7.7. Meetings and Conference Fees

Meeting or Conference fees will be reimbursed by the University. It is preferable that either a P-card is used or the University is billed directly for these expenses. However, if the traveler pays the registration fee, they will be reimbursed.

A traveler can be reimbursed in advance for conference fees paid. To seek reimbursement prior to travel, the traveler must submit proof of payment and a copy of the conference flyer or registration, along with the valid business reason. The “travel end” date on the Travel and Business Expense report should reflect the return date of the trip.

4.7.8. Non-Reimbursable Expenses

The following miscellaneous expenses are non-reimbursable. University policy considers these expenses to be either personal, unnecessary, or avoidable expenses incurred during travel. As a result, there may be tax consequences to the travelers if reimbursed.

These non-reimbursable expenses include (but are not limited to):

  • Airline or VIP club membership dues or one-day admission fees
  • Air-phone usage
  • Baby-sitting
  • Barbers and hairdressers
  • Clothing or toiletry items
  • More than 3 personal calls each day, unless emergency circumstances are documented
  • Internet charges at home
  • Excess baggage costs related to personal property
  • Expenses related to vacation or personal days taken before, during, or after a business trip
  • Frequent flyer mile (Travelers will not be reimbursed for airline tickets purchased, partially purchased or accommodations and upgrades obtained using frequent flyer miles).
  • Travelers will not be reimbursed for credits issued by an airline from personal travel used to purchase airline tickets for business travel.
  • Credit card and Airline Rewards programs/points
  • Gift cards used as a payment mechanism should not be used for travel and business expenses as they will not be reimbursed
  • Helicopter services for local travel/entertainment
  • Laundry or cleaning expenses on trips lasting five (5) days or less, unless emergency circumstances are documented
  • Loss or theft of cash advance money or airline tickets
  • Loss or theft of personal funds or property
  • Lost baggage
  • Luggage and briefcases
  • Magazines, newspapers, personal reading materials
  • Medical expenses while traveling
  • Mini-bar alcoholic refreshments
  • Movies
  • “No show” charges for hotel or car service
  • Online auction sites
  • Personal entertainment
  • Pet care
  • Recreational expenses
  • Saunas, massages, spa visits
  • Shoe shines
  • Souvenirs or personal gifts
  • Snacks
  • Tips in excess of 20 percent
4.8. Columbia University Preferred Travel Agencies

Columbia University Preferred Air Travel Agencies:

Columbia University Preferred Hotels in NYC

Columbia University Preferred Car Rental Agency: Hertz

Methods of payment for preferred agencies can be processed via two routes. Some travel agencies bill the Finance Office directly. Otherwise, faculty and assistants can submit their travel expenses for reimbursement.