The University of Houston's institutional travel policy (MAPP 4.02.01B) generally governs the reimbursement of research-related travel expenses. However, faculty and staff members with awards that support travel expenses should adhere to the travel guidelines outlined in their particular award agreement, sponsor specific guide, and the Uniform Guidance if the grant is from a federal source. When the sponsoring agency imposes more restrictive travel regulations than university and federal guidelines, travelers must follow the sponsor's guide. Only the funding agency has the authority to allow exceptions to agency policy. If a PI wishes to obtain the sponsor's approval of an exception, he or she should send a written request to the sponsor via the Office of Contracts and Grants for prior-approval.
Fly America Act
The Fly America Act of 1974 (49 U.S.C. 40118) requires that foreign air travel funded with Federal funds be performed on U.S. flag air carriers. Federal funds code numbers at the University of Houston are 5013, 5014, 5015, 5033, 5034, 5035, 5036, 5043, 5044, 5045, 5046, 5053, 5054, 5055, and 5056. If a non-U.S air carrier is used, the waiver checklist (DOC) must be used to explain why service by a U.S. flag air carrier(s) is not available or why it was necessary to use a foreign air carrier. The request must be evaluated and the form approved by a department business manager that has completed the research certification course. The completed form must be uploaded to the voucher or P-card statement used to pay for the airline ticket.
Note that a U.S. air carrier 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 present in the area next to the flight numbers on the airline ticket, boarding pass, or on the documentation for an electronic ticket (passenger receipt).
The Fly America Act was amended by various Open Skies Agreements. With the exclusion of Department of Defense (DOD) funded travel, the Open Skies Agreements are an exception to the Fly America Act and allow for the use of non-U.S. carriers. These are bilateral or multilateral air transport agreements to which the U.S. Government and the government of a foreign country are parties. However, these agreements are nullified by the number of city-pair agreements in place. In order to use the Open Skies Agreements exception, there must be no city-pair contract flight between the two points (origin and destination). The Eurpoean Union is ht only exception.
Under the Open Skies agreement, travelers on a Federal grant can fly on either a U.S. carrier or a EU (European Union) carrier as long as they touch down in an EU county. For other countries with the agreement in place, travelers MUST use a U.S. air carrier or the airline of that country can be used ONLY if the point of origin and the destinations is either the US or that country AND there is no city-pair contract flight between the two points (origin and destination).
Carefully review travel charges and backup documentation to ensure that costs have been properly allocated. When preparing a travel expense report for reimbursement, it is important to have a trip/itinerary-report that lists each day's activity and purpose. The information on the trip-report will determine which funding source the expense should be charged each day. For the sponsored project award, a description of how the trip benefits the award must be on the travel request and travel expenditure documentation. Cost allocation of travel expenses to grants funds is important and must be given special attention and documented in the cased below:
- Personal days: When travel involves personal days, airfare price comparison must be documented, and the lowest airfare charged to the grant. Also, no expense can be charged to the grant funds for those days.
- Trips that benefit more than one project and/or activity: When a trip benefits two or more sponsored projects or other activities, the cost should be allocated to the project funding source based on the proportional benefit. The cost of airfare and other shared expenses should be prorated and charged based on the number of days or time spent on each activity.
Under certain conditions, the University of Houston will approve travel advances for group travel and for individual foreign travel (See MAPP 04.02.01B). In those cases, Accounts Payable requires that a department local cost center be used for the advance. It is important to note that a sponsored project cost center may not be used to cover the amount of the advance.
Export Controls and Travel
When traveling abroad, UH travelers should complete the Export Control and Travel Embargo Form (DOC) to help determine whether items being taken out of the country are "licensed controlled" as determined by EAR and ITAR. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) also may prohibit travel to embargoed countries.
In most situations, when you take equipment, devices, computer software or technical data on a business trip outside of the country, you may not need to obtain a licenses or take any special actions to comply with the export rules. Most of the equipment and data that you are likely to take with you are not specially controlled to most countries, and there is a broad exception to the export rules for taking tools of trade with only a requirement that you maintain effective control of those items while you are outside of this country AND you are not traveling to an embargoed country (Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria or Sudan).
When traveling with your computer, the export rules generally will not restrain you from taking commercially available laptop computers and standard software to most countries as long as the following apply:
- The laptops and other computing and data storage devices are standard, off-the-shelf products and are broadly available; and
- The operating system and any encryption capabilities are of the kind that are preloaded on the computers and do not allow for user revisions to enhance communications security capabilities; and
- All of the application programs are general, commercially available software that either do not perform technical analyses; or, are general purpose scientific or engineering programs that are commercially available (e.g., for electric field calculations not aimed at a specific product); and
- All of the data stored on the computers or storage devices is publicly available (e.g., published in journals or on the web). Data and analyses from research that ordinarily would be published and are not restricted by contract from general dissemination can be treated as publicly available; and
- You have no reason to believe that there are export constraints on any of the equipment, software, data or information that would apply to your intended travel; and
- The travel is not to a country with special strong export controls, currently:
- Travel to Cuba
- North Korea