Established: October 15, 1971 

Last updated: June 5, 2012

Class: G

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Table of Contents:

  1. General
  2. Timing of Submission, Processing and Payment
  3. Approvals and Responsibilities
  4. General Travel Expenses
  5. Transportation Expenses
  6. Accommodation Expenses
  7. Meal Expenses

Appendix A Travel Accident Insurance


  1. This policy provides the principles and framework for University of Waterloo travel and travel-related expenses.  The Guidelines for Travel Expenses (the “Guidelines”) are an integral part of the policy and provide additional information regarding travel procedures, expenses, rates, etc.
  2. This policy applies to all persons travelling on behalf of the university or in connection with funds administered by the university. Such persons include faculty, staff, students and visitors.
  3. Normally, the traveller claims out-of-pocket expenses related exclusively to his/her own travel costs. For group travel, one member of the group, deemed to be the traveller, may incur some or all of the travel expenses out-of-pocket on behalf of the group. On the travel claim or settlement, the deemed traveller lists the members of the group for whom the expenses were incurred. The university reimburses the traveller or deemed traveller, except as provided in the Guidelines.
  4. The university reimburses approved travel expenses that are reasonable and appropriate for the type of activity, and clearly relate to university business.
  5. The university specifies in the Guidelines minimum payment amounts for travel advances, claims and settlements.
  6. This policy relies on the judgment of the traveller and supervisor. It is not intended to render the traveller expense free. Where the Claimant complies with this policy and/or the Guidelines, approved travel expenses are reimbursable, however, where an expense is not clearly denoted in this policy and/or the Guidelines and uncertainty exists about the ability to reimburse for the item and/or about any tax implications, consultation in advance with Finance is recommended.  
  7. Travel Advances
    1. A traveller is not expected to use personal funds to incur excessive out-of-pocket expenses. The university will pay an approved travel advance for a reasonable amount where the expected travel expense is for university business, in whole or in part. The university will not pay a travel advance where the travel does not relate to university business or where the entire travel expense will be recovered from a third party.
    2. Requests for travel advances must provide sufficient processing time and be settled promptly as described in section 2.D. Timing for Travel Advances.
    3. The money payable for a travel advance may be directed to the Claimant and/or in the case of airfare only,  directly to the university’s contracted service provider (see section 5.D. i. Transportation Expenses: Air Travel).
  8. Charging Travel Expenses Directly to the University
    1. The university contracts with certain travel service providers for services including airfare and vehicle rental. The university pays approved travel expenses directly where the Claimant engages the university’s contracted service provider. The university encourages travellers to use the contracted service providers in order to reduce out-of-pocket expenses.
    2. The university will not make direct payments to a service provider unless the university has a contract with that service provider, except as described below.
    3. The university will pay business conference registrations directly to the conference provider. Please refer to the Guidelines for additional information.
    4. The university provides Guidelines for the use of a non-university contracted travel service provider where a large group is travelling on university business.
  9. Approved travel expenses that do not qualify for a travel advance or direct payment by the university will be settled by reimbursement.
  10. Travel expenses may be incurred in a currency other than the university’s payment currency. Information regarding exchange rates, and payment currency and methods for travel advances, claims and settlements are included in the Guidelines.
  11. Post Audit of Travel Advances, Claims and Settlements
    1. All travel advances, claims and settlements are subject to subsequent audit including, but not limited to, internal audits conducted by the university and external audits conducted by government or third party funders. Audit findings may be reported to management.
    2. A Claimant who has been reimbursed or whose travel expenses have been paid directly to a service provider in error for expenses that are not permitted under this policy or by the third party funder, may be required to reimburse the university regardless of when the expenses were incurred.


  1. Approved travel claims and settlements must be submitted to Finance within one month of the travel end date or before the university’s fiscal year end (April 30), whichever is sooner. The university will not reimburse travel claims received by Finance four months or more after the travel end date unless approval is obtained in accordance with the Guidelines.
  2. It is the joint responsibility of the Claimant and approver to ensure that the travel advance, claim or settlement is complete, accurate and approved before submitting to Finance. The travel advance, claim or settlement will be returned or payment delayed when one or more of the conditions of claiming and approval outlined in section 3. Approval and Responsibilities is not satisfied.
  3. Finance is responsible for processing payment within the time specified in the Guidelines.
  4. Timing for Travel Advances
    1. The university will not pay a travel advance unless sufficient processing time is provided, as outlined in the Guidelines. In the event that payment of an advance is declined, expenses may be claimed on a reimbursement basis only. 
    2. Payment of a travel advance to the traveller will not be issued more than 10 business days prior to the travel start date, except where significant out-of-pocket expense, such as airfare, is incurred in advance. The reason for requesting early payment of the advance must be indicated on the travel advance.
    3. All travel advances must be settled within the time specified in the Guidelines. Payment for a travel advance will not be issued to any individual who has an unsettled travel advance where the trip return date is more than 60 days in the past.


  1. It is the responsibility of the traveller and the traveller’s supervisor to ensure that travel destinations are considered safe for university business travel. Given that conditions may change, it is important to monitor travel advisories frequently prior to departure.
  2. The university assumes no responsibility for injury (except as University of Waterloo travel accident insurance may apply), loss or damage incurred when a private motor vehicle is utilized for university travel. For his/her own protection, a person using a private vehicle should carry insurance in an amount to cover his/her legal responsibilities.
  3. The university carries a travel accident insurance policy covering designated persons travelling on university business. Details of this coverage are described in Appendix A.
  4. Academic and/or academic support departments are responsible for decisions regarding non-routine, yet appropriate and reasonable travel expenses, except where expenses are specifically not permitted by this policy, the Guidelines, or by a third party funder. These decisions are subject to approval by the department’s highest reporting authority (i.e., Faculty Dean, Associate Provost, or Vice-President) and may require consultation with Finance. 
  5. An approved travel claim must be submitted for each trip taken, except where a Claimant takes multiple short trips over a limited period of time.
  6. All signatures on travel advances, claims and settlements must be original. A signature stamp is not acceptable.
  7. Conditions of Claiming
    1. The Claimant must sign the travel advance, claim or settlement, except as described in the Guidelines. The Claimant certifies that the travel and related expenses are:
      • for university business, in whole or in part;
      • compliant with university policy (if travel is funded by a third party such as an external granting agency, travel and related expenses must meet third party requirements as outlined in section 3.I. Travel Expenses Funded by Third Parties); and
      • reasonable under the circumstances.
    2. The Claimant cannot approve an advance, claim or settlement payable to him/herself, whether directly or indirectly.
    3. A Claimant is required to substantiate each out-of-pocket expense with an acceptable, original invoice/receipt that evidences both the activity and proof of payment. The Guidelines provide additional information regarding acceptable documentation. The original documentation, including boarding passes, becomes the property of the university and will not be returned to the Claimant.
    4. The actual cost of expenses incurred for entertainment of others must be substantiated by an original invoice/receipt. In addition, sufficient detail must be provided to identify the person or persons entertained, including names, university or organization and their affiliation with the business activity.
  8. Conditions of Approval
    1. One-over-one approval is required for each travel advance, claim or settlement. The approver certifies that:
      • the travel advance, claim or settlement is complete and accurate;
      • travel and related expenses meet the conditions outlined in section 3.G. Conditions of Claiming; and
      • the travel advance, claim or settlement is allocated to the appropriate university expense account(s).
    2. Approval must be obtained from a higher level of reporting authority and may not be delegated to a lower level of authority. The Guidelines provide information to determine the appropriate one-over-one approver.
    3. No individual can approve a travel advance, claim or settlement where real or perceived conflict of interest exists between the Claimant and the approver.
    4. No individual can approve a travel advance, claim or settlement where the trip is not for university business, in whole or in part.
  9. Travel Expenses Funded by Third Parties
    1. Certain travel expenses are funded by third parties, such as external granting agencies. All expenses must meet the terms and conditions imposed by the entity that is providing funding for the travel expenses. 
    2. Where the third party funder does not specify terms and conditions, university policy prevails. 
    3. Where the third party funder does specify terms and conditions, the third party terms and conditions prevail, regardless of whether they are more stringent or more generous than university policy. Except in those cases specified in the Guidelines, the Claimant must submit evidence of the third party funder’s terms and conditions along with each travel claim.


  1. Travel expenses normally include one or more of: transportation, accommodation and meals. These expenses are eligible for reimbursement under the conditions described in this policy and the Guidelines.
  2. The university will reimburse for certain eligible expenses permitted at the discretion of the approver in accordance with section 3.D. Approvals and Responsibilities. Please refer to the Guidelines for a list of items that may be approved by the department. All individuals involved in claiming, reviewing or approving travel expenses are reminded of the principle of reasonableness.
  3. The university will not reimburse a Claimant for personal expenses. The Guidelines provide a list of ineligible items. The list is not intended to be exhaustive.
  4. Certain eligible travel expenses create a taxable benefit if reimbursed by the university. The Guidelines describe the claim process.
  5. To ensure compliance with the Canadian Income Tax Act a Claimant should not incur out-of-pocket expenses for wages, honoraria, or service rendered (i.e., translation, editing, etc.) by an individual (i.e., not an incorporated business). The university should pay an individual directly for services rendered. The Guidelines outline extenuating circumstances where the university will reimburse a Claimant for paying an individual for services rendered.
  6. Certain expenses are treated differently for short-term and long-term travel, as outlined in the Guidelines.


  1. Use of Claimant’s Owned Vehicle
    1. The university reimburses for business travel by Claimant’s private vehicle under normal circumstances within a maximum kilometre radius from the university and limits the amount of reimbursement beyond the maximum. The Guidelines specify the maximum and requirements.
    2. If a private automobile is used on approved university business, the owner must ensure that personal vehicle insurance is adequate. Third-party liability is required with minimum coverage as specified in the Guidelines.
    3. An individual who travels frequently on behalf of the university should notify his/her automobile insurer regarding such travel.
    4. The Canadian Income Tax Act and Canada Revenue Agency defines travel to and from work as a personal expense unless the travel is specifically exempted. The university does not reimburse or pay for travel to and from work, except where such travel is exempted from the personal expense category.  Exemptions are specified in the Guidelines. 
    5. The kilometre rate for use of Claimant’s owned vehicle will be established by the university and published in the Guidelines. The Guidelines include authorized distance between the university and frequently travelled points. Map distances will prevail in all other cases.
    6. An individual cannot claim the kilometre rate for a vehicle unless it is owned by him/herself or an immediate family member (i.e., spouse or partner). For the protection of all parties, the university does not permit the borrowing of a vehicle; instead a vehicle should be rented through the university’s contracted rental agency.
    7. The Guidelines provide a list of expenses related to a Claimant’s owned vehicle that are ineligible. The list is not intended to be exhaustive.
  2. Use of University Owned Vehicle
    1. The university owns vehicles for specific business uses. All university owned vehicles are maintained by Plant Operations to ensure standards are met. Exceptions are specified in the Guidelines.
    2. A claim for expenses related to a university owned vehicle is reimbursable, where permitted in the Guidelines.
  3. Use of Rented Vehicle
    1. The university contracts with a service provider for the purpose of renting vehicles for business travel.  A vehicle rental through the university’s contracted service provider may be charged directly to the university, eliminating any out-of-pocket expense. The Guidelines describe the process.
  4. Air Travel
    1. Approved airfare booked through the university’s contracted travel agency may be charged directly to a university account without incurring an out-of-pocket expense. The Guidelines outline the procedure to use this service.
    2. Airfare booked through a non-contracted travel agency must be incurred as an out-of-pocket expense, except as described in the Guidelines.
    3. The university recommends that travellers purchase trip cancellation insurance and such insurance is an eligible expense.  Where trip cancellation insurance is a component of a bundled insurance package and the bundled insurance package is the most economical option, the bundled insurance package is an eligible expense. 
    4. The original invoice and boarding passes, or boarding pass equivalent, must support a travel claim for airfare.
    5. The university does not reimburse for airfare purchased with frequent flyer points. Only the out-of-pocket expense is reimbursable to the Claimant.
    6. The university reimburses a Claimant only for the business portion of a trip when personal travel is combined with business travel. Reimbursement is at the most economical rate.
    7. Travel by air is authorized at economy class only. Travel other than by economy class may be authorized as described in the Guidelines.
  5. Travel by Bus, Rail and Taxi
    1. Transportation by bus or rail is an eligible expense. The Claimant must submit the passenger ticket stub, or ticket stub equivalent, including detailed cost information, with the travel claim.
    2. Transportation by taxi, limousine, or airport service is an eligible expense.  Reasonable transportation charges may be claimed as a reimbursable expense, except as provided in the Guidelines.  Claimants and approvers can determine reasonable costs by comparing other economical forms of transportation as outlined in the Guidelines.


  1. Hotel, motel, and other lodging expenses are limited to reasonable amounts and normally do not exceed the single occupancy rate. The original detailed receipt must be submitted, including the method of payment.
  2. Accommodation in a private and non-commercial setting (i.e. accommodation with friends or family) may be eligible. In order to acknowledge the host’s hospitality, a claim is eligible for a maximum duration and rate prescribed in the Guidelines. The host’s name and address must be provided.
  3. Requirements for arranging long-term accommodation are described in the Guidelines.


  1. Actual, reasonable meal costs are reimbursable up to the maximum specified in the Guidelines when supported by original, detailed invoices/receipts.  See below for claiming meals based on a specified rate (i.e., per diem) under certain conditions.
  2. A specified rate for meals (i.e., per diem) may be claimed if the travel expenses are funded by a third party and the agreement with the third party fund specifically permits a per diem.
  3. Certain food or beverages, such as alcoholic beverages, are ineligible if specified by university policy or third party funder terms and conditions.

Appendix A

Travel Accident Insurance ($100,000 Accidental Death and Dismemberment)

Coverage is provided for all full-time and part-time faculty and staff of the university, including Teaching Assistants and Research Assistants, travelling on business of the university, defined as any trip on assignment by or with the authorization of the university for the purpose of furthering the business of the university. Coverage is also provided for members of the Board of Governors and the Senate while travelling on behalf of the university, including travel to and from meetings, and faculty members on sabbatical leaves and faculty and staff members on paid leaves of absence. 

1. Coverage includes (subject to exclusions below):

  1. Travel anywhere in the world.
  2. Full coverage from time of departure of the traveller from residence or place of regular employment for the purpose of going on a trip, whichever occurs last, and continuing until such time as the traveller returns to residence or place of regular employment, whichever occurs first.
  3. Persons travelling to attend athletic events who are obliged to do so by virtue of their terms of employment, but who do not participate physically in such athletic events.
  4. Travel as a result of involvement in committees, councils, professional societies or other organizations related to the university provided that the traveller does not receive personal remuneration from outside sources in connection with such trip, other than reasonable travel expenses.
  5. Indemnity for the principal sum ($100,000) in the event of accidental loss of life, to be payable to the estate of the deceased. All other indemnities for specified accidental major injuries to be payable to the injured person.
  6. Aircraft travel as a passenger if the aircraft has a valid certificate of airworthiness and the pilot holds a current and valid license of a rating authorizing the piloting of such an aircraft (see exclusion #2C); also travel as a passenger in any aircraft operated by the Canadian Armed Forces or by a similar military service of any duly constituted governmental authority of any other recognized country.

  2. Exclusions:

  1. Faculty and staff who have reached their seventieth (70) birthday.
  2. Suicide or any attempt thereat while sane or self-destruction or any attempt thereat while insane.
  3. Claims if a traveller is acting as pilot, operator or member of the crew of any aircraft.
  4. Daily travel to and from work and bona fide vacations.
  5. Persons on unpaid leaves of absence from the university.
  6. Claims as a result of the use of aircraft owned, operated or leased by the university.
  7. Claims as a result of declared or undeclared war or any act thereof.