Travel

Overview

Work-related travel is again permitted, except to countries on the FOPH list of risk countries and countries the FDFA discourages travel to. However, we recommend limiting travel to what is essential for the unit to function properly.

General recommendations

Anyone arriving from a country or region with an increased risk of infection according to the FOPH must carefully comply with the Swiss government’s measures, which can be found here: bag.admin.ch/entree

Special restrictions for travel to countries where a SARS-CoV-2 variant is spreading

The COVID-19 Operating Committee has introduced the following protective measures for countries where a SARS-Cov-2 variant is spreading that carries a higher risk of infection or causes a more severe form of the disease (as described in Section 2, Article 2 of the Swiss federal government’s COVID-19 Ordinance). These measures will remain in effect until further notice:

    • The Safety, Security & Operations Department will not approve any new work travel exemptions for these countries.
    • Units are strongly advised to take all measures to avoid bringing in students and visitors from these countries.
    • We suggest you work with such individuals remotely or postpone their trip to EPFL to a later date.

List of countries with one or more worrying variants of the virus

List of countries the FDFA discourages travel to

Holidays and travel for personal reasons

EPFL strongly encourages the entire EPFL community to avoid spending their holidays or other leave time traveling to countries or areas with an increased risk of infection according to the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) or that the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs discourages people from visiting.

You may experience travel restrictions in the country you visit and you may be subject to the Swiss government’s quarantine requirements. If you’re a student, this could prevent you from coming to campus for your exams or a visit; if you’re a staff member, any additional time off will be deducted from your holiday entitlement.

Please consult the recommendations of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH).

Students

As a precaution, EPFL students must comply with the following measures on foreign travel for the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters as well as summer 2021.

  • Travel abroad by students (exchanges, academic mobility, internships, Master’s projects, study trips, project-related travel, etc.) remains prohibited in countries that the FDFA discourages people from traveling to for health or safety reasons unrelated to COVID-19.
  • In light of the current COVID-19 situation, EPFL advises students not to travel outside the European Union and the Schengen Area.
  • All study-related travel abroad (Master’s projects, exchanges, internships, etc.) will take place under the student’s personal responsibility. The risks students face if they travel to a country advised against by this directive include: restrictions on entering or leaving countries, the introduction of a curfew or lockdown, and the scarcity of commercial flights and the likelihood of flight cancellations, which could make it difficult and expensive to return to Switzerland. Also, the healthcare system could be affected, making it difficult or impossible to receive care, and the partner company or university could be forced to stop operating.
  • EPFL will not provide foreign assistance to students who fail to comply with these recommendations.
  • No additional contributions to travel costs will be granted beyond the measures and grants already in place.
  • Students must comply with all health and safety rules in effect in their country of destination as well as at the partner company or university.
  • When students return to Switzerland, they must follow all rules, and in particular quarantine rules, introduced by the FOPH.

Staff

Work-related travel is again permitted, except to countries on the FOPH list of risk countries and countries the FDFA discourages travel to. However, we recommend limiting travel to what is essential for the unit to function properly.

Reimbursement of travel expenses

The spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) is disrupting project-related travel plans, with financial implications. The guidance below explains whether third-party funds cover prepaid costs, what you need to do to claim back those costs, and what to do if you have to cancel a trip.

Reclaiming non-refundable costs from donors if you have to cancel your trip

Do third-party funds cover prepaid, non-refundable travel expenses if the organizer cancels an event or if I cannot travel because of coronavirus?

Yes, as explained in Art. 51 (“Force Majeure”) of the Annotated Model Grant Agreement:

  • You must immediately notify the Europe project officer (or the project coordinator if the unit is not coordinating the project) that the event has been canceled or postponed.
  • You must quickly put in place all possible measures to limit the damage caused by the cancellation or postponement, including measures to limit related costs (such as requesting a refund from the event organizer or tour operator, or filing an insurance claim), and you must be able to produce evidence of these measures for financial reporting and audit purposes.
  • You must notify the project coordinator of all planning-related costs incurred ahead of the event.

Yes, in the following two cases: 

  • The organizer cancels the event: in this case, keep evidence of the cancellation and send it to the controlling department along with your financial report. The controlling department will submit the evidence via the mySNF portal.
  • The event is still going ahead, but it’s taking place in an area that EPFL officially considers to be affected by the coronavirus.

Yes, as long as the costs meet the usual restrictive criteria for travel expenses (i.e. they are included in the budget and relate to people directly involved in the project).

Please keep evidence of the cancellation and send it to the controlling department along with your financial report.

No, US-based donors generally impose strict rules on travel expense eligibility.

Eligibility will depend on the terms of the contract with each donor. Contact the fund management team for more information.

Travel cancellation guidelines

Will I be reimbursed for travel expenses already incurred for a trip or event that has been cancelled?

You should first do what you can to minimize the lost travel expenses, such as by requesting a refund from the organizers or the travel agent, or by taking advantage of any travel insurance you may have.

In any case, you must keep all documentation related to your trip – the initial reservation, the cancelled travel, and the steps you take to obtain a refund.

If you made your reservation through the CWT travel agency at EPFL, you should contact the agency directly at [email protected] before the scheduled departure date. The agency will handle the reimbursement or rebooking request. Please be aware that different airlines have different cancellation and change policies.

You can request a refund online by filling out a form on the SBB Business ticket website.

You must make the request before the scheduled departure date. More information is available on the SBB Businesstravel page on the EPFL website.

In the event of a booking with another service provider, the employee is responsible for cancelling/changing the travel. Note that it is important to keep any documentation related to the booking as well as the cancellation of the professional travel.

In the event of payment of services with an EPFL credit card (individual or purchase) only, the employee can submit a request for reimbursement of the expenses incurred via the Accounting Department (insurance condition: more than 50% of the travel’s total cost has been paid with the credit card):

  1. Complete the following form (1st page ONLY) and provide all necessary documents: https://www.viseca.ch/Viseca/media/content/fr/assurance/annulation-interruption-voyage-location-voiture-clients-commerciaux.pdf.   
  2. Send the documents by e-mail (OBJECT: TRAVEL INSURANCE) to the Accounting Department ([email protected]), which will centralises the refund applications, before forwarding them to Viseca.

Further questions

If you have any further questions, please use this form.