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General Travel Procedures

An International Travel Request Form (ITRF) must be used to initiate all international travel of NRCS employees who participate in official foreign travel. The form must provide a clear statement of the purpose and document specific benefits of the trip to NRCS. The employee must obtain approvals of the immediate and second-line supervisor and the form must be faxed or sent by e-mail to: linda.risden@wdc.usda.gov. You will be notified by IPD if and when to proceed with travel arrangements.  However, you may proceed making refundable airline and hotel reservations.  These two items can be canceled without a charge to you or the agency.

Agency clearance must be granted for all official foreign travel. IPD has authority to approve routine or recurring travel to Canada and Mexico. Most of the trips are three days or less and at a relatively low cost. For all other travel, IPD will seek collective approval of the Deputy Chiefs before the Associate Chief, on behalf of the Chief, makes final approval. SES members, Presidential appointees, and Schedule C appointees must complete the ITRF as well as the Foreign Travel Justification Form. The justification form should be sent by e-mail to: linda.risden@wdc.usda.gov. These employees must receive Departmental approval for all foreign travel. IPD will review the form and obtain approval of Office of the Secretary.

An official passport is required for all official foreign travel, with the exception Taiwan.  The U.S. does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan; therefore, official travel requires a personal passport. The cost of a personal passport for travel to Taiwan may be reimbursed on employee's travel voucher. For all other travel, IPD will contact the employee to secure a new official passport or to revalidate existing official passport and to provide instructions on obtaining any required visas. IPD will ensure that the passport is released to the employee prior to the departure date. On completion of travel, return official passport to IPD by certified mail.

Travel authorizations for all official foreign travel are issued by the Financial Management Division for NHQ employees. States have authority to issue authorizations for travel  for their employees to conduct routine business for common interest and to attend international meetings, providing that IPD be notified at least 70 days in advance of departure.

Employees cannot accept payments directly from a non-Federal source. If any expenses are being funded by a non-Federal source, the employee must submit in writing a request to their Ethics Officer in order to receive funds. The request must include details such as description of meeting or function and how it relates to your official duties; name of organization offering payment; and correspondence from organization outlining details of the offer (i.e. paying for travel, subsistence, and related expenses). The Ethics Officer will review the request and submit to NHQ's Human Resources Management Division (HRMD) for a conflict-of-interest analysis before any offer can be accepted on behalf of the agency. Payments must be made by the non-Federal source to the agency or accepted "in kind."

If the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) is involved, employees will be given other instructions. All U.S. Government employees traveling on official business are required by law to use an American flag carrier to the fullest extent possible. Extra-fare air accommodations (premium, first class, business class, or non-refundable tickets) may not be purchased. If travel is funded by a non-Federal source, tickets must be provided "in-kind." Ticket charges should not be made on personal credit card. If IPD is paying for the ticket, the cost will be charged to a blanket Government account.

A rest stop may be authorized (NTE 24 hours) when air travel between two points, including stopovers, exceeds 14 hours by direct or usually traveled route. A rest stop (a) may be authorized at any intermediate point, providing the point is midway or near midway; (b) will not be authorized when employee, for personal reasons, elects to travel by indirect route; and (c) must be stated on authorization, only if and when traveler meets all requirements. Employees who take a rest stop without prior approval of the agency before departure will not be reimbursed for that portion.

The U.S. Embassy must grant country clearance for all international travel of NRCS employees. IPD will request this clearance in writing to the embassy well in advance of proposed visit, and will ensure that clearance is granted prior to departure date. The U.S. Embassy in the foreign country is responsible for the safety and security of NRCS employees while on official travel. In order to carry out that responsibility, they need to know who is in their country at any point in time and what they are doing. The purpose of the policy is to protect the individual. Employees who travel without clearance will be charged annual leave and will absorb the costs of entire trip.

In-country arrangements are usually made by employee by contacting the host to schedule agenda, hotel reservations, etc. If travel is initiated by IPD, the employee will be given other instructions. If travel is funded by non-Federal source, lodging and meals must be provided "in kind."

Transportation should be by airport shuttle or public transportation whenever possible. Taxis may be used when no other transportation is reasonably available. Receipts are needed for fares (excluding tips) in excess of $75.00.

A rental car may be authorized in cases where it is necessary in order to complete the assignment. Use of a rental car must be for official use only and not for convenience of the employee. A rental car must be included on the travel authorization, and a justification must be stated on travel voucher.

An international driver's permit (IDP) should be obtained if plans include renting a car in any foreign country. A local AAA Travel Agency issues the IDP (for members and non-members). Most car rental companies require an IDP even if the country itself does not.

Information packages with health, security, travel tips, and relevant country background documents will be sent to employees by IPD. Additional information is available on the Internet at www.state.gov.

Film and processing services (for official use only) must be obtained from the employee's Information office. Books, pictures, literature, etc. on host country are not approved expenses.

Laundry costs are not reimbursable expenses-they are included in the M&IE rate.

Immunizations may be needed for foreign travel. Consult IPD for advice on required and/or recommended immunizations.

Telephone calls to the employee's residence are authorized but cannot exceed the amount equal to $7.00 times the number of lodging nights (includes access charges and charges for calls not completed). Claims for calls placed to local duty station commuting area on the return date from official travel will be authorized only for notification of change in schedule. Personal calls should be listed separately from official calls.

The travel voucher is the employee's responsibility, and should be submitted to the appropriate office for processing as soon as possible. If travel is funded by IPD, fax a draft copy of voucher to IPD within 2 weeks after return. IPD will instruct employee to submit completed voucher (with any changes) for signature.

A reimbursable agreement will be issued by FAS if technical assistance is provided and services are reimbursable. IPD is responsible for all agreements.

An Executive Summary or Report should be submitted to IPD within 2 weeks after return.

International Programs Division (IPD) Phone: 301-504-2271; Fax: 301-504-2217.