Reimbursements | Air Travel | Foreign Travel | Car Rental | Direct Bills | Currency Conversion | Conferences 


What is the deadline for submitting my Expense Report (ER)?

  • Within 10 business days after return date

When should I expect my reimbursement?
A completed ER usually can be processed within 10-15 business days. Submissions with missing supportive documents may take longer to process.

If I pay my own conference registration fee, can I get reimbursed in advance of my trip?
Yes, as long as your trip has been approved, you may request an advance reimbursement to cover the cost of your registration fee. Conference approval must be received before an advance reimbursement can be paid. It is imperative that the ER be submitted in a timely manner when a cash advance or advance reimbursement has been paid. A receipt for your conference fee must be submitted with your ER.

Why are there discrepancies in the total amount I submitted for reimbursement on my ER and the amount I was paid?
All ERs are audited and reimbursement amounts are adjusted as needed according to the ORISE Travel Policy. Note that the most common errors are: miscalculations of per diem, missing receipts, and unallowable costs (particularly on rental cars). You may contact Travel Central for questions regarding reimbursement discrepancies.

Back to Top

Air Travel

Must I use a particular airline?
Yes, travel must be on a U.S. Flag Carrier (FAR 52.247-63), in accordance with the Fly America Act; limited exceptions may apply.

What is a U.S. Carrier?
An air carrier which holds a certificate under 49 U.S.C.41102, but does not include a foreign air carrier operating under a permit.

What is the Fly America Act?
Federal travelers are required by 49 U.S.C. 40118, commonly referred to as the “Fly America Act,” to use United States air carrier service for all air travel and cargo transportation services funded by the United States Government. One exception to this requirement is transportation provided under a bilateral or multilateral air transport agreement, to which the United States Government and the government of a foreign country are parties, and which the Department of Transportation has determined meets the requirements of the Fly America Act.

The United States Government has entered into several air transport agreements that allow federal funded transportation services for travel and cargo movements to use foreign air carriers under certain circumstances. ORAU will only allow the use of these agreements when approved prior to travel. The restrictions and allowances can be complicated and an experienced manager must approve the routing prior to ticket purchase.

There are currently four bilateral/multilateral “Open Skies Agreements” with the EU, Australia, Switzerland and Japan (U.S. Government Procured Transportation) in effect. Visit for details.

The rights given to airlines concerning U.S Government procured transportation under the Open Skies Agreement do not apply to transportation obtained or funded by the Secretary of Defense or the Secretary of a military department.

Which exceptions to the Fly America Act allow me to fly on a foreign carrier?
Please see: Fly America Act and Open Skies Agreement

May I use a foreign carrier if it’s less expensive than a U.S. Carrier or if the flight schedule is more convenient for me?
No, unless limited exceptions to the Fly America Act such as the Open Skies Agreement apply. Please see: Fly America Act and Open Skies Agreement.

What determines if a code-share is reimbursable as a U.S. Carrier?
The ticket has a U.S. carrier’s flight number for the code-share portion of the flight.

  • Ticket issued by Delta, airplane operated by Air France, flight number Delta.

Not Reimbursable:

  • Ticket issued by Delta, airplane operated by Delta, flight number Air France.
  • Ticket issued by Air France, airplane operated by Delta, flight number Air France.

What class of service must I fly? What are the exceptions to the rule?
Lowest coach class.

  • Upgrade through the redemption of personal miles.
  • The flight provides only premium class service (documentation required and approved by the CFO).
  • No space available in coach-class within the business travel dates (documentation required).
  • A disability or medical condition or other special need is documented by a physician letter.
  • Airfare is paid in full by a third-party, non-government agency.

I prefer airline “A” over airline “B”. Airline “B” has a lower fare for a similar itinerary. Do I have to use airline “B”?
Yes. As long as the lower fare is a U.S. carrier with a U.S. carrier flight number. Airline “A” may be used if the traveler pays for the incremental difference.

May I add extra days at the business location for personal reasons? What additional documents are required?
Yes, but you will not be reimbursed for additional expenses. You may add up to one day of personal travel for every two days of business for foreign travel. Travel days may be counted as business days.

A printed airfare comparison with the actual business dates and normally traveled route to the business destination must be done at the time of booking the actual flight.

What type of receipt is required for airfare reimbursement?
A detailed invoice/itinerary that shows:

  • all times of departure,
  • flight numbers,
  • class of service,
  • fare basis,
  • ticket or confirmation number,
  • cost of the ticket,
  • proof of payment (i.e. credit card charged).

I went to the airport late at night on Calendar Day 1, took a 1:00 a.m. red eye of 13 hours to the foreign destination on Calendar Day 2 and arrived in the morning of Calendar Day 3. How will my meals and incidentals per diem for the travel days be calculated?
When you cross the international dateline (IDL), your actual elapsed travel time will be used to compute your per diem entitlement rather than calendar days. You will be paid 75% M&IE plus a day of M&IE for a total of 1.75 of M&IE for your travel days. In general, travel to most foreign destinations will be entitled 1.75 for the travel days to the foreign destination.

May I use my personal expense or personal frequent flier miles to upgrade my air ticket?
Yes, you may travel on an upgraded class at your own expense or by the redemption of your personal frequent flier miles.

May I book my airfare and lodging through online travel vacation packages?
Online booking services that offer travel packages may not itemize individual components (i.e. airfare, lodging, etc.). Such reservations for business travel should only be booked after traveler has confirmed that each component will be separately itemized (i.e. itemized hotel charges and airfare). Non-itemized receipts are not sufficient documentation for reimbursement.

Why can’t I use government airfares?
We are not government employees so we do not have access to government airfares

Why can’t we purchase refundable airfares?
Federal Travel Regulations require that we purchase the lowest available fare. Refundable fares are rarely the lowest available.

Are additional charges added to the cost of my ticket?
Yes, there is a $26.95 fee paid to our contracted travel agency. We use a travel agency to assure we are receiving the best possible price available and that travel policies are followed.

Why is the cost of the ticket purchased by ORAU higher than the quote I received from the travel agency?
Our contracted travel agency is paid a fee for each transaction they provide. Currently that fee is $26.95. This is a normal fee among travel agencies as they no longer receive standard commissions from the airlines. We use a travel agency to assure we are receiving the best possible price available and that travel policies are followed.

Back to Top

Foreign Travel (conference agendas and speaker’s notes)

Why am I required to submit a conference agenda plus my speaker’s notes if I’m speaking in the conference? Is this an ORAU or DOE requirement?
This is a DOE requirement which is published in DOE Order 551.1D and signed by the Deputy Secretary. The documentation is required for the Responsible Program Secretarial Officer (RPSO), the Deputy Secretary or the Secretary of DOE to review the conference attendance.

My presentation notes haven’t been finalized. Can I submit my current presentation outline or draft with my FTA for now?
Yes, a good outline or draft will be acceptable for now. However, please email your final notes to Travel Central before you depart for your trip. They will be uploaded to DOE’s Foreign Travel Management System (FTMS).

How can I fulfill the presentation notes requirement if I will not be speaking in the conference?
You are not required to submit presentation notes if you will not be speaking in the conference. You just need to submit the conference agenda with your Foreign Travel Authorization (FTA).

Will my foreign trip be approved by DOE and country clearance be granted by the U.S. Department of State if my presentation notes are not submitted before the trip?
Foreign travel approval from DOE and U.S. Department of State will not be granted until the documents are submitted. If travel approval was based on your presentation draft or outline but there was no subsequent follow up with final notes, your future foreign travel may be disapproved.

Back to Top

Car Rental

Do I need authorization to rent a car? How do I get authorization?
Yes. A justification for the rental car must be provided and approved prior to renting a vehicle.

What size car rental does ORAU reimburse? What are the exceptions?
Compact car


  • Free upgrade (provide printed documentation)
  • Transporting ORAU equipment
  • More than one ORAU-supported traveler in the car
  • Physical and medical limitations (must be pre-approved by ORAU Occupational Health)

Does ORAU have agreements with any car rental companies?
ORAU has a preferred rental car program with Enterprise/National Car Rental. We have negotiated rates that are inclusive of insurance for rentals within the U.S. and some foreign countries.

Please contact ORAU’s contracted travel agency to book your rental car using our corporate discount program.

Should I purchase insurance? What are the exceptions?
No. Reimbursement for insurance offered by rental car rental companies is unallowable. The exception is when travel is to a foreign country (including Canada and Mexico).

What do I do if I get in an accident?

  • Request names, addresses, and phone numbers of all persons involved, including any witnesses; obtain name of legal owner of vehicle.
  • Do not admit liability or make any statement except to police officers.

May I rent a GPS?
No. This is an unallowable expense.

Back to Top

Direct Bills

Can ORAU arrange for a direct bill of lodging and/or car rental?
Yes, but only in certain locations.

What expenses are allowable for direct billing?
Room and tax only for lodging. Daily or weekly rate plus mandatory taxes and fees for car rental.

Back to Top

Currency Conversion

How should I do foreign currency conversion?
Use the Oanda currency converter. In order to ensure the correct reimbursement amount, please follow these instructions:

  • Enter the currency of the visited country in the “Currency I Have” area.
  • Use USD in the “Currency I Want” for your expense report
  • Use the “+/-2% Typical Credit Card” rate
  • Use the rate for the day you paid your bill.
  • Print the conversion and include with your receipt.

Currency Conversion screen grab

Back to Top


Sometimes I need to pay a registration fee to attend a conference or purchase my airline ticket before the price goes up. Why does it take so long to get approval of my travel request when I am attending a conference?

Although we may request conference approvals in a timely manner, there are times approval is not immediate. If the conference has been “closed” in the conference management section of the DOE iPortal system, we reach out to other government contractors to see if anyone has an additional slot they can “gift” to us. There are also times when the conference has not been approved by DOE. In that case we cannot approve the trip until DOE approves the conference. It is very important that you submit a PA as early as possible to insure the best chance of receiving approval. Also, DOE conference management regulations require that no expenses be incurred until the conference is approved.

Back to Top