Conference travel: checklist for IISc students

I’ve made  an outline of the procedures involved in travelling to an international conference. This is mostly for ECE students at IISc, and based on my past experiences.

You have a paper accepted at XYZ conference. Congratulations! The next step is to get the necessary permissions from IISc to travel. Download this form (available from the forms page in the ece website). Fill the form, get it signed by your advisor and submit it at the ECE office. As a PhD student, you can avail up to 1 lakh for conference travel (GARP), and you can distribute this amount over upto two conferences. You must specify in the form if you would like to avail GARP. If you have already used it up, or are using funds from other sources, you must specify that you do not require financial support. If you are using any travel grant as part of a fellowship (TCS, etc.), then you must specify this in the form. You must attach a copy of the email notifying that your paper has been accepted. Submit this form as soon as possible as you require the permission letter while applying for a visa.

If you are going to a conference in India, then you do not get any travel support from IISc. You need to submit a letter addressed to the chairman (signed by your advisor) and a copy of your acceptance notification email at the ECE office.

The application typically requires 1-2 weeks for processing. Once this is done, you should get an official letter from the dean/registrar sanctioning leave for the conference duration and an approval for the travel grant (if any). This is necessary while applying for the visa. You can also apply for a travel advance by submitting this form.

Meanwhile, you can register for the conference, and book accommodation and flight tickets. Do the registration well ahead of time, as you will require an invitation letter from the conference organisers while applying for the visa (typically, you will get this only after registering).

Apply for travel grants. DST and CSIR offer travel grants (see here and here) to research students and young faculty. There are other organisations that offer travel grants as well, e.g., IARCS. Check with your local IEEE chapter if they provide any support. If your conference offers grants, apply to that as well. Make sure that these are done well in advance, as they take time to process.

Book your accommodation. Check sites like booking.com, makemytrip, hostels.com, etc. for  options. I’ve recently discovered that Airbnb offers great options, and is particularly convenient if you are going in a group.

Check the visa requirements for the country you are visiting. Note that if you are planning to avail GARP/DST/CSIR, you will have to fly Air India/partner flights. If Air India does not have flights to your venue, you must take Air India to the closest point. In case you do not have direct flights and have to stop over at another country, check if you require a transit visa. Start the visa application process as soon as possible, as this takes time. Typically, you must submit copies of permission letter from IISc, proof of funds for travel, invitation letter from conference organisers, air tickets, hotel bookings, etc. You should not face any issues with the visa if these documents are in place.

Once all this is done, and you get your visa, you can purchase foreign exchange. If you have an SBI account, go the the IISc branch for this. Otherwise, you can check Canara Bank (Inquire with CanBank as to where they have forex) or other agents such as Cox&Kings, etc. You can find some in Malleshwaram. Keep enough cash for your trip. I recommend buying an international travel card as well.

During the conference, make sure that you retain bills for all expenses incurred, including local travel (bus/train/metro/taxi) and food. Also make sure that you retain boarding passes of your flights.

After you return, the ordeal of getting your bills reimbursed begins. Fill out the TA/DA form, get it signed by your advisor and the chairman. Submit this with a covering letter and all bills (original copies for the amount you are requesting from IISc) at the finance section. If you are getting funds from several sources, you must submit bills to all these separately. Also check with the finance section for any other strange requirements.

 

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