This article covers:

Looking to spend less time clicking and reviewing? Learn how to set up automatic approval.

Approval overview

Policy Admins can modify approval workflows by navigate to Settings > Policies > Group > [Policy name] > People and scroll to Approval Mode:

Expensify offers three approval workflow modes:

  • Submit and Close for when no approval is required
  • Submit and Approve for when all reports go to a single approver
  • Advanced Approval for more complex flows

Submit and Close

New policies have Submit and Close enabled by default. This is a workflow where no approval occurs in Expensify.

What happens after submission? The report state becomes Closed and is available to view by the user set in Submit reports to and any Policy Admins. A closed report requires no further action.

Who should use this workflow? This mode should be used where you don't require approvals in Expensify. For example where expense approvals occur in another system or where the submitter and approver are the same person.

Submit and Approve

Submit and Approve is a simple workflow where all reports are submitted to a single user for approval. 

What happens after submission? The report state becomes Processing and it will be sent to the user indicated in Submit reports to for approval. When the user approves the report, the state will become Approved.

Who should use this workflow? This mode should be used where the same person is responsible for approving all reports for your organization. If submitters have different approvers or multiple levels of approval are required then you will need to use Advance Approval.

Advanced Approval

This approval mode allows for:

  • Multiple levels of approval. This is for companies that require more than one person to approve a report before it can be reimbursed. The most common scenario is when an employee needs to submit to their manager, and their manager needs to approve and forward that report to their finance department for a final approval.
  • Varying approval workflows. For example, if a company has Team A submitting reports to Manager A, and Team B to Manager B, Advanced Approval is the way to go (even if they don't need multiple levels of approval).

Group Policy Admins can also set amount thresholds in the case that a report needs to go to a different approver based on the amount.

What happens after submission? After the report is submitted it will follow the set approval chain. The report state will be Processing until it is Final Approved.  We have provided examples of how to set this up below.

Who should use this workflow?
Organizations with complex workflows or 2+ levels of approval. This could be based on manager approvals or where a reports over a certain size required additional approvals.


User (Column 1 in the People table): This is a member of the policy and can be a submitter, approver, Auditor, Policy Admin or a combination of these.

Submits to (Column 2): The first approver of a User's own reports. This is the person who receives reports submitted by the User. In the example below, when Employee submits their report it will go to Employee's Manager for approval.

Approves to (Set in Column 3): If the User is an approver, this is the next approver of a report the User approves. In the example below, when Employee submits their report it will go to Employee Manager for approval. After Employee Manager approves the report it will go to Finance. This field allows you to create an approval chain as long of as required. If a User is not an approver or only a single level of approval is required, then this field should be blank.

Approval limits

If your reports have to go through an extra level of approval when they're over a certain amount, you can set a report total dependent approval limit.

An example of when you would use this: 

  1. The submitter's manager can approve any report up to a certain limit, let's say $500, and forward it to accounting. 
  2. However, if a report is over that $500 limit, has to be also approved by the department head before being forwarded to accounting. 

To set this up, click on Edit Settings next to the approving manager's email address and set the "If Report Total is Over" and "Then Approves to" fields.

3 Person Approval Chain + Approval Limit Example

  1. Alice creates a report for $700 and submits it to Bryan. Now Bryan has needs to take action on the report, so we look at his line next.
  2. Since the report total is over the limit ($500.00), we see here that Bryan approves and forwards the report to the Department Head. (However, if the report total was under the limit, he would approve and forward it to Lucy.)
  3. The Department Head then approves and forwards the reports to Lucy. 
  4. Lucy is not assigned to approve to anyone on her line. She final approves the report.

Enforcing workflows

  • When this setting is disabled, submitters and approvers will have the option to override their "Submits to" and "Approves to" settings by manually re-writing the email address that populates when they submit or approve and forward reports.
  • When enabled (which is the default setting for a new policy), submitters and approvers must adhere to the set approval workflow (recommended).  This setting does not apply to Policy Admins.

Example workflows

For a super detailed run down of multi-approval workflows, please take a look at our Advanced approval detailed example help page.

3 person approval chain example:

Here is our scenario:

  1. Alice creates a report and submits to Bryan. Since Bryan is now the next to take action on the report, we look at his line now.
  2. Bryan approves and forwards the reports to Lucy. (Since Bryan is not submitting his own report, we can ignore Submits to on his line). 
  3. Now Lucy has the report, and we will look at her line next. She does not have anyone assigned for her to "Approve to", so she will just final approve the report. Done!

4 person approval chain example

Now we know that we need to look at the line of the person who is taking action on the report next.

Here is our scenario:

  1. Bryan creates a report and submits to Jim.
  2. Jim approves Bryan’s reports and forwards them to Kevin. 
  3. Kevin approves the reports and forwards them to Lucy. 
  4. Lucy final approves and reimburses Bryan’s expense report.

For a live overview of the Policy Admin role, policy management and administration, register for our free Admin Onboarding Webinar!

Still looking for answers? Search our Community for more content on this topic!

Did this answer your question?