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Faculty and Staff Working Overseas

Policy Statement

This policy sets forth the standards for the hiring, transfer, and management of employees with international assignments, including both US and non-US citizens hired directly by Columbia or by an affiliate.

The appropriate resources within the University must be contacted as soon as you become aware that an international assignment is likely to meet any of the following criteria: (i) office space will be leased in the host country (contact Office of General Counsel), (ii), a foreign bank account must be opened for the receipt of funds or payment of expenses (contact Treasury), (iii) employees based outside the United States will be hired (contact Human Resources or the Controller’s Office); (iv) the stay in a host country by Columbia faculty or staff normally based in the United States will exceed 180 days (contact Human Resources or the Controller’s Office). (Please see the list of appropriate personnel at the end of this document). With regard to the last criteria listed (number of days in country), keep in mind that stays much shorter than this may trigger tax and other regulatory compliance issues for the individual traveler and Columbia. Each country sets its own rules, and it is up to the individual in these cases to determine whether he or she will have tax or other obligations in the host country. Finally, a country may restrict the number of non-citizens that may be employed by an entity in their country; consequently it is important to project that as well. Where questions arise on this and other matters, please contact the resources listed at the end of this document.

Reason(s) for the Policy

Columbia faculty and staff frequently travel and work outside of the United States to engage in a variety of academic and research programs. If not properly designed, these activities can expose both the individual participants and the University to a complex and strict set of regulatory and tax requirements.

Faculty and staff normally based in the United States who work abroad may trigger local income tax filing requirements and other local employer obligations in the overseas host country, and, without appropriate advance arrangements, may even subject the University to taxation in the host country.

In addition, where the University wishes to employ host-country (i.e., local) employees to assist in research or academic programs in that country, the University typically must comply with local registrations, human resources and payroll rules and regulations.

These requirements vary from country to country, and must be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Failure to comply with local laws and regulations can have severe consequences in the form of tax penalties, fines, reputational damage, litigation by local employees, and even ejection from the host country.

Primary Guidance to Which This Policy Responds

This policy responds to various U.S. federal regulations as well as the tax and regulatory regimes of countries outside the United States.

Responsible University Office

Responsibility for the maintenance of this policy and for responding to questions of policy interpretation is jointly held by the Office of the Controller and the Office of the General Counsel. Questions about applying this policy to individual projects and assignments should initially be directed to the human resources professional responsible for the department as well as to the Controller’s Office.

Revision History


Who Is Governed By This Policy

This policy applies to all (1) University faculty and staff who are responsible for hiring, managing, and/or transferring faculty and staff for overseas activity, and (2) University faculty and staff with an international assignment. This policy also applies to staff employed by affiliates established by the University to operate overseas.

Who Should Know This Policy

All University or affiliated faculty and staff with responsibility for managing or supporting overseas assignees, and all overseas assignees themselves.

Exclusions and Special Situations

Any exceptions to this policy must first be approved by the Office of the General Counsel, and because of the complexity of the issues involved, such approval should be sought in the early planning stages of an international program.