Launch International Activities

Launch international activities at Columbia University.


Once funding and required approvals are secured, most activities will require an initial launch (start-up) period to establish its supporting infrastructure in New York and the host country.

Depending on the type of international activity (its length and scope), this start-up process in-country might involve solidifying agreements with other institutions. For longer-term activities, start-up might require engaging local experts, establishing mechanisms for funds in country, and securing a site (leasing space and opening a bank account).

Collaborations overseas can take many forms; with the most common being study abroad, student exchange and research or service programs. Although faculty are often at the forefront of relationship-building with outside institutions, once collaborations are ready to be formalized through binding agreements or memoranda of understanding, University units should follow standard approval protocols defined by the University’s by-laws.

Refer to the Guidelines on Agreements and Contracts Outside the U.S. for further details on the different types and considerations for each.

When a potential collaborating entity is not well known to your department or to the University, the department must thoroughly review and vet it.

The Potential Partner Organization - Vetting Tool is one resource to assist the vetting process.

For sponsored projects, A Risk Assessment prior to Subaward might be required. For additional information, see Review and Submission of a Sponsored Project Proposal: Additional Approvals and Certifications – Subawards (Chapter VI, Section E (10) of the Sponsored Projects Handbook) and the University’s Policy on Sponsored Project Subawards.


The Policy on Cash Advance for International Operations provides support and guidance for those international operations for which neither a travel advance nor direct payment of various expenses may be practical. This option may only be used with departmental approval. Specific documentation requirements apply.

The start-up of an international activity will often involve using foreign currency and U.S. dollar transactions. University departments must track and budget for currency fluctuations (FX rates), which in some countries may change significantly on a daily basis. This may add transactional costs during start-up, especially for units lacking bank accounts in the host country.

Cash Management and Operations can help to strategize ways to transmit (or transport) funds to the host country, and Procurement Services can assist with payment and reimbursement rules, including this new policy.

If a Cash Advance for International Operations is not feasible, payments in-country might be handled:

  • By another Columbia unit already established in that country;
  • Through a collaboration agreement with a partner with established local presence; or
  • Through direct University payments.

For additional information on the Columbia reimbursement policy and documentation requirements, refer to Columbia Travel and Expense.

Leasing space outside the U.S. may involve unfamiliar contractual provisions, tenancy or ownership rights. These may trigger registration requirements and in some cases Permanent Establishment (P.E.) status, which could result in tax liability for the University. The Columbia unit (school, department, center or institute) must involve the Office of the General Counsel as early as possible in space negotiations.

Lease for Office Space

All international lease agreements for office space must stipulate the rental cost, lease period, and the rights and obligations of each party. The rental cost should reflect the local market rate when comparing the size, location, and condition of the premises.

For additional details, see Guidelines on Leasing Space Outside the U.S.

Lease for Housing

In general, Columbia faculty and staff make their own arrangements for personal accommodations in the host country.

Still have questions?

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