Learn about the Types of International Activities
International activities range from short-term travel to the establishment of a new entity overseas. Programmatic, financial, and legal issues vary widely depending on the nature, duration, and location of the planned activities.
This guidance provides a brief overview of the planning process for international activities and identifies resources within the University that can help in both the preparation and execution of our international initiatives.
Short-term research, services, or academic activities outside the U.S. are routine, but can raise issues and require some advance planning. Short-term projects (generally less than 6 months) can:
- Involve collaborating with third parties, often requiring an agreement regarding intellectual property, allocation of costs, and other program details;
- Require at least minimal infrastructure support in the host country, such as arrangements for paying consultants and service providers;
- Trigger individual tax and labor regulatory requirements depending on local laws;
- Require a brief due diligence review to confirm that the project does not involve engagement or collaboration with individuals and organizations that are subject to U.S. government sanctions; and
- Involve issues regarding local approvals, work permits, IRB approvals (both in the host country and at home), export and trade regulations, and cross-border privacy laws.
The Global Travel website provides information for the Columbia community (faculty, researchers, employees, and students) who are traveling to an international destination for a very short term (such as attending a conference or meeting). Overseas travel of this type typically requires little or no assistance from departmental and central university resources.
Planning for medium-term projects and activities (usually between 6 and 12 months) outside the U.S. generally involves:
- A higher degree of due diligence required regarding potential collaborators and the legal and political environment;
- Collaboration agreements with overseas institutions -- often leading to navigating between different policies, cultures, and legal regimes; and
- Infrastructure support in the host country to handle local payroll, banking, and other financial needs.
Columbia faculty and staff usually remain employed by the University during medium-term projects. There may be a risk of personal and corporate income tax liability, requiring a close review of local regulations as well as international tax treaties.
Medium-term projects and activities nearly always require assistance and guidance from central administration resources.
Long-term or Legal Presence
The issues for a long-term research, service, or other academic program can be significant, particularly where a local legal “presence” is needed to lease space, open bank accounts, or hire local residents. Planning for these long-term projects and activities (usually a year or longer) generally involves:
- Analysis of what type of structure would best support the program, taking into account local laws, tax regimes, and culture;
- Human resources regulations and practices, which may differ from those in the U.S.;
- Procedures regarding fiscal controls and management, cross-border banking controls, and annual/quarterly/monthly reporting obligations;
- Procedures on how programs will be overseen and managed by the Columbia home department;
- Procedures to handle local operations, such as procuring equipment, insurance, services, and space;
- Procedures to train and educate staff to comply with University policies and local and U.S. laws and regulations; and
- Procedures to develop, update and disseminate standard operating procedures (SOPs).
Long-term projects or activities always require assistance and guidance from central administration resources.