Learn about the Types of International Activities

Learn about the types of international activities for Columbia University.


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 Activities

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.

Medium-Term Activities

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.


The Global Travel website provides information for the Columbia community who are traveling to an international destination for a very short term.

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