Hiring Abroad

What are your options for hiring an individual or placing Harvard personal abroad? 

There are several options for hiring an individual or placing Harvard personnel abroad. Programs must comply with the immigration and employment law of the country where the individual is working and must also comply with Harvard payroll, employment, and financial policies.

International hiring is a common need for projects and anyone who will spend the majority of their time abroad cannot be hired on the Harvard payroll under the Provost’s payroll policy. However, there are six options that can be used by programs to meet their hiring objectives. They include:

  • Partnering with an established organization in the host country
  • Hiring via Harvard Global
  • Using an existing Harvard entity 
  • Contracting with a professional employer organization (PEO)
  • Remaining based in the United States for a majority of the time with frequent travel
  • Engaging as an independent contractor

A more substantial alternative to the six options outlined previously is for the University and the cognizant school to establish an entity in a country where there are recurrent and ongoing projects and frequent requests for postings abroad for Harvard faculty and/or staff. This entity is controlled by Harvard and may act as the local employer. The OGC, the UCIPS, and the Office of the Provost have experience in advising on the establishment of overseas entities and, in addition to the cognizant Dean, should be consulted if a faculty member or administrator is considering this significant step. Harvard currently has registered entities in the following countries: Argentina, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, China, India, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates.

Under exceptional circumstances, the University may employ individuals directly and station them abroad, for a defined period of time. If a faculty member seeks to remain abroad for a long period (more than six out of 12 months), they should consult with the Office of the Provost, the OGC, GSS, and the cognizant school administration, including the school’s Dean of Faculty, as it necessitates significant preparation to assure appropriate compliance with both U.S. and non-U.S. regulations, the safety and welfare of the person stationed abroad, and consistency of the placement with University and school priorities.

In considering alternatives for hiring an individual abroad, faculty and staff should consult with the cognizant school’s human resources office and GSS. If the project is supported by sources of federal funding external to the University, the cognizant sponsored programs officer(s) (Office for Sponsored Programs, Harvard Longwood Campus Research Administration, and Office of Technology Development) must also be consulted.

What issues should be considered before you undertake international hiring? 

When a faculty member or administrator seeks to hire an individual, they first should consider and resolve a variety of practical issues. These include:

  • How requirements of U.S. and host-country taxation, employment, employee benefits, and immigration laws will be met over time
  • How costs of compliance with these laws will be paid
  • How Harvard’s administrative systems will accomodate those requirements 
  • Whether they can be accomodated using Harvard’s existing payroll and benefits systems

The cognizant school and department should also consider:

  • How such employees will be supervised
  • Whether there is adequate insurance to cover risks associated wtih these employees’ overseas responsibilities
  • Whether stationing an employee abroad will require Harvard to register to do business in the relevant country

This last measure—registering to do business in another national jurisdiction—is a highly consequential step that requires review from the University Committee on International Projects and Sites (UCIPS) and close consultation with the OGC and GSS. The costs associated with a failure to comply with local laws, such as fines and penalties, will be borne by the Harvard school that employs the faculty or staff member. The overall assessment is whether the risk incurred by the faculty or staff, the school, and the University are justified in relation to the programmatic benefit gained by stationing the person(s) abroad.

Will you be hiring foreign citizens? 

If the program involves the use of local nationals as employees, serious attention must be directed to the tax, retirement, social security, health and other benefits that must be extended to such workers. Labor law regulations and practices in some countries, for example, limit an employer’s ability to terminate employees without implementing a progressive discipline system or providing severance packages. The use of local counsel “in country” who is familiar with these requirements for various categories of employees can prove invaluable.

Also, the following local laws should always be understood: discrimination, minimum wages, workplace safety, labor hours, vacation, benefits, and mandatory withholdings. National health insurance and retirement benefits are typical withholdings abroad. If the project is a “contract” for “public works” that includes “construction or repair”, the Defense Base Act may apply and require workers’ compensation insurance. Tax counsel, therefore, in cooperation with local accountants, should be consulted in order to develop a strategy to minimize double taxation of U.S. expatriates, and to minimize the burdens of complex local withholding and other requirements applicable to foreign nationals on the institution’s payroll.

Harvard Global Support Services offers a wide range of assistance:

Will you be hiring foreign citizens for longer than 3 months? 

If the project requires Harvard employing staff that are citizens of the foreign location for a period lasting longer than 3 months (extended employment), seek approval from the relevant School Dean of Faculty.

Extended employment abroad is typically done through an employer abroad such as a partner institution, a temp agency, or a Professional Employer Organization (PEO). Harvard rarely employs directly (i.e., engaging the person as an individual consultant).

Will you be hiring any Harvard students, staff or faculty for work abroad that is longer than 6 months? 

With respect to any HU student or employee abroad longer than 6 months, Harvard Global will pay that person’s wages. Longer employment may also trigger requirements to pay local taxes.

Are there any additional training requirements? 

Site initiation visits or other “hands on” training should be conducted by experienced research study staff to ensure that all critical staff members at the foreign site are familiar with the terms of the agreement and the processes mandated by law and regulation. Staff members at the foreign site need to be trained to create and maintain the requisite documentation and source documents in accordance with a detailed schedule.

In the case of FDA-regulated research or research involving complex therapeutic interventions or healthy volunteers, it is also highly recommended that “on-site” monitoring be conducted.

Confirm any in-country training requirements for study personnel and any associated costs.