Work in Foreign Countries

ISU is often engaged in research and other activities throughout the world. These activities may be conducted by faculty, staff, post docs, graduate assistants, student workers, consultants, or other individuals. While these activities support ISU’s mission, having individuals perform services in foreign countries in support of these activities can create complications and unanticipated expenses if not structured with care. For example, a host country may have laws that deem an individual to be an employee even though the intent was for the individual to be a consultant. As an employee, the individual may be eligible for employment benefits and protections under that country’s laws, such as paid time off, limitations on termination, and severance payments. Tax issues may also arise from these activities. In addition, project-specific considerations may impact an individual’s eligibility to work on an identified project depending upon the funding source.  


Below is a list of options for having individuals perform services in foreign countries, along with information about whether the option is recommended. For assistance with these options, please contact the Global Workforce Team at The Global Workforce Team consists of representatives from the Office of Senior Vice President and Provost, University Human Resources, Procurement Services, Finance Service Delivery, and the Office of General Counsel.


All options require significant lead time to implement. Arrangements should be established before services commence. For certain solutions, a law or accounting firm with expertise in the host county’s laws will need to be retained. The department or unit wishing to have the services performed will be responsible for payment of the associated fees.


Employees are also encouraged to become familiar with these resources:



Recommended Solution?


Partner with an established organization in the host country (e.g. foreign university, registered NGO) to provide services and/or employ staff



Host country partners are familiar with their local employment and tax laws and are set up to comply with them. If available, this is usually the most cost-effective, expedient, and risk-mitigating solution.

Assign U.S.-based ISU employee to travel and work at the foreign location



This arrangement may avoid foreign employment complications if the employee will be needed abroad only temporarily. Generally, the temporary assignment must not exceed six months; however, this varies from country to country. Citizenship of the employee may pose additional issues to be addressed.

Engage individual as an independent contractor or consultant to provide services at the foreign location



This option may be available depending on whether the individual would be categorized as an independent contractor or an employee under the host country’s laws. This option should only be used for short-term, one-time projects with specific deliverables.

Employ foreign national and pay via ISU payroll.


ISU is not familiar with local employment and tax laws in countries where it does not have an established presence and is not set up to comply with them.