You are here

Hiring for International Work

Employment is one of the most common international activities, and each project is unique. Although the University does not directly employ individuals abroad, we can coordinate with your local human resource or Academic Affairs office to find a solution that works for your project, your budget, and the people you’re seeking to hire.

It’s important to consider your staffing needs early because the options available to you may require substantial lead time (6–8 weeks).

You can start by:

  1. Considering the key differences in overseas staffing.
  2. Summarizing your project and candidate information.
  3. Evaluating the most common overseas work options.

And then contact us once you're ready to discuss your project.

3 International Hiring Considerations

In addition to universal hiring considerations like salary, benefits, and management structure, you also need to consider the immigration, tax, and employment laws of the host country. Since the regular Harvard payroll is not set up to account for these differences, the University cannot directly employ those working in foreign locations, per the University payroll policy.

Employment Laws

Most countries have employment laws that are more favorable to employees than U.S. laws. Examples include mandated employment contract terms, paid time off, limitations on termination, and severance payments.


Individuals must have the correct immigration status and permission to work in the country where they’re physically working. For non-local nationals, this usually involves a work permit sponsored by an employer in the host country. See visa and immigration requirements for more information.


Like the U.S., most countries collect employee-owed taxes as well as employer-owed taxes (also known as "social costs" or "payroll taxes"). Globally, employment taxes account for an average 20 percent of an employee's annual salary. Laws vary by country regarding an employer’s responsibility to withhold and remit taxes owed by the employee. Learn more about common international taxes.

Outlining Your Project Needs

The options available to you will depend on the host country, the length of your project, the individuals you seek to hire, and your funding source. To help us identify a viable staffing option, you’ll need to gather as much information as possible about the work to be done and the candidate(s) you seek.

About the Work

  • Job description or statement of work
  • Location of work, if known
  • Anticipated start date, duration, and likelihood of extension
  • Compensation or value of contract
  • Work schedule, in particular full-time equivalency (e.g. full time versus part time)
  • Funding source (e.g. federal grant, non-federal grant, unrestricted, etc.)
  • Benefits offered in addition to compensation, if applicable

About the Candidate

  • Name
  • Citizenship
  • Immigration status for host country
  • Prior and current relationship to Harvard, if any
  • Whether the individual provides these services to other clients besides Harvard
  • Whether the individual has other primary employment (not at Harvard)

Evaluating Common Hiring Options

Harvard programs typically use one of six hiring options. You can review summaries of each option and the implications for your project and budget.

Due to the Covid-19 public health emergency, please refer to the hiring options outlined in the University's interim payrolling processes.

We'll address any questions and concerns and help you determine which option is best for your project.