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Real Estate

If your project or program needs to occupy and use physical space abroad, it’s important that you consult with our office and the Office of General Counsel (OGC) early to ensure you proceed in accordance with both Harvard’s practices and the host country’s legal requirements.

You can start by:

  1. Considering the due diligence required to identify appropriate locations.
  2. Reviewing Harvard’s implications and requirements if space is leased or purchased.
  3. Understanding the review and approval process for lease and purchase agreements.

Bear in mind that the University very rarely approves the purchase of real estate in other countries.

3 Considerations for Renting or Purchasing Space

Insurance and Taxes

Whether you rent or purchase space, you’ll need to factor the ongoing expenses of property taxes and liability and property insurance into your project budget. Learn more about common insurance requirments and international taxes.

Safety and Security

You’ll need to research the potential security risks for your intended location and take the appropriate measures to mitigate risks. Review the key safety and security considerations and consult with us regarding possible risk assessments.

Zoning Laws and Building Codes

The municipality's zoning laws may regulate the type of activities that are permitted in a given area and how a property can be used (e.g. as a lab for research versus a conference center). Building codes overseas may vary greatly from those in the U.S.; for example, smoke detectors may not be required by law. Be prepared to implement steps that will adhere to the University's standards, as well as local rules.

Harvard's Legal Requirements

Crime Reporting

Buildings, offices, and residences (sometimes including hotel rooms) that Harvard rents or controls and that are frequently used by students may trigger crime reporting required by the Clery Act. Our office tracks overseas incidents that are reported to International SOS and/or to our International Safety & Security team and communicates them to the Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) when required by the Clery Act.

Registration to Conduct Business

Purchasing or leasing real estate overseas often triggers legal registration requirements, and in some cases may trigger "Permanent Establishment" (P.E.) status, which could result in tax liability for the University. If your activity requires the lease or purchase of space, we can advise you on the University’s requirement to register as a legal entity in the host country.

Review and Approval Process

Buying or leasing real estate requires approval by the University Committee on International Projects and Sites (UCIPS). Because it's considered a major international activity, it requires a formal proposal and two-stage review process:

  1. authorization to explore
  2. authorization to implement

We can work with you to develop a plan. If UCIPS provides authorization to implement your project proposal, all real estate leases or purchase agreements must be reviewed by OGC. They’re usually signed by the Vice President for Campus Services or a Harvard Real Estate official, but if you’re utilizing Harvard Global's international office administration service, then Harvard Global would be directly signing leases.


  • Registration requirements and P.E. status: GSS and OGC
  • Review and approval process: GSS and OSP