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Hiring for International Work

Employment is one of the most common international activities that we support, and each project is unique. You should consider your staffing needs early because the options available to you may require substantial lead time (10 weeks).

Although Harvard cannot directly employ individuals abroad, we can help you evaluate your hiring options based on the University’s employment policy and the criteria outlined below. If a business need for work abroad is approved, we’ll help you find a solution that works for your project, your budget, and the people you’re seeking to hire.

Note: On May 11, 2023, the University significantly updated its policy regarding employment outside of Massachusetts (domestic and international). Review the policy closely to understand how it will shape your international staffing needs. Contact your local Human Resources or Academic/Faculty Affairs office if you have questions about the policy.

Five Hiring Considerations

In addition to universal hiring considerations like salary, benefits, and management structure, you need to consider the business need for the individual to work outside of the US, your funding sources, and the immigration, tax, and employment laws of the host country.

Business Need

Per the University’s employment policy, individuals must have a business need to work outside of Massachusetts. Harvard will ordinarily not permit employment engagements if the individual does not have a business need to be in the country where the work is performed.

Funding Source

Your project may be subject to several legal, regulatory, and funder-specific requirements, particularly if you use sponsored funds to pay individuals living or residing outside of the US. See the Office for Sponsored Program’s guidance.

Employment Laws and Benefits

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

Immigration and Work Authorization

Individuals must have the correct immigration status and permission to work in the country where they’re physically working. For non-citizens, this usually involves a work permit sponsored by an employer in the host country.


Like the US, 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 of 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 Hiring Needs

The options available to you will depend on the country, the length of your project, the individual(s) 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 (city/state/province and country)
  • Business need that requires the individual to work from that location
  • 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 desired in addition to compensation, if applicable

About the Candidate

  • Name
  • Citizenship
  • Immigration status/work authorization in country where work will take place
  • 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 Your Hiring Options

Harvard programs typically use one of five hiring options. You can review summaries of each option and the implications for your project and budget. We'll address any questions and concerns and help you determine which option is best for your project.

Review International Hiring Options