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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.

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

Location Considerations

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.

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 requirements and international taxes.

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 Do 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 & 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.

Ready to Get Started?

We can help you by reviewing the registration requirements for your proposed location and the administrative components of your proposal. Consult with us early in planning for your project, and we may be able to suggest solutions that can help you avoid unexpected costs and delays.


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