Hosting an international visitor requires advance planning to ensure compliance with both government regulations and university policies.
This page provides guidance on how to plan a visit for an international visitor, invite them to Stanford, and pay or reimburse them for their travel, time, and expertise. This includes determining the:
- Type of activity the visitor will perform
- Type of entry visa the visitor requires for that activity (if applicable)
- Permissible expenses and payment option(s) according to the visitor’s visa and activity
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) individuals are not international visitors. See Topic Overview: Inviting and Paying Domestic Visitors for more information on inviting and paying visitors with DACA status.
If the visitor will be performing services outside of the activities listed below, consult guidance on purchasing services and the appropriate payment method.
Summarized in the table below are the types of activities visitors are generally invited to perform, the corresponding visitor category, permissible visa type, and available payment or reimbursement types. Also refer to information on Visas and Supporting Documents on the Stanford University Bechtel International Center website.
|Permissible Visa Types
|Available Payment or Reimbursement Types
|In-person speaker (does not include fee-for-service speakers, which must go through the contracts process) or conference attendee.
Note: Virtual participation in the above activities does not require visa documentation.
|J-1, B-1 (WB)
|Works in a lab on a Stanford project while permanently employed by another institution. The visit cannot exceed 12 months (see appointment information).
|Visiting research scientist or visiting senior research scientist
|Courtesy appointment, invited by faculty host to collaborate on research. The visit cannot exceed 12 months.
|Appointed in specifically recognized programs, as described in Administrative Guide Memo 2.4.3 (g.) under Fellow Cards.
|Non-paid affiliation fellow
|Conducts research to the mutual benefit of Stanford and the visitor under the supervision of a faculty member (see registration information).
|Visiting student researcher
|Hourly employment or fellowship
Types of Visas
Depending upon the type of activity to be performed and type of payment to be made, it may be necessary for Stanford to apply for an entry visa (generally a J-1 visa) on the visitor's behalf. The visa on which the visitor enters the country is one factor that determines the type of payment that can be made. Immigration regulations prohibit or limit payments to visitors entering on most visa types, including tourist (B-2 or WT), business (B-1 or WB), diplomatic visas (A-1 or A-2,) and visas sponsored by another U.S. institution. Stanford must comply with these regulations, and visitors are also responsible for complying with the terms of their visa and the associated payment restrictions. Refer to Resource: Passport and Visa Services.
Common Visa types for short-term international visitors (J-1, B-1, or WB)
In most circumstances, Stanford is only able to make payment to a short-term foreign visitor if they enter on a J-1, B-1, or WB (waived business) visa status. Visa application and entry information for each is described below:
- J-1 visa - sponsored by Stanford: A J-1 visa application is initiated by the Stanford department inviting the visitor. To learn more about the application process, visit the Bechtel International Center website. The funding source for the visit (Stanford or external) must be indicated on the application.
- B-1 or WB visa: A B-1 or WB visa is obtained by the visitor when entering the U.S. on business. Those entering the U.S. on a WT visa (waiver of tourist visa), may not receive payment from Stanford University. The list of participating countries in the VWP (Visa Waiver Program – WB and WT visas) may be found on the U.S. State Department website. Federal law states that an honorarium and travel expense reimbursements can be made to a visitor in the B-1 or WB status based on the 9/5/6 rule:
- An honorarium may be paid if:
- The event lasts no more than nine (9) days at any single institution
- The service is of direct benefit to the institution (Stanford)
- The visitor has not accepted more than five (5) such payments from other institutions during the previous six (6) months.
- If the visitor does not meet the 9/5/6 rule criteria, only travel expenses can be reimbursed.
- An honorarium may be paid if:
Other Visa Types for Visitors (A-1 through O-1)
Stanford-sponsored F-1/J-1 (student), J-1 (researcher), H-1B, TN, and other non-U.S. citizens authorized for employment in the United States may be paid according to university policy as it relates to their status (student or employee) with the university.
In limited circumstances, departments may request payments for visitors on other visa types as described below:
- A-1 (Diplomat): Must reimburse consulate or vendor directly for travel expenses. No other payments allowed.
- F-1 (Student) - Not sponsored by Stanford: Must receive written permission from the sponsor in advance of any payment.
- G-1 (World Organization): Must reimburse the world organization or vendor directly for travel expenses. No other payments allowed.
- H-1 – Not sponsored by Stanford: Payment of any kind to the sponsoring institution is not permitted. Reasonable travel expense reimbursement from Stanford to the individual is permitted. Compensation for service payment of any kind to the individual is not permitted.
- J-1 – Not sponsored by Stanford: Must receive written permission from the sponsor in advance of any payment.
- O-1 (Outstanding) - Not sponsored by Stanford: Payment of any kind to the sponsoring institution is not permitted. Reasonable travel expense reimbursement from Stanford to the individual is permitted. Compensation for service payment of any kind to the individual is not permitted.
Visitors eligible to apply under the Visa Waiver Program must submit an Electronic System for Travel Application (ESTA). Departments may request payments for individuals with an ESTA in lieu of a visa.
For visitor visa-related travel reimbursement and payment questions and concerns, please submit a support request.
Using the table in the previous step, follow the instructions below to find the available payment or reimbursement type.
Depending upon the visa status of the recipient, the individual may not be able to accept payments from a U.S. source, such as the university, and/or the university may not be able to make payments to accounts based on the individual's country of residence.
Additionally, there may be specific requirements, such as for how travel is booked, which are outlined in step three.
|Payment or Reimbursement type
|Payee setup requirements
|Additional required documents and tax implications
|An honorarium is a gratuitous payment made as a gesture of goodwill and in appreciation. Honoraria can be paid by following the process described on Paying Honoraria.
|Honorarium payments are tax reportable. See tax information on Paying Honoraria.
If the visitor needs to be reimbursed, set up the visitor payee first in order to collect and validate banking, residency, and tax information. Then, create an expense report for non-SU payees (visitor reimbursement).
|All visitor travel expenses should be submitted within 60 days of the completion of travel.
|Fellowship payment (subsistence payment or travel grant)
|This payment is processed via payroll through the SU-21 Form. See How To: Request Subsistence Payments and Travel Grants for Visitors.
|These payments are subject to tax withholding and reporting.
|This payment is processed via payroll.
|See Payroll for Foreign Nonresident Employees.
A formal letter of invitation should be provided to the visitor to summarize the terms of the visit. Departments should consult their dean’s office for any preferred templates or may utilize the Visitor Travel Policy Letter Template to summarize travel policies and tailor the content as needed. The letter should include the following components:
- Purpose of the visit
- Period of time covered by the visit
- Covered expenses, including travel and original receipt requirements, car rental restrictions on insurance, air fare class allowed, lodging, and meal payments. To review Stanford policy on these items, refer to Administrative Guide Policy 5.4.2: Business and Travel Expenses.
- Note: The expenses of a spouse, family member, or other person accompanying the visitor are not reimbursable.
- Advise that reimbursement will be for actual expenses, will be processed after the visit, and include whether any tax obligations apply.
- For J-1 Visitors only:
- Type of visa required (J-1) and steps involved, including the approximate time the DS-2019 (visa approval document) will be received. The DS-2019 must be taken to the consulate in the visitor's country to obtain the visa and must be carried with the visitor to the United States. Refer to the Bechtel International Center website for more information.
- Whether it is necessary to obtain a Social Security number or Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN).
- Health Insurance Requirements
- For B-1 or WB Visitors only:
- Type of visa required (B-1 or WB) and steps involved, including necessity to enter as a business visitor, and that no payment will be made if entry is made on a B-2 or WT visa.
Book Travel for the Visitor
All visitor travel must be in compliance with Business and Travel expense policies. The Stanford Travel program may be used to book visitor/guest travel, but it is not required. See more about booking guest travel on the Stanford Travel program page.
Fly America Act
If the university funding source for a visitor's travel is a government grant or contract, air travel must comply with the Fly America Act, which requires all flights charged to federal awards be booked with U.S. flag air carriers (with certain exceptions). International visitors must comply with the Fly America Act when they are supported by federal funds. Additionally, any travel reimbursement must comply with import/export regulations. Refer to the Stanford Export Control Office for additional information and further guidance.