International remote work for staff and student employees
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the number of inquiries from employees and departments regarding the ability for university personnel to work remotely in an international location. Common situations include personnel who are either: (1) located outside the United States and are having difficulties returning due to impacts of COVID-19 or (2) desiring to relocate to countries outside the US to work remotely, due to personal reasons or for personal preference.
The following information updates and clarifies current University of Washington (UW) policy regarding international remote work. Note that given the fluidity of the current pandemic and the diversity of individual circumstances, this policy is subject to change.
Current policy and practice
UW international employees are subject to all employment and other related laws of the country, city, or region in which they work. A registered, in-country legal presence is required for work to be performed lawfully in most countries outside the US. The UW does not have a registered legal presence in most countries due to the cost and legal complexities of establishing legal presence. In the countries where the UW does have legal presence, the ability for personnel to work remotely is tied to specific, university-related activities and the structure of the employment relationship varies based on the specific requirements of that country. Examples include the Rome Center and countries where UW is conducting global health research at the invitation of the foreign country.
Personnel working remotely in an international location where the UW does not have legal presence or working in a location where the UW has legal presence but not connected to a specific UW project is generally prohibited because it puts the University and the individual at risk for tax and employment legal violations. Exceptions may be made in the case of extraordinary circumstances. Any arrangements for international remote work require central review and approval, and an understanding by the individual of their personal legal responsibilities.
During COVID-19, some countries have made greater allowances for international remote work in recognition of the disruption caused by the pandemic. These allowances are temporary, and the UW does not currently have a path to full international compliance for an extended period of time.
The UW understands that there may be extraordinary circumstances caused by the pandemic that require personnel to work remotely from an international location for a temporary period of time. Examples include a current employee who is out-of-country and cannot make it back due to circumstances out of their control (e.g., delays in obtaining visas due to COVID-19 impacts); or other extraordinary circumstances (e.g., personal medical or family health situation).
In extraordinary circumstances, a unit may request central approval for a current employee to work internationally for a temporary period of time.
Applying for approval:
- Requests must be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. Requests for approval must be made prior to the employee relocating to the international location (unless the employee is out-of-country and cannot make it back due to circumstances out of their control). Evaluating and accommodating individual circumstances takes time and care, so units are encouraged to submit their requests well in advance of relocation.
- Requests must be made by a unit head, defined as a senior leader reporting directly to the President or Provost.
- Requests must be for a temporary accommodation, not a permanent relocation. Typically, legal restrictions and regulatory requirements prohibit arrangements beyond 3-6 months.
- If approved, Workday must be updated to accurately reflect the international work location.
For those employees permitted to work abroad, it is important to note that these employees are responsible and liable for addressing and resolving any compliance obligations that may be associated with their time abroad, including, but not limited to, income and social taxes, health and other types of insurance, foreign bank account reporting, and immigration/appropriate visa requirements. Employees may be required to sign an acknowledgement that they understand these obligations, and their obligation to return to the UW after the designated period to continue employment. The UW is unable to provide any personal legal or tax advice.