Many campus departments invite foreign nationals to campus to lecture, perform, or provide other services and wish to pay an honorarium and/or travel expenses to the visitor. The U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Internal Revenue Services (IRS) have restrictions on such payments to which the University must adhere. In order to pay foreign visitors legally and promptly, advance planning is essential. It is recommended that departments begin the process approximately 6 to 8 weeks before the visit and reference the Checklist for Payments to Nonimmigrant Short-term Visitors Checklist.
Below are some frequently asked questions to assist departments in this planning.
- Who is considered a short term international visitor to St. Lawrence University?
Any individual who is not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and who will be visiting the campus for 9 days or less.
- May a short term visitor be paid an honorarium?
Individuals who enter the U.S. as short term visitors with a visa status of B-1 (business visitor) or B-2 (tourist visitor) are eligible to receive payments if it is made in connection with a “usual academic activity” lasting no more than 9 days and the visitor has not received similar payments from more than 5 U.S. institutions in the prior 6 months. This is referred to as the 9/6/5 rule. Honorarium payments are subject to a 30% tax withholding unless exempt by a tax treaty between the U.S. and visitor’s country of tax residency and the visitor submits signed a completed 8233 Form. The university’s controller will assist visitors in the completion of this form, but a Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is required.
For non-B classification visa holders such as J visa, individuals must obtain the visa sponsor’s approval prior to any academic activity beginning on campus; otherwise payment can not be made.
- How does the individual apply for a B status visa?
Individuals from most countries will need to apply for a B-1/B-2 visa at the U.S. embassy in their home country. Citizens of Mexico and Canada, however, do not require a visa to enter the U.S. due to NAFTA. Citizens of the following countries are not required to get such a visa under the USCIS’ Visa Waiver Program (VWP): Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Luchenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom*. More information on the VWP can be found at the following web site: http://www.uscis.gov.
*Citizens with the unrestricted right of permanent abode in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.
- Do I need to provide any information to the individual to acquire the B visa status?
Regardless of whether or not an individual is required to get a visa to be admitted to the U.S., individuals arriving in the U.S. with the intent to participate in honorarium-related activities are required to have a letter of invitation. The law states that “invitation letters should clearly specify the honorarium-related event or activity as well as the date and location of the activity. In addition, the letter may assist the inspecting Service officer in verifying that the activity the alien plans to participate in qualifies pursuant to section 212(1) of the (Immigration and Naturalization) Act…” To avoid complications at the port of entry, please make sure that the appropriate letter of invitation has been issued to your international visitors and that they are aware they should bring the letter with them to their visa interview, (if applicable) AND that they should have it available as they arrive in their U.S. port of entry.
- What happens at the port of entry?
When international visitors enter the U.S., they will be required to report to an Inspecting Service Officer who will review their paperwork and either approve or disapprove their entry into the country. If a visitor is approved, he or she will be given a white I-94 card or a green I-94 card if on a Visa Waiver program. The I-94 card will be placed in the passport and their passport will be stamped with the date of entry. The I-94 card will also be stamped and the Service Officer will write in the visa type and the date of departure.
It is important to note that even if international visitors are not required to get a visa from the U.S. consulate, they are required to get an Arrival/Departure Record (I-94) card when they enter the U.S. This card contains the following information: name, date of birth, country of citizenship, visa type and date through which the foreign visitor may stay. The I-94 card is surrendered to the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE) upon the foreign visitor’s departure from the U. S.
If a foreign visitor does not have an I-94 card showing the proper status in her/his passport, the university will not be able to pay an honorarium or to reimburse expenses.
Exception to the rule: Certain Mexican citizens who have a nonresident alien Mexican border crossing card (commonly known as a laser visa), or a multiple-entry nonimmigrant visa may not need a Form I-94.
- Can a short-term visitor be paid reimbursement for travel expenses?
If a visitor is in a B-1 / VWB or B-2 / VWT, meets the 9/6/5 rule, and supplies the appropriate backup documentation, he or she is eligible to be reimbursed for travel expenses with no tax deduction. If the visitor is in a J-1 or H1 – B status, he or she will need written authorization from the Designated Sponsor Officer at their current institution prior to payment of the reimbursement.
- What is a Tax Treaty?
The U.S. has approximately 50 tax treaties with foreign countries. By claiming a tax treaty benefit, the individual is not subject to federal tax withholding. (See here for a list of countries with which the U.S. has tax treaties.) A visitor may claim a tax treaty benefit if she/he meets the restrictions of the tax treaty, but must have a SSN or ITIN number to do so. The individual will be required to complete a Form 8233 to claim the benefit.
In order to claim the Tax Treaty benefit the department will need to set up an appointment for the individual to complete the 8233 form. For appointment, contact: Mary Cosmo, Controller at 315-229-5564 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Does an individual need a SSN or ITIN in order to receive an honorarium or travel reimbursement?
No… International visitors receiving honorarium or payment for services rendered do not need to obtain a SSN or ITIN before they can be paid. However, the College is required to make a 30% tax deduction on all honoraria payments.
Individuals receiving only incidental expense reimbursement do not need a SSN or ITIN, but will need receipts as backup for the payment.
- What is the difference between a Social Security Number (SSN) and an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)?
A SSN is issued to someone who is eligible to be employed in the United States or has some type of fixed tax base. A fixed base is defined as a permanent establishment in the United States such as an office, bank account, etc. An ITIN is issued to a foreign national who is not eligible for a SSN.
- How does someone apply for a SSN or ITIN?
If eligible for a SSN, the visitor must apply at any Social Security Administration Office.
International visitors who are not eligible for a Social Security Number may be able to apply for the ITIN while they are in their home country prior to their arrival in the US. They should consult IRS Publication 1915 which can be found at http://www.irs.gov/formspubs/index