Operating in a Foreign Country

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Foreign Operations

ASU has operations in several foreign countries with research projects occurring all over the globe. Setting up foreign operations can be difficult, time-consuming, and expensive, but Global Operations can help to reduce the challenges that accompany international work.  

Operating in a Foreign Country


Triggering Permanent Establishment

If you are operating in a foreign country, you need to be aware of the threshold called permanent establishment. You can cross this threshold intentionally or unintentionally, but once you have done so, you may be subjecting ASU and your project to entity registration, taxation and reporting requirements in that country – a process that is costly and time-consuming.

A foreign government may view the following activities as creating a permanent establishment in their country: 

  • Hiring independent contractors/consultants or employees
  • Leasing or owning office space (formal office or home office)
  • Purchasing capital equipment and/or durable goods
  • Opening a local bank account
  • Wiring money in or out (institutional or personal accounts)
  • Conducting regular and/or continuous activity (e.g. study abroad program, executive education program)
  • Staying in the country for more than an aggregated total of 183 days in one year's time

If your project includes any of the above activities, contact Global Operations. We will engage legal and tax experts to evaluate your project and determine whether or not your activities risk creating a permanent establishment in that foreign country.


ASU’s Legal Entities

In rare cases, ASU may make a strategic decision to create a permanent establishment and register as a legal entity in a foreign country. If you believe this is necessary for your project, contact Global Operations. The Global Oversight Committee reviews all such requests to ensure there is a sufficient business case and return on investment for ASU. If approved, ASU’s Office of General Counsel leads the execution of such requests. At present, ASU has 11 legal entities in strategic locations around the globe. 

Avoiding Permanent Establishment

In most cases, it is preferable to avoid creating a permanent establishment in a foreign country. Options for doing this include:

  • Partnering with a local organization
  • Contracting with a local service provider

Local organizations have the necessary business structures in place and can perform activities, such as employing workers, on behalf of ASU and your project.


Partnering with a Local Organization

Partnering with a local organization, such as a local university, is often your best option to avoid creating a permanent establishment. We recommend you include the local organization as a subrecipient in your sponsored project proposal. If awarded, ASU will issue a subaward to the subrecipient to formalize the partnership. For more information on ASU-issued subawards, see Subaward Basics.


Contracting with a Local Service Provider

Contracting with a local service provider, such as a professional employer organization, is usually preferable to creating a permanent establishment. However, it can also be costly. You should include funds in your sponsored project budget for such services, preferably at proposal time. It can also be time-consuming. You should include time in your sponsored project schedule for finding the right service provider and setting-up a contract with them. For more information on local service providers, contact Global Operations.

For more information on the implications of creating a permanent establishment, see Foreign Tax Liabilities.


Provide Your Foreign Operations Experiences

Have you set up operations in remote and dangerous locations with little infrastructure and big bureaucracies? Help improve this site for the ASU community by sharing your foreign operations advice, feedback and stories with Global Operations.