Visitor Expense Reimbursement

Find guidance below on the considerations and procedures for reimbursing international visitor expenses.

Allowability and taxable benefit considerations

Expense reimbursements are allowable when they meet the requirements of an accountable plan. In general, accountable plan expense reimbursements for employees, students, and visitors are considered non-taxable. For international business and tourist visitors (B-1, B-2, W-B, W-T and Canadians with no visa), their expenses reimbursement may be considered a taxable benefit if their visit falls outside of the 9/5/6 rule – meaning, the relevant activity for their travel lasts no more than 9 days, and the visitor has not accepted payment or expense reimbursement from more than 5 institutions in the past 6 months. If their Emory activity does not adhere to these parameters, the expense reimbursement may be taxable. 

Learn more about the tax implications for international visitors expense reimbursements on the NRA Definitions page under “Business or tourist immigration status and 9/5/6 rule.”

Your visitor’s expense reimbursement may also be taxable if the expenses are not compatible with an accountable plan. A common example of non-accountable plan payments are travel expense reimbursements to students for their independent study or attendance at a conference where they are not a presenter.

While it is most common to reimburse direct expenses, Emory will reimburse international visitors according to the U.S. government per diem rate for meals and incidental expenses (food, parking, taxis). Check the current rate for the Emory area by searching zip code 30322. Review the “Per Diem for Guests” section of the Emory Travel Policy (2.90) to ensure your per diem application is compliant.

Expense reimbursements for other visa types may be subject to tax as well, and Nonresident Alien Tax Services can assist you in determining whether your visitor's expense reimbursement will be allowable and whether it will be taxable. 

Preparing for expense reimbursement

Given the need for original signatures on some of the documentation required by the IRS and the Department of Homeland Security to make certain travel expense reimbursement payments to nonresident aliens (NRAs), planning ahead for your visitor’s arrival is necessary in case you need to collect original signatures while the visitor is with your department and to minimize processing time for payments.

In discussing any proposed invitations to visitors for academic activities at Emory, please read through all the documentation requirements below in advance of any final payment arrangements. This will ensure all necessary visas and paperwork are obtained so that appropriate travel reimbursements can be made in a timely manner.

If you have a question or special circumstance that is not covered in the list below, please contact Emory’s Nonresident Alien Tax Services at least 7 days before your visitor’s arrival.

Procedures for reimbursing travel expenses

Expense reimbursements to international visitors are processed through the Compass Payment Request Module. Reimbursements can be paid by check, ACH, or international wire. Keep in mind that Emory does not mail checks to a small number of high-risk countries. If the visitor wants an ACH payment (they will need to have a US bank account), attach a completed ACH form. If the visitor is to be paid by international wire, see the Compass Foreign Wire Payment Request Job Aid.

To review what documentation you will need for completing an expense reimbursement for a foreign visitor, please find guidance in the Foreign Individual and Entity Payment Request Cheat Sheet. The supporting documents needs for an international visitor expense reimbursement are:

  • The Emory University Compliance Statement for Payments to Visitors 
    • Please note, the Compliance Statement is also required for honorarium payments. If your visitor is being paid an honorarium as well as an expense reimbursement, you can attach the same Compliance Statement to the expense reimbursement payment request, but please note, honorarium and expense reimbursement payment requests should be issued separately
    • A scanned copy of the signed form will be attached to your payment request, but departments must keep the original form on file for seven (7) years. Your department assumes responsibility for any tax, interest, or penalties that could arise from the inability to provide the original documentation if requested by the IRS.
  • W-8BEN Certificate for Foreign Status for Individuals (view W-8BEN instructions)
    • Signature must be an ink signature, but scanned or faxed copies of the form are acceptable
  • Original Receipts for allowable expenses (scanned copies are acceptable)
  • Supplier Information Form (only required if the individual is not already set up in Compass, or if details, such as address, have changed)
  • Copy of I-94 record 
    • Please note, if anyone other than the traveler pulls the I-94 card, the express written permission of the traveler is needed to do so. U.S. Customs and Border Protection states, “You are not authorized to access this website to retrieve records of another person unless you are the person's legal guardian, or you have the person's consent.”
  • Detailed explanation of business purpose
  • If reimbursement is for a J-1 visitor, DS-2019 form with letter from responsible officer issuing the letter must also be attached.

To process a payment to a foreign individual, please see the full instructions from Finance.

Paying Foreign Individuals through Compass

Global Services suggests retrieving as much information from your visitor in advance so that forms can be completed and signed by your visitors quickly during your visitor’s time at Emory. Key information you will need from your visitor for payment processing includes: full legal name, home country address, passport number (for Compliance Statement), payment information (such as bank details), and visa type (e.g., B-1). If you will also be processing an honorarium payment for your visitor or if your payment is deemed taxable, further information may be required.

See more about honorarium and other foreign payments, application of taxes, and tax treaty benefits

After the visitor arrives, obtain receipts for allowable expenses and have your visitor sign any relevant forms (such as W-8BEN, Compliance Statement).

Reconciling per diem, travel funds, and other payments on behalf of international visitors

If a department will be paying third-party travel vendors for international visitors’ allowable travel expenses (e.g., flight, hotel, transportation), the preferred method of payment is your Emory corporate card. These charges will be reconciled as an expense report in Compass (not as a Payment Request). Please keep in mind that some payments to vendors on behalf of foreign nationals are subject to additional taxes. 

If additional cash is needed for a visitor’s travel costs, have your department administrator or business manager request a Travel Cash Advance, indicating the person for whom the request is being made, the expenses it is intended to cover (e.g., meals and incidental expenses), and the extenuating circumstances that prevent the use of other payment options. Estimate the costs for meals and incidentals based on U.S. government rates (check the current rate for Emory by searching zip code 30322). Travel advances are reconciled as expense reports in Compass.

Since only Emory employees are eligible to receive travel advances directly, the advance will be issued to the department administrator or business manager submitting the request (who will also be responsible for submitting related expense reports and associated documentation to reconcile the advance). Ask your guest for a written acknowledgement that they received the funds. In the case of direct reimbursement of expenses rather than a daily per diem, original receipts must be collected. You should also collect from your guest any cash that was not accounted for through receipts. 

If you elect to provide your visitor with a flat per diem for daily travel expenses, review the “Per Diem for Guests” section of the Emory Travel Policy (2.90) to ensure your per diem application is compliant. Check the current GSA rate for the Emory area by searching zip code 30322. 

Generally, these costs cannot be charged to a sponsored contract or grant. Consult with your RAS unit on the allowability of charging to a grant or contract.

In terms of taxability, these payments are treated the same as direct expense reimbursements and may be taxable. Note that if the advanced funds are spent on items that are subject to tax, the department will be charged for the taxes. Contact Nonresident Alien Tax Services in the Controller's Office with any questions about taxability of these payment. 


Nonresident Tax Services
Office of the Controller