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Reimbursing travel expenses for international visitors

Emory’s policies regarding payments to nonresident aliens (NRAs) are designed to process these payments in the most efficient manner while meeting the tax withholding and documentation requirements of the Internal Revenue Service and Department of Homeland Security. 

Three items to note:

  1. W-8BEN forms can be submitted electronically if reasonable steps are taken to ensure the form is in fact from the visitor.
  2. Emory’s compliance statement is no longer required for standard (i.e. nontaxable) travel reimbursements. For honoraria or other taxable payments, it should attached to the payment request in Compass while the department keeps the original on file.
  3. For standard reimbursements, departments no longer need to submit certain immigration information or documents, such as I-94s. Instead, fill out this brief foreign national information form (PDF) about the visitor. NOTE: If you're unable to fill out the form's interactive fields using Firefox, please use another browser or download it and open with Adobe. 
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

With the upgrade to Compass 9.2, all fee, travel expense, or honorarium payment requests should be done through the Compass Payment Request module whether to 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 Request Job Aid for required information.

Compass instructions for NRA payments >>


The following information should be collected from the visitor:

Before arrival:

  1. Full legal name
  2. Foreign address
  3. Country issuing passport
  4. Visa type (B-1/B-2, WB/WT, J-1, or other)
  5. Primary activity while on campus (teaching, research, both, or other)
  6. Bank information, if the visitor wishes to be paid electronically rather than by paper check: bank name, bank address, branch name and number if applicable, swift code, bank account name, and bank account number.  

After arrival:

Original or copies of receipts of allowable travel expenses. Review the Emory Travel Policy, 2.90, for a list of unallowable expenses (see section on "Non-Reimbursable or Payable Items").

The process of reimbursing a non-U.S. visitor for travel expenses should begin before they arrive on Emory’s campus. Depending on the purpose of their visit, you may need to submit additional documentation. The controller’s office will contact you if this is the case.

Please follow these instructions:

  1. Get the full legal name, foreign address, passport number, and visa type and number of visitor who will be paid.
  2. Get a copy of the relevant event flier, if available, or write a statement regarding the business purpose of the visitor’s payment. Attach the flyer or statement to the Compass expense report entry. This explanation will help determine whether any additional documentation is needed.
  3. After the visitor arrives at Emory, get originals or copies of receipts of allowable travel expenses. List of non-reimbursable items found in the Emory Travel Policy >>
  4. For expense reimbursements only (no honorarium involved), fill out the foreign national information form (PDF) with the visitor’s visa type, country issuing passport, gender, and primary activity while at Emory (teaching, research, both or other). Attach the form to the Compass expense report entry. NOTE: If you're unable to fill out the form's interactive fields using Firefox, please use another browser or download it and open with Adobe.

Once all the supporting documentation has been submitted, travel reimbursements are typically issued within 5–7 business days.

Special circumstances that require additional documentation

Generally speaking, you can reimburse an international visitor the same way you would reimburse a US citizen. But in rare cases, payments are taxable if their purpose is for the direct benefit of the visitor. These are known as “non-accountable plan payments.” The most common example is travel expenses paid to students for their independent study. 

In these cases, you will need to submit the documentation above plus the visitor’s passport number, visa type and number, and Emory’s compliance statement for payments to visitors.

The controller’s office will contact you if you need to submit this documentation, but you should be prepared to gather it ahead of time if you know that the payment will be treated as non-accountable. More info >>

Paying third-party travel vendors on behalf of international visitors

The preferred method of paying third-party travel vendors for international visitors’ allowable travel expenses is by using your Emory corporate card and reconciling those charges through Compass.

Please keep in mind that some payments to vendors on behalf of foreign nationals are subject to additional taxes. If you have any questions, please contact nonresident tax services in the controller's office.

Travel costs for foreign visitors from low-resource environments

Emory sometimes hosts visitors from low-resource environments who cannot afford the up-front cost of travel to Atlanta. In these cases, Emory Travel Services must be used to book plane tickets, hotels, and rental cars or other transportation. Payments for these expenses cannot be provided directly to the visitor unless you are reimbursing the visitor in accordance with Emory’s reimbursement policies.

The preferred means of paying for meals or other incidental expenses is by using your Emory corporate card. 

If additional cash is needed for a visitor’s travel costs, have your department administrator or business manager complete a Travel Advance Request form, indicating the person for whom the request is being made, the expenses it is intended to cover (e.g., meals), 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).

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). Ask your guest for a written acknowledgement that they received the funds and for all receipts on which the funds were spent. You should also collect from your guest any cash that was not properly accounted for. These costs cannot be charged to a sponsored contract or grant.

In terms of taxability, these payments are treated the same as direct expense reimbursements. Note that if the advanced funds are spent on items that are subject to tax, the department will be charged for the taxes.

Per diem allowances for foreign visitors

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.

Receipt verification

Scanned copies of allowable travel expense receipts are accepted for reimbursing international visitors. Review the Emory Travel Policy, 2.90, for a list of unallowable expenses (see section on "Non-Reimbursable or Payable Items").


Nonresident Tax Services
Office of the Controller