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Foreign Legal Presence and Entities

Programs or projects that intend to operate in a foreign country are subject to the host country’s legal statutes and regulations. The regulatory environment abroad is complex and ever-changing, and no two countries are the same.

Four people sitting around a glass coffee table with laptops and notebooks.

A strategy that worked five years ago may not meet today’s requirements. The Global Operations team works with departments setting up projects, programs, or other activities and advises on factors to consider, including contracts/agreements, special licenses and taxes. These in-house consulting services are available to the Cornell community free of charge.

Before budgeting for a project planning to operate abroad, email Global Operations. We can help you find answers to key questions about taxation, human resources, banking, risk, safety, insurance, compliance, and more.

Special Permissions

Cornell may need to obtain special licenses, registrations, or other permissions to conduct the proposed activities in the host country. Rules can vary depending on the activity type and duration.

Some of the common types of activities that may require special permissions include:

  • Opening a Cornell bank account in the host country
  • Hiring expatriates, local or third-country nationals to work in the host country
  • Utilizing the services of independent contractors
  • Leasing office or lab space or owning land or other real property in the host country
  • Purchasing equipment or motor vehicles in the host country
  • Providing in-person or virtual consulting services in the host country
  • Teaching Cornell credit-bearing courses outside the U.S.
  • Delivering online (credit- or non-credit bearing) education to residents of the host country
  • Generating income from foreign sources
  • Operating in-country on a long-term basis

Foreign Taxes

Although Cornell is a tax-exempt organization in the United States, foreign-earned income may be subject to taxation by foreign governments. Conducting host country legal and tax due diligence when budgeting for a project is required. Projects may incur unexpected costs, penalties, and legal fees without proper planning.

Standalone Legal Entity

Registering a standalone legal entity may be needed at times. Determining whether and how to register the university in a foreign country is a legal and often strategic decision. If compelling legal or business reasons justify creating a separate corporation, the university will establish legal entities abroad to operate as separate subsidiaries or standalone affiliates.

Global Operations, on behalf of the university, will only register if doing so is necessary to comply with foreign country laws and regulations, and more expedient—but equally as compliant—alternatives are not available. Approval to establish a foreign legal entity is required from the Cornell University Board of Trustees (Cornell University Policy 4.11).

Where We Operate & Services We Provide

On behalf of the university, Global Operations operates the following legal entities:

Entity Services Provided
Ezra (Beijing) Business Consulting Services, Ltd. (China) Event Hosting, Office Administration, Employment
Cornell Education Research Foundation (India) Office Administration, Employment, Grant Administration, Gift Administration
Cornell-in-India Pvt. Ltd. (India) Office Administration, Employment
Llenroc Global LLC (USA) Generally limited - at times required to manage university's presence in foreign countries

Office Administration: Managing an overseas office or long-term program is like starting and running a small business. We can manage the financial, legal, and administrative operations to establish your overseas office or lab and keep it running smoothly so that you can focus on programming and activities.

Employment: Hiring staff for overseas projects can be enormously complex. We can employ and manage payroll for your faculty and project staff based abroad to ensure they’re paid on time, in the proper currency, and in accordance with each country's employment laws and practices.

Gift Administration: Currently only available in India. We can receive and manage current-use gifts from a local donor that you’ve identified to support your in-country activities. Our affiliation with Cornell ensures we adhere to university standards while enabling you to access more donors and accept gifts in situations where Cornell may not otherwise be able to do so. The cost to receive gifts is rolled into in the service fee to operate your program overseas.

Grant Administration: Currently only available in India. We're able to help you pursue grant opportunities that Cornell otherwise cannot pursue due to funder requirements. We can accept and manage funding from particular grantors to support your research activities. The cost to receive grants is rolled into in the service fee to operate your program overseas.

For assistance with any of these services, please reach out to the Global Operations team.

Only Cornell’s Office of General Counsel may retain external, country-specific legal counsel. Global Operations—in cooperation with Cornell’s tax office—maintains relationships with international tax advisors. Note that the program seeking legal registration is responsible for the cost of in-country counsel and tax consultation. This process can be lengthy, and so allow plenty of time and begin early. 

Please contact Global Operations for consulting services.