The worldwide shift to remote work has drastically changed how organizations approach hiring, and colleges and universities face a unique set of challenges. Previously, hiring international professors, grad students or researchers simply involved managing contracts and obtaining visas. Now, higher ed HR departments must get up to speed on complex labor regulations in other countries, because top foreign faculty may be unable or unwilling to move to the U.S.
This means hiring remote employees is here to stay, and universities will need to adapt hiring processes to eliminate compliance risks. The good news? Hiring faculty abroad, particularly amid the “work from anywhere” movement, has become a competitive advantage.
The challenges of international remote hiring in higher ed
Higher ed and high risk
Hiring faculty abroad requires complying with the specific and varied employment laws of their home countries. For U.S.-based HR teams, it can be hard to know if all requirements are met.
Noncompliance can carry heavy penalties for your institution and your faculty. A simple misclassification of an employee as an independent contractor, for example, could lead to large fines, unexpected back taxes, project shutdowns or even jail time. You will likely need to offer contracts in local languages and pay salaries in local currencies according to a specific schedule.
Converting fixed-term contracts: From home to abroad
If your international faculty have previously taught in the U.S. but now are remote, existing contracts will need to be converted to new contracts that adhere to local labor laws. HR departments often find that workers they’ve employed stateside lack the necessary documents to work overseas, such as the health insurance that’s required in Germany, which can delay onboarding and payroll for weeks.
In cases where your employees start the semester working without a contract, which is illegal in many countries, you’re at risk for noncompliance. Not only that, but you’ll have to make up for missed backpay by classifying unpaid wages as a signing bonus that kicks in once the contract is signed.
Another issue specific to higher ed is the need for fixed-term contracts. Unlike other white-collar industries, which commonly hire once, higher ed typically requires contracts for the length of a semester or research project, and that means re-upping contracts throughout the year for everyone you employ abroad.
Onboarding semester after semester (after semester…)
Onboarding in higher ed can be extremely time-consuming. First, especially when fixed-term contracts are involved, the process must be repeated every semester. Employment regulations in France, for example, make it difficult to justify fixed-term contracts since time-limited employment is one way to get around strict rules around termination. As a result, you may need to figure out how to employ faculty on a permanent basis.
Then there’s the issue of fluctuating salaries, where the spring semester might pay differently than the summer term. If each contract requires multiple levels of approval—first, by procurement or HR and then by department heads or deans of individual colleges—onboarding can take even longer.
Maintaining A+ relationships with faculty
A cumbersome hiring process that’s full of delays is frustrating for faculty. As top talent in their fields, they expect smooth onboarding and timely, accurate and compliant payroll—no matter how complicated local tax laws, benefits regulations and compensation requirements are for the HR team. Shielding remote faculty from the minutiae—so they can focus on education and research—is critical to their happiness and continued employment, and to your reputation as an employer.
Grants and research projects
The shift to “work from anywhere” employment, combined with international hiring, means increased opportunities to participate in research projects and partnerships that may have been considered unrealistic or undesirable before. Fixed-period projects carry their own unique set of considerations. Even if you’re employing someone short-term, the risks of noncompliance apply. A project can be paused or shut down, grant money can be forfeited and in-country faculty can even be jailed if you misclassify their employee status.
If a project requires an employee to relocate or travel from their home country to another one outside the U.S., you’ll need to offer visa support. With the world in a state of flux, travel regulations and visa requirements are ever-changing. Local, on-the-ground knowledge can make it a lot easier to support faculty internationally.
How hiring internationally can give you an edge
Expanding your academic talent pool
One of the benefits of remote work: Now that you can hire anyone, anywhere, you have access to an expanded talent pool. Before, the complexity of securing a visa to bring faculty to the U.S. might have deterred or prevented you from hiring talent from certain countries. Or there were candidates unwilling to tackle an international job because of family or other considerations in their home countries. Now, hiring remotely lets you enrich your academic departments with faculty from anywhere in the world.
Attracting top educators
Although some higher education institutions might prefer to go back to the way things were before the COVID-19 pandemic altered the employment landscape, many professors and graduate assistants will seek to continue working remotely, at least when they’re not teaching. In fact, a study in early 2021 showed that 81% of respondents like working remotely and 62% want to continue doing so after the pandemic. Universities and colleges that flex to accommodate remote work demands will be able to choose from among the most elite in academia—and those who refuse to adapt will lose out.
How to approach international remote hiring: The solution for higher ed
Partnering with an employer of record (EOR) lets you hire global remote employees quickly and compliantly. By legally employing your international hires on your behalf, the EOR executes compliant contracts and timely, accurate payroll, and guides your employees through the often-complex onboarding process. The EOR eliminates your compliance risks and makes your transition to hiring abroad seamless.
With hiring capabilities in 165+ countries, Global Employment Outsourcing (GEO), our first-to-market employer of record solution, can give you an advantage in securing the best university talent in their fields, no matter where they live or work. Now you can hire the right people anywhere in the world easily and compliantly, ultimately enriching your teaching faculty, your students and your campus.
Connect with a global solutions advisor today to explore how GEO can eliminate compliance risks and give your institution a global hiring advantage.