UCL Human Resources


Global Mobility Policy

Policy outlining the considerations for staff working overseas.


Scope and Purpose

1. UCL is “London’s Global University” and being international is an intrinsic part of its operation and ambition. While UCL employment contracts are built around the work location being in the UK, it is recognised that there will be times where work outside the UK is required to support the goals of departments and faculties.  This guidance has been written to support staff working internationally and ensure that the risks that cross-border working poses can be mitigated. The policy also supports departments/faculties and divisions in making informed decisions when sending employees overseas or choosing to support employees working internationally. Cross-border working must be planned and carried out in a compliant and cost-effective manner.

2. This policy does not apply to individuals coming to work in the UK from abroad. 

Where international work may be considered

3. Overseas initiatives can lead to increased risks to both the member of staff and to UCL if not planned properly. For example, disputes with collaborative partners, regulatory action from overseas authorities and reputational damage to UCL. Overseas work is also likely to incur additional and often ongoing costs to UCL and it is important that the costs and risks are understood before any overseas work is agreed. 

4. UCL will seek to support and facilitate overseas work where it is judged that an overseas base will have material benefit to the overall objectives of UCL. Such work will normally require Dean/Director approval. These may be short term or longer term assignments and most typically this will occur where international collaboration is needed in an overseas nation. This could involve UCL working with overseas organisations on joint ventures, staff working in foreign universities, either off or on campus, or carrying out research. Other examples could be where an employee needs to be based overseas for a short period but is essential to the completion of critical UCL work.

5. Aside from the examples above, given the costs, risks and liabilities involved with international work, the normal expectation is for UCL staff to be based within the UK. UCL may consider exceptions but usually this will be on a short term basis (under 60 days) where, for example, staff have requested to work remotely overseas to care for relatives etc, or where urgent teaching work needs to be completed remotely on a short term basis. Cases should be considered by the Dean / Director on their merit, but advice must be sought from the HRBP before anything is agreed. This will help to ensure all cost and risks are known upfront. The normal expectation is that this will only be a temporary relaxation and that staff must plan to return to the UK within the 60 day timeframe. 

Planning and notification

6. In all instances where overseas residency of over 60 days is proposed an individual should discuss with their Head of Department as soon as possible. The Head of Department must discuss this with their Dean and Director of Operations (DoO), and it is strongly advised that the Dean/DoO discusses this with their HR Business Partner before making a decision. This should take place at least 90 days prior to any proposed departure.     

7. The HR Business Partner will work with the Head of Global Mobility to identify issues, risks and estimate any additional costs that may be incurred by a proposed overseas assignment. This information will be relayed to the Dean/DoO. Departments/Faculties should be aware that even if they choose not to provide the individual with any financial support to undertake the arrangement, they could still incur additional costs through overseas employer’s social security, or in administering overseas compliance actions. There may also be costs associated with each of the subsequent steps in this process. Therefore, the risk assessment of the request is necessary before any requests are approved.


8. Once the Dean/DoO (or PS Director) are aware of the substantial costs and risks involved, the individual and their line manager can be notified of the decision. It is recommended that, where an overseas assignment is approved, a review date is used.

Global mobility guidance 

9. This section gives general guidance around the risks and costs involved with overseas work. However, this is general advice only and each case will have specific considerations. For example, there are significant differences between jurisdictions which will need to be factored into the specific assignment. As a rule, any individual working abroad, either at another institution or remotely, for anytime over 60 days, may give rise to complex immigration, employment law, tax and legal issues, which are outlined below. 

Payroll, Social Security and Tax

10. Staff working in the UK usually have PAYE (Income Tax) and National Insurance (also called Social Security) deducted from their pay by their employer. When staff are assigned to work overseas this may affect their tax and social security obligations which may have implications for the employee and/or UCL. Tax and social security liabilities are complex and country and person specific, so specialist advice will need to be taken. 

11. Most countries tax non-residents on workdays in that country, so even where individuals do not become resident in the overseas country, tax is likely to be due. While each country has different de minimis number of days, after 60 days most countries would seek to tax individuals.  Many countries operate a withholding system (similar to PAYE) which may require UCL to register overseas, at the very least for payroll taxes. However, this can lead to the necessity to register some form of entity, a branch for example, which may have significant implications for UCL. 

12. UCL cannot normally operate overseas payrolls. As such, where this is required it needs to be outsourced to accounting firms and the expense, which can be significant, will need to be picked up by the department or faculty. This underlines the importance of planning, so that additional costs that need to be picked up on an ongoing basis, are known. 

13. It is important to note that UCL has an obligation in the UK to operate PAYE and deduct National Insurance. This is separate from a member of staff’s obligation to pay UK Income Tax which may arise whether or not UCL has operated PAYE/NIC. This may also apply overseas. A personal tax liability may arise whether or not the UCL is deducting money from an employee’s pay. 

14. When assigned overseas, UCL will continue to deduct PAYE/NIC. Staff who believe that this is incorrect should contact HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to discuss their circumstances. This needs to be done personally by an employee as the HMRC will not discuss individual circumstances with UCL as an employer. If HMRC believe that PAYE/NIC deductions should stop they will issue UCL with a tax code which stops the deduction of PAYE. For National Insurance, UCL can only stop employer and employee contributions if an appropriate certificate of coverage is issued by the overseas country. More information on these points can be found on the HMRC website. 

15. Whether or not UCL has deducted PAYE/NIC, staff remain responsible for ensuring that they have paid the correct amount of Income Tax for each tax year. 

16. This guidance cannot cover the tax and social security rules in every country that staff might visit. As a rule, however, the longer an individual visits a country, the more likely it is that they should pay tax in that country. Unlike the UK, failing to correctly pay taxes in some countries may affect an individual’s ability to enter and leave that jurisdiction. It is the member of staff’s responsibility to ensure that they investigate and ensure they meet any tax obligations in the country they are in. The key point is that where there is consideration of an employee being based overseas in excess of 60 days, advice is taken before it is agreed. 


17. The effect of an overseas base on any staff who have a certificate of sponsorship, or other time limited immigration clearance within the UK, will be another consideration. Spending significant periods outside the UK can breach the rules of the visa etc. which may mean it is curtailed. This will need to be avoided so it is important this is considered in advance. 

18. Staff are responsible for making sure that their passports are valid for the duration of their time working abroad and must ensure they have the relevant right to work in the respective country.

19. The UK Government provide UK citizens with comprehensive online advice and guidance regarding passport requirements, and it is recommended that staff familiarise themselves with this guidance before planning work abroad. Similarly, it is recommended that individuals who are not UK citizens check their home country’s website for appropriate guidance. 

20. Individuals may wish to consider applying for an additional passport to avoid delays relating to multiple visa applications. Staff should check whether visas are required for their nationality in destination countries and are responsible for arranging their own visas.

21. Staff are encouraged to view the latest travel advice for countries. This essential travel information is regularly updated and can rapidly change. 


22. Staff based abroad will continue to have pension contributions taken from their pay unless they take action to leave the pension scheme. Following Brexit there has been a change in the UK cross border regulations with the EU, and USS have recently confirmed that it is now possible for individuals working in the EU to remain a member of USS. 

23. In the event that a member of staff stops having National Insurance deducted, entitlement to a UK Basic State Pension may be affected. The member of staff is responsible for deciding whether to pay voluntary National Insurance or not.

Legal and Intellectual Property considerations  

24. Where individuals work overseas, UCL may need to amend contracts so that they are locally compliant. Alternatively, secondments may be considered dependent on the situation and any joint work with an overseas organisation. Where an individual is seconded to another institution or employer, they are normally subject to that institutions terms and conditions. During the secondment the other organisation should be responsible for accounting for any local tax and social security due. Legal Services should be involved in discussions around any UCL overseas venture. 

25. Academic members of staff who work overseas and are based with a host institution are often asked to sign an Honorary/Visitors contract stating that any intellectual property created belongs to the host institution. 

Travel, Insurance and Expenses 

26. All UCL funded travel and accommodation should be approved by the staff member’s budget manager in advance of travelling. 

27. UCL has a Business Travel Insurance policy that will insure UCL employees and students who are normally resident in the UK. When travelling on UCL business you'll need to register your trip.  

28. Travel and accommodation should normally be booked by staff through the UCL’s appointed travel management company. Guidance on what travel rates can be claimed is available from the finance website.
29. Information relating to the claiming of expenses incurred while on University business can be found in the University’s Expenses Policy.  Staff who are unsure as to whether a particular expense is claimable should contact their Finance contact in the first instance. 

30. Staff are expected to follow the International Safeguarding Policy at all times when working abroad.   

Health and Safety

31. UCL has a responsibility to make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of the risks to the health and safety of our staff. Whilst UK health and safety law does not generally apply to overseas accidents, there will still be responsibilities under local and civil law, and the Health and Safety Executive here retain the right to prosecute if they feel that management failings in the UK have contributed to an overseas accident. 

32. Before a member of staff works overseas, it is important that a risk assessment is carried out to ensure that any risks are identified and that steps are taken to mitigate these. 

33. A more detailed risk assessment must be undertaken for working abroad that will involve greater risks, including postings to destinations/areas where the Foreign & Commonwealth Office advises against travel (or ‘all but essential’ travel), or where the planned activities are deemed to be potentially hazardous. 

34. Employees and students should be aware of the local legislation and customs of any country they are travelling to. There may be serious repercussions or penalties for doing something that might be legal in the UK but illegal in the country you are visiting.  Employees and students who have a protected characteristic (such as women; those within the LGBT+ community; those who practice a religion) may need to take particular care when travelling to countries where anti-discrimination or harassment laws may not exist or may not be as robust as those in the UK; or where certain practices are forbidden. The government has published foreign travel advice for each country, with further advice specifically for women and those in the LGBT+ community.

35. Overseas travel may involve working in unstable environments, where staff need to make quick mental assessments and manage risks ‘on the hoof’. UCL’s Safety Services Office have issued detailed guidance around working offsite.

36. Staff should declare any pre-existing medical conditions to their line manager which could be worsened as a result of travel. Where staff do not wish to share personal health information, they should seek an assessment from their GP or occupational health advisor to ensure they are fit to travel and work abroad. 

37. Preventative medication is required for many countries. It is the member of staff’s personal decision as to whether they wish to take any medication and to arrange this prior to travel. The NHS provide up-to-date information and guidance around what vaccinations are required, when these are appropriate and whether or not they are available via the NHS on their Travel Vaccinations webpages. The University will pay for any work-related vaccines or medications recommended by the NHS Fit for Travel website. 

Further Advice

38. For further advice, please contact your HR Business Partner. 

39. From time to time, it might be appropriate to engage with third party organisations specialising in International mobility due to the complex nature of this area.

Review of Policy

40. This policy is not contractual and may be varied from time to time.