If you are planning a sabbatical abroad there will be many details to work out. Waiting until the last minute may delay your trip. We strongly recommend starting to plan at least six (6) months in advance.
Unfortunately there is no one-size-fits-all approach to planning a sabbatical abroad. Every foreign country has its own unique requirements. Below we've outlined some of areas you'll likely need to plan for.
Please note: These general guidelines have been prepared as a courtesy for faculty who are contemplating a sabbatical outside of the U.S., and may not include all considerations. For avoidance of doubt please refer to original source information (e.g., college or university policy, consulate or embassy, host institution, host country laws, etc.). If you have ideas for improving this page, please let us know.
Get a jump start on the legal documents
- Host universities or institutes abroad may require a signed agreement with Cornell to legally host you. You may need the same 'hosting agreement' to apply for your visa to legally reside in the foreign country. Some of these agreements are labor contracts and may require outside legal advice, with direct cost to you, your department, or your college.
- Connect with your host university or institute contact several months prior to traveling to ensure you understand requirements and legal paperwork is completed ahead of time.
- As an example, here are some of the documents you may need to collect so that your host can provide you with an invitation letter: a) Employment contract from Cornell (outlining position, employer, salary, and other terms as needed); b) Letter from your health insurance company confirming that you're covered while abroad; c) Letter confirming liability and/or travel insurance; d) IT- or IP-related agreement between host and Cornell (to be signed by your department chair or college dean, depending on the circumstances).
Obtain a visa to legally reside abroad
A visa is a document showing that a person is authorized to enter or leave a specified area and is subject to an immigration official's permission at the time of actual entry. The authorization is commonly a stamp endorsed in the applicant's passport, but it may also be a document to accompany a passport. A visa generally gives non-citizens clearance to enter a country and remain there within specified constraints, such as a time frame for entry, a limit on time spent in the country, and a prohibition against employment. When you apply for a visa in advance of your arrival, you allow the country to consider your circumstances, such as your reason for applying, details of previous visits to the country, and financial security. Some countries also require a Letter of Introduction. Check out our FAQ page.
- Ensure that you (and your family, if applicable) will have the correct visa to reside in country.
- Most visas require extensive paperwork, fees, photos—and a waiting time of weeks (if not months) to be issued.
- Your host university or institute may provide assistance with your visa process. If not, consider reaching out to Cornell's visa processing provider for assistance. Notes that some countries (e.g., France, Spain) do not allow agents to apply for visas on your behalf, and will require you to work directly with the local consulate or embassy to apply for your visa. Also, certain countries require visa applicants to visit the respective consulate or embassy in person (e.g., Spain).
- Faculty traveling with families will often need to personally handle their family members' visa applications as host institutions will not provide assistance.
Proof of insurance letters
- If you are required to show proof of evacuation and repatriation coverage in order to obtain a visa or other travel document, you may print a Certificate of Assistance from Cornell's International SOS online portal. If you need to show proof of medical insurance, please reach out to email@example.com. You'll need to provide proof of travel registration in the Cornell International Travel Registry and your full name as it appears on your passport.
- If you're required to show proof of your family's health insurance, you will need to contact your personal health insurance provider and ask them to issue you a letter.
- If covered under Cornell's Aetna plan, please review this information and contact Aetna to see if additional coverage is available under your plan.
- If covered under the Empire plan, connect with the provider for a proof of insurance letter.
- In the event your family's health insurance plan does not provide adequate insurance, HTH Travel Insurance is licensed to sell insurance in New York State. They offer plans for up to 180 days. For trips exceeding 180 days, a long-term 'expat' plan may be required.
- Understand your Cornell benefits coverage while on sabbatical.
- Cornell's Travel Expense Policy 3.2 provides details for sabbatical and other extended travel, such as what may be considered business versus personal expenses as well as tax implications.
- If you receive income from a foreign source while abroad, speak with your personal accountant to determine how to report income. If you are a U.S. citizen or a resident alien, your income is subject to U.S. income tax, including any foreign income, or any income that is earned outside of the U.S. It does not matter if you reside inside or outside of the U.S. when you earn this income. In addition, even if you do not receive a Form W-2, a Wage and Tax Statement, or a Form 1099 from the foreign payer, you are still required to report this income.
- Cornell's Leaves for Professors and Academic Staff (Policy 6.2.1).
A few other things...
- Your college or school may have its own sabbatical web page (e.g., CALS).
- Remember to register your sabbatical in Cornell's international travel registry. If you have registered your international Cornell travel in the travel registry and are traveling outside of your home country, you are covered by international travel insurance for accident/sickness and emergency evacuation. Cornell provides a host of other benefits, so be sure to check them out.
- If you're taking your family abroad for a long-term sabbatical, there are other details to work out:
- Where will your children go to school? If they do not speak the local language, you're contact at the host institution may be able to recommend local international schools.
- If your partner is accompanying you on your sabbatical and is employed in the U.S. and would like to work abroad, please ensure they check with their employer to see if there are any restrictions or special requirements to consider.
Traveling to France?
Some of our faculty have found that France, in particular, requires documentation that can take extra effort to put in place. For example, France requires a 'hosting agreement'. Information about visiting France as a researcher can be found here.
Who can you turn to for help?
- Often times the contact at your host institution will be a great resource with visa and on-the-ground logistics, but there are so many things to sort out it can be overwhelming.
- Your local HR contact is one of your best points of contact at Cornell.
- If you have colleagues who have taken sabbaticals abroad, reach out to them for advice, especially if they've spent time in the country you're planning on traveling to.
- If you still need help, Global Operations [globaloperations at cornell.edu] may be able to assist. We aren't a substitute for your college's support system, but we will try to find answers to questions you haven't been able to have answered by your host institution contact or your college.