Individual University projects or departments cannot register or "do business" on their own because they are not independent legal entities. The Office of the General Counsel (OGC) will explore options to "do business" in a particular location, advice of local legal counsel. Typically, Columbia faces five options for doing business outside the U.S., though some of these options are not available in certain countries:
- Do not register, and instead partner with an existing organization in the country. See Partnering for further details.
- Do not register, and instead contract with local vendors to perform activities that require registration. However, in some countries merely outsourcing the work does not eliminate the requirement for Columbia to register.
- Do not register, and limit to activities that do not require registration.
- Register a new Related Legal Entity in the country. This entity will typically be owned or controlled by Columbia University or one or more subsidiaries of the university. Depending on local requirements and needs, the related entity may be a for-profit or non-profit entity. See Related Legal Entities for further details. Incorporating a new Related Legal Entity in the host country involves expensive and resource-intensive steps, and should only be undertaken when necessary. Registration costs are the responsibility of the department. See the Funding Planning and Budget section for further details regarding registration costs.
- Register the Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York (Columbia’s legal name) to do business in the country. Registering the university outside the U.S. can have serious tax and legal ramifications, and can only be done in conjunction with the Office of General Counsel and the Finance Department.
Certain projects, such as those sponsored by the U.S. government or the host-country government, may be eligible for an exemption from registration in the host country. However, such an exemption should never be assumed.
The OGC also explores whether to seek protections for Columbia trademarks in the country, and the Office of the Treasurer's unit of Insurance and Risk Management reviews insurance needs. The Office of the Controller's Financial Reporting and Operations determines whether any new business units, projects, natural accounts, and/or other information need to be established within the University’s financial accounting system in order to properly track financial data associated with the new registration.
Global Support will help coordinate a comprehensive approach among all University units.