Honorarium Payments to Foreign Nationals

An honorarium is a payment to an individual for a presentation-oriented, guest lecture or invitational event. Before committing to an honorarium for a foreign national, departments must ensure the person has the appropriate visa that allows such a payment. For short-term visits made for the purpose of delivering a lecture or speech, only certain visa classifications are authorized to accept an honorarium. An individual already in the U.S. may not necessarily be here in the correct visa classification. For instance, diplomats, employees of foreign governments, military personnel, or others on foreign government representative visas, employees of the World Bank or political officers attached to a foreign embassy in the U.S. hold visa classifications specific to the duties of their posts and are not permitted to earn additional income through activities such as speaking engagements.

Do not assume that an international visitor holds the correct visa classification, especially if he or she is already in the U.S. You must look at additional sources of information that could include the individual's passport visa or stamped I-94 card to determine visa classification.

What Activities Can Be Paid Through an Honorarium

An honorarium may be paid to a foreign national for "usual academic activity or activities." These activities include lecturing, teaching and sharing of knowledge or performance (when the audience is composed of non-paying students and/or is open to the general public free of charge).

Honorarium Rule ("9/5/6" Rule)

Foreign nationals in B-1, B-2, VWB, and VWT status may accept an honorarium and/or reimbursement of travel expenses under the following conditions:

  • For "usual academic activity or activities"
  • 9 days or less at the UW
  • The individual has accepted such payment from no more than 5 educational or research institutions (including the UW)
  • In the previous 6-month period.


Dr. Jones from New Zealand is invited by the Geology Department to give a talk for which he will be paid an honorarium and expenses. This is his first trip on a B-1 visa to the U.S. He will be on the Seattle campus for 5 days. During this trip in the U.S. he is also giving talks at four other universities. Dr. Jones has now used the full benefits provided by the honorarium rule. He will not be able to accept an honorarium from another U.S. university for another six months.

Who's Eligible to Receive an Honorarium

  • B-1 or B-2 provided the individual meets the conditions of the Honorarium Rule.
  • VWB (Visa Waiver Business) or VWT (Visa Waiver Tourist) provided the individual meets the conditions of the Honorarium Rule. NOTE: If the event for which the honorarium is offered is arranged before the individual travels to the U.S., the individual must seek admission as a B-1 or VWB non-immigrant.
  • J-1 scholars at the UW or from another university for an occasional lecture at the UW, if permitted by sponsoring institution.
  • H1-B, E3, TN and O-1 visa holders may receive an honorarium only if they are sponsored by the UW. (H-1B, E3, and O-1 visa holders at another university may only receive reimbursement for travel and/or incidental expenses, not an honorarium for academic activity at the UW.) The payment must be processed through the Payroll Office.

See the chart, Payment Guidelines by Visa Type, for more information.

Visa Waiver Program

Foreign nationals from a participating country in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) do not have to have a visa to enter the U.S. for business or tourist travel. However, they must have a machine-readable passport valid for six months past their expected stay in the U.S. (unless a country-specific agreement provides an exemption). The foreign national may stay in the U.S. for business or tourist purposes for a maximum of 90 days. No extension of the stay is allowed.

As of September 2010, travelers from a VWP country no longer complete an I-94W. Instead, they must submit their request for a travel authorization to the U.S. through the ESTA Program (Electronic System for Travel Authorization). Travelers complete the ESTA on-line form before enterring the U.S. Prior to boarding, the carrier will electornically verify with U.S. authorities that the travler has an approved travel authorization file through ESTA. See the ESTA FAQ web site for more information.

For more information on which countries are in the program, see the Department of State web site about the Visa Waiver Program.

NOTE:  If an honorarium payment is being offered and arrangements are made before the individual travels to the U.S., the indiviudal must seek admission under the Visa Waiver Business (VWB) classificaton.


An honorarium paid to a foreign national is subject to 30% withholding, unless the person can claim a tax treaty benefit. This withholding also applies to a nonresident alien entity. Travel reimbursement is not subject to withholding because it is generally not considered income.

Letter of Invitation

A letter of invitation must be sent to every foreign national invited to the UW who will receive payment for services or travel expenses. The letter should come from the department that is sponsoring the activity. The letter should contain the following information:

  • Detailed description of the event or activity
  • Date of the event
  • The amount of any payment that will be made
  • Whether travel and/or incidental expenses will be reimbursed
  • Contact information at the sponsoring UW department for further information

To use one of the sample letters below, first determine the foreign national's visa status. If there is any question about the appropriate visa letter to send, contact the UW ISO Office.

Reimbursement When Foreign National Exceeds Honorarium Rule

The Honorarium Rule limits how many times over a 6-month period a foreign national holding a "B-1" status visa, or visa waiver business, may receive an honorarium and/or travel reimbursement.

Foreign nationals holding a B-1/VWB or B-2/VWT visa who exceed the rule are not prohibited from giving an invited lecture at the UW. However, they cannot receive an honorarium. Only foreign nationals holding a B-1/VWB may receive reimbursement for travel and/or incidental expenses, up to nine days.


Dr. Yang, a resident of Hong Kong, has been paid an honorarium for lectures at five U.S. universities in the past three months. He has now been invited to the UW to give a talk by the Department of Economics. He's traveling in the U.S. on a B-1 visa. Dr. Yang cannot be paid an honorarium for the UW talk but can be reimbursed for reasonable travel and/or incidental expenses. Request for travel reimbursement with documentation should be sent to the Travel Office.

Honorarium Payment to J-1 Scholars

J-1 scholars sponsored by the University of Washington may receive compensation for occasional lectures or short-term consultations at the UW or at another university that involve wages or other remuneration. The occasional lectures or consultations must be authorized in advance and in writing by the sponsoring institution listed on Form DS-2019.

To qualify for compensation authorization, the off-campus activity must meet all of the following:

  • Be short-term or occasional in nature.
  • Be an exchange of expertise which would further the goals of international educational exchange.
  • Relate to the objectives for which the exchange visitor came to the U.S.
  • Benefit the exchange visitor's professional career development with only incidental benefits to the employer.
  • Not delay the completion date of the scholar's program.

Written Work Authorization

To request authorization to engage in occasional lectures or short-term consultations involving wages or other remuneration, the J-1 scholar should take the following steps:

  • Present the letter of invitation from the institution offering the honorarium to his/her home department.
  • Ask the home department to authorize in writing permission to participate in the activity.
  • Ask the home department to forward the authorization to the ISO for their review and authorization.

ISO reviews the letters and makes a written determination that the activity is warranted and that it will not interrupt the scholar's original objective. ISO will also document the new activity in SEVIS (a government database that maintains information on exchange visitors during their stay in the U.S.). Activity and compensation will be listed on revised Form DS-2019.

J-1 Scholars-Sponsored by Another University

A J-1 scholar at another university may be invited to the UW to give a lecture or participate in a sanctioned academic activity on an occasional basis. The scholar must obtain written authorization for the activity from the sponsoring university's Responsible Officer in the International Students Office in advance of the activity. The written authorization must be included with the paperwork that is forwarded to Accounts Payable as part of the request for a check.

Immigration and Tax Forms for an Honorarium Payment to a Foreign National

The process for foreign nationals to be paid an honorarium and/or travel reimbursement at the UW is complicated and has multiple facets. The foreign national must travel on the correct visa; the department needs to do advance planning; tax treaty benefits may impact the tax rate for the honorarium; and, several different types of forms are needed for the payment.

The following is an overview of the process for paying an honorarium to a foreign national for academic activity in the U.S. Use the checklist, Inviting & Paying an Honorarium to a Foreign National, to facilitate this process for each invitation. Maintain a copy of the checklist in department files for audit purposes.

  • Department confirms with the foreign national whether or not he or she meets the Honorarium Rule, if coming to the U.S. on a B visa or from a visa waiver country.
  • If the foreign national is a J-1 scholar, department explains the requirement for written authorization from the sponsoring institution.
  • Foreign national determines if he or she is eligible for a tax treaty benefit.
  • If eligible, department determines if the person has either a SSN or ITIN. If the foreign national doesn't have either tax identification number and would like to apply for an ITIN to claim a tax treaty benefit, department makes an appointment with UW Accounts Payable Office for the individual to apply for an ITIN when on campus. A U.S. taxpayer ID number is required in order to receive a tax treaty benefit.
  • Department sends invitation letter to foreign national with details about the activity. This letter is required when applying for a B visa.
  • Foreign national applies for a B visa if traveling from a country not in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The visa is issued by the U.S. Department of State. The visa stamp is affixed to the passport with one of these possible notations: B-1; B-2 or the B-1/B-2 (NOTE: B-1 is UW preference). Foreign nationals from a VWP country must complete an on-line form through the ESTA program.
  • At port of entry to U.S., individual presents passport with visa and a letter of invitation to immigration authorities who will gather the individual's travel trecords electronically. Visitor will have digital photographs and fingerprints taken.
  • Once at the UW:
    • Department has foreign national complete UW Form 1007, Foreign National Payment Data Sheet.
    • Department makes a copy of the foreign national's passport identity page, passport page with port of entry stamp (if citizen of VWP country) and visa, if applicable. For J-1 scholar, department makes copy of work authorization letter from UW ISO and a copy of their DS 2019.
    • If the foreign national can claim a tax treaty benefit but doesn't have a tax identification number (i.e., SSN or ITIN), the department schedules an appointment for the foreign national to apply for one. The foreign national applies, in person, at the Tax Office for an ITIN. NOTE: Appointments are required to apply and can be requested via email at itin@uw.edu.
    • If the foreign national can claim a tax treaty benefit, he/she also completes Form 8233, Exemption from Withholding on Compensation for Independent Personal Services of Nonresident Alien Individual. If payment is to an entity, the appropriate W-8BEN-E form is completed. If payment is to an individual, the appropriate W-8BEN form is completed.
    • Department has the option to complete UW Form 1631, Visiting Lecturer/Invited Speaker/Instructor. If payment is to an entity, UW Form 1631 is not needed.
    • Department completes a payment to individual (P2I) for honorarium payment (up to $10,000). For an honorarium payment of $10,000 or more, the department creates a purchase order in Ariba.
    • Department submits an expense report (ER) through eTravel for the travel reimbursement. See the Travel Reimbursement section below for more information about the documents required for payment.
  • To request an honorarium under $10,000: Department uploads the following documents in Docusign while completing the P2I:
    • UW Form 1631(optional)
    • UW Form 1007
    • Copy of visa and/or copy of passport page with port of entry stamp. NOTE: Be sure copy is legible.
    • Copy of identity page from passport
    • Copy of the person's DS 2019 for J-1 scholars
    • IRS Form 8233 or appropriate W-8 form, if a tax treaty benefit is available.
    • Wire transfer information is required if the payment is being made by wire transfer. See wire form: https://finance.uw.edu/ps/how-pay/wire-payments

To request travel expense reimbursement: Department completes an Expense Report (ER) in Ariba and attaches:

  • Expense report signed by foreign national
  • Copy of visa and/or or copy of passport page with port of entry stamp.  NOTE: Be sure copy is legible.
  • Copy of identify page from passport. NOTE: Be sure copy is readable.
  • Copy of their DS 2019 for J-1 scholars
  • Copy of their I-20 for F-1 students
  • Wire transfer information is required if the payment is being made by wire transfer.

The payment is made by check or wire transfer. If there are no special instructions, the check is mailed to the foreign national's address noted on the Expense Report form (ER).

Visa Examples

The following examples illustrate some common situations encountered by foreign nationals visiting the UW to engage in academic activities.

  • VWB foreign national
    Dr. Schwartz, a resident of Germany, is invited to the UW to give a lecture in molecular biology and visit for 2 days. The Biology department offers to reimburse him for all expenses and pay an honorarium of $2,000. Dr. Schwartz is from a country in the Visa Waiver Program, so he may enter the U.S. as a VWB or with a letter of invitation from the department. Because Germany has a tax treaty with the U.S., he is eligible to apply for treaty benefits to avoid the mandatory 30% tax withholding requirement. Since he has a Social Security Number, his honorarium payment will be for the full amount if he submits IRS Form 8233.
  • J-1 Scholar already in the U.S.
    Dr. Marconi, a resident of Italy, has been in the U.S. as a J-1 scholar conducting research at M.I.T. The Dean of Engineering at the UW decides to invite Dr. Marconi to the Seattle campus to conduct a seminar. The dean will offer both an honorarium and reimbursement of expenses. According to DHS regulations, Dr. Marconi must have a letter of work authorization from M.I.T. (his J-1 visa sponsor) in order to receive payment from the UW. A copy of the work authorization from the M.I.T. International Students & Scholars Office and Dr. Marconi's DS 2019 must accompany the paperwork sent to Accounts Payable.


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