Budget development for research that includes an international component will require more time to prepare and include costs that are not typically included in research conducted locally.  Prior to beginning the budget process, the sponsor guidelines as well as the University Policies and Procedures must be reviewed to identify the types of costs that might be allowable for inclusion in the project budget.

Financial Sponsorship

Prior to beginning the budget process, review the financial sponsor guidelines as well as the University Policies and Procedures to identify the types of costs that are allowable for inclusion in the project budget. External funding agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), have specific requirements and often limitations on what charges are allowable. Work with your departmental/school grants administrators and the Office of Sponsored Programs (412-624-7400) to determine allowable costs.

The following lists reflect costs that may be deemed allowable dependent on the type of activity proposed. In preparing the budget, researchers should be aware that an auditor may not make the same interpretation about allowability that you have. Any cost deemed by an external auditor as unallowable must be reimbursed to the sponsor.

Note that emergencies cannot be budgeted but should be considered when planning.

Communication Expenses

  • Electronic converters and adapters
  • International cell phones and calling plans
  • Internet access fees and charges
  • Long distance calling – conference calling services
  • Data plans for laptops
  • Technical support

Contracted, Purchased and Other Services

  • Credit card and bank fees
  • Currency conversion fees
  • In-country security including leased vehicles
  • Translator costs
  • Wire fees for payments to vendors, independent contractors and/or other service providers
  • Payments to drivers and guides
  • Payment to a required host to accompany the researcher
  • Required fees to hosts
  • Additional information available on the Buying & Paying page

Personnel Expenses

  • If hiring citizens at the international location costs for in-country Human Resource vendor’s fees
  • Additional information available on the Buying & Paying page

Travel Expenses

  • Airfare may need to be made through American-based airlines (Fly American Act)
  • Country entry and departure fees
  • Customs fees
  • Immunizations  or medications required for entry into the international location
  • Passport, extra pages if needed for business purposes to accommodate business travel for the project (initial passport costs typically unallowable)
  • Costs for ground transportation (e.g., train, bus, ferry)
  • Visa costs (visa expediting costs typically unallowable)

Research Expenses

Currency Fluctuations

Review the Research Accounting website for guidance regarding wire instructions.

In planning your research project, you need to take into account how your expenses will be paid and how you will pay for any services or items abroad. This planning must include considering what the costs will be in both United States dollars and the local foreign currency. Where you are purchasing goods or services, or paying a collaborator abroad, you must consult with the PantherExpress website for guidance on payments.

Currency fluctuation can greatly affect the costs of goods or services over the period of performance. The currency conversion rate should be fixed in the contract, and should be based on the published conversion rate from the United States Department of the Treasury, Bureau of the Fiscal Service. The responsible University department should carefully acknowledge and consider the risk of fluctuation in currency rates, and should be aware that many grant sponsors require that expenses incurred in a foreign currency must be converted into United States currency as of the date that the expenses were incurred. That conversion rate may not be the same as the rate on the payment date for the contract. The Office of Sponsored Programs has template language for use in research subcontracts and professional service agreements, and you should consult the prime funding agreement, Office of Finance, and/or OUC with more specific questions.

For research collaborations where a foreign party is funding at least some of the cost, the University expects to be paid in United States dollars. Where a research collaborator/funder/grant sponsor seeks to pay the University (preferred currency is United States dollars), please consult the Research Accounting website for guidance regarding wire instructions.


For more information on budget planning for on-site international research or to answer any questions, please contact the following: