Hosting International Visitors

This reference is designed to guide faculty, administrators, and staff in arranging for a short visit of an international guest or delegation to the University of Minnesota.

If you need to make the many arrangements for the visit of an international guest, it can seem like a daunting challenge. Do your best, but realize that it is not your responsibility to anticipate all of your visitor’s needs.

For more information on institutional linkages that may result from the visit, please refer to guidelines on Establishing a Formal Partnership.

Initial Planning

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Defining Objectives

In planning the visit of an international guest, it is useful to consider how it contributes to the University’s mission. The University of Minnesota’s institutional and presidential priorities can guide you in hosting decisions. Consider how the following fit the mission of the international visit before deciding on the agenda for the visitor.

  • Enhancing the University’s teaching, research, and outreach capabilities in an international context
  • Enriching the cultural, political, or social diversity of the University community
  • Increasing the global community’s awareness of the University
  • Recognizing the accomplishments and contributions of key individuals affiliated with the University
  • Contributing toward an understanding of major issues facing institutions of higher education

Once the objectives of the visit are defined, consider the following questions. They will help you further clarify the purpose of the visit and plan your visitor’s time at the University.

  • Who initiated the request? Did the University extend the invitation directly or indirectly by virtue of an existing affiliation?
  • What is the University’s history with the individual, delegation, institution, or agency seeking the visit? Does the visit represent a new program in an area that the University is trying to develop? Does it help to maintain an existing relationship? Does it strengthen or augment a relationship?
  • What are the objectives of the person requesting a visit? How do the visitor’s objectives mesh with the University’s goals?
  • What is the status of the visitor? Will the visitor serve as an official representative of a government, institution, or sponsoring agency? Is the status between visitor and host an appropriate match from the perspective of both parties?
  • What are the benefits to the University for hosting the visit? Are the benefits likely to emerge in the near future or over a long period of time?
  • Are the dates and times requested reasonable in terms of planning and implementing the visit?
  • What costs will be involved in hosting the visitor?

Types of Visits

  • Celebrate: to honor, recognize, or thank (ceremonial)
  • Get acquainted/courtesy call: to establish contact for future development
  • Exchange information: to listen, learn, describe
  • Negotiate a relationship: to influence an outcome, to debate or persuade
  • Cement a relationship: to finalize an agreement
  • Showcase the University: to promote awareness, publicize accomplishments
  • Gain an understanding: of a specific program or unit

Arranging the Visit

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Initial Planning and Preparation

  • Determine who at UMN will make the formal invitation to the visitor. This person should sign the invitation letter.
  • Determine who will coordinate the visit and who will sponsor the visit. Be clear on who is paying for what and who is making which arrangements.
  • Communicate with the visitor to acknowledge the request and suggest or confirm the timing of the visit. Determine appropriate dates for the visit considering the academic calendar, weekends, holidays, conflicting events, and availability of people to meet with the visitor.
  • Determine visa requirements, insurance, and restrictions on payment for honoraria or other services. Contact International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) as soon as possible. Due to homeland security initiatives, the process to obtain some types of visas can be complicated and lengthy—sometimes taking several months. Visitors from Cuba require special approval.
  • Determine the importance of the visit and the “level” of the visitor. The protocol involved will vary greatly between the visit of a researcher and the visit of a high-ranking cabinet member.
  • Consider in advance what events and activities are possible, e.g., lecture, presentation, reception, dinner, lunch, breakfast, meetings, site visits, etc.
  • Get biographical information from the visitor for use in introducing the visitor to UMN participants.
  • Determine if anyone will be accompanying the visitor and the University’s responsibility for those accompanying.
  • Determine any special needs of the visitor—diet, transportation, disability issues, escort, and language or interpretation issues.

Estimating Expenses

Estimate the expenses of the visit and make sure it is clear who pays. It is best to obtain a budget from the host department prior to sending out any confirmations to the visitor. Consider what it means to “invite” someone to campus. Are there assumptions that an invitation includes hospitality beyond the arrangement of an itinerary? If the visitor is responsible for lodging expenses, but you offer to make hotel reservations, make sure the visitor’s financial obligations are understood. If the host department pays for lodging, make sure to clearly define what items are covered (e.g., breakfast, mini bar, incidentals). Make it clear to the UMN participants who are having meals with the visitor or accompanying the visitor to other events how expenses are to be covered.

When considering what expenses the University will cover during the visit, the host department should determine the type of visa the guest will use to travel to the United States. Certain visas carry restrictions on payment and reimbursement. Check with International Student and Scholar Services for exact regulations and terms of the visa status of your guest.

Letters of Invitation

Prior to issuing the invitation to an international guest, you should first determine the financial obligations of the University and the responsibilities of the guest. Many departments may consider paying for the visitor’s local expenses including lodging, transportation, and food. They may also wish to provide the visitor with an honorarium. (Note: Certain visa types do not allow for the visitor to receive either a reimbursement for expenses or an honorarium.) The formal invitation letter is an appropriate format in which to clarify some of these issues.

An invitation letter should indicate the dates a guest is expected to come to the University, the length of stay, expectations of what the guest is to do while at the University, and what the University’s financial obligations are for the visit. Review our sample letters of invitation.

Responsibilities of the Unit Hosting the Visit

  • Establish the visitor’s itinerary in writing (see Sample Itineraries)
  • Arrange for meals, special events, escorts, transportation, and perhaps lodging
  • Consider the responsibility for providing access to cultural and other “extra-curricular” opportunities
  • Select and obtain gifts for visitors prior to arrival, when appropriate
  • Prepare briefing packets for the visitor and UMN participants (see more below)

Arrival and Departure Arrangements

Determine whether a UMN representative will meet the visitor at the airport and provide an escort to the hotel, the host department will send a car, or if the visitor must find their own transportation. Your decision will depend on the visitor’s status and familiarity with the Twin Cities and the availability of an escort at the appointed time. The same considerations would apply to departure from the Twin Cities.

Planning the Itinerary

After evaluating the objectives and status of the visitor, you should determine which activities are most appropriate. Although your primary interest will likely be introducing the visitor to the University and its many academic programs and facilities, you may also want to consider community and business and government groups opportunities. The following are some ideas to consider.

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Academic/Professional Interests

  • Meeting with faculty in specific fields
  • Observing classrooms, laboratories, or service units (Be aware there can be security limitations for visitors from some countries and in “sensitive” fields.)
  • Interacting with students, especially those from the same country as the visitor
  • Meeting with deans or central administrative officers
  • Meeting with vice presidents, provost, or the president
  • Meeting with faculty in interdisciplinary research centers
  • Meeting with civic groups or political leaders
  • Tours of local businesses (Medtronic, 3M, General Mills, etc.)
  • Determine other interests of visitor—for example, a visitor who is a president of a university abroad may be interested in meeting with other administrators as well as with academics in their field
  • Tour of specific facilities on campus
  • Government offices (Minnesota Trade Office)

Scheduling Tips

Consider whether an all-day escort from your office is needed. (This would depend on the status of the visitor and the availability of staff.)

If you do not assign a permanent escort, make arrangements for a staff person from each appointment to accompany the visitor to the next meeting and make appropriate introductions, or confirm that the visitor can find the meeting place on his or her own.

Be careful not to overload the daily schedule.

Briefing the Visitor and Host

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Host Briefing Packet

Provide UMN participants with biographical information on the visitor and indicate briefly why you have chosen them to meet with the visitor. If appropriate, make suggestions of common areas of interest.

  • Visitor’s curriculum vitae/short biography
  • Background with information on visitor’s relationship to the University
  • Objectives of the visit
  • Itinerary, including information about escorts to and from meetings

Visitor Briefing Packet

Provide the visitor with a detailed itinerary with contact information. Include addresses and phone numbers for each appointment. The visitor may want to follow up with further correspondence and will be grateful for the information. Distinguish between professional and social meetings and provide a brief sentence on the purpose of each appointment or the topics to be discussed (see Sample Itineraries).

  • Itinerary with full information
  • Organizational charts
  • Specific academic information
  • General University information* and map
  • Tourist maps of the Twin Cities

*The GPS Alliance has produced an overview "facts and figures" brochure for international visitors.