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Payments to Foreign Visitors: Honoraria vs. Travel Reimbursements

Learn about the differences between paying an honorarium for a foreign visitor and reimbursing travel expenses.

An honorarium is a payment to a professional, such as a guest speaker, in recognition of a distinguished achievement or special service, such as a presentation to a class, to offset the payee's expenses since custom or propriety precludes setting a fixed price.

Typically an honorarium is paid in lieu of travel expense reimbursement. In some cases, an honorarium includes an allowance for travel expenses, which is different from reimbursement for actual travel expenses.

Reimbursing a travel expense is repaying a traveler for an actual expense which is eligible for reimbursement.

Tax implications are one of the most significant differences between payment of an honorarium and reimbursement of travel expenses for a foreign visitor:

  • An honorarium is considered income to the recipient.
  • Reimbursement of official business travel expenses is not considered income.

Honorarium payment

To make a payment:

  • You must follow the guidelines, which include the following requirements:
    • Payee must have a U.S. Taxpayer Identification Number, and completed Glacier Record
    • Payee must have appropriate visa type (some types may restrict payment)

For more information, see:

Travel expense reimbursement

To request reimbursement:

  • Follow the requirements for reimbursing travel expenses for foreign visitors.
  • Preauthorize the trip using MyTravel.
    Note: Uncheck the US Citizen box and enter visa type.
  • Have any traveler whose visa status is B-2 or WT complete a Certification of Academic Activity form.
  • Claim expenses using MyTravel once travel concludes.
    • UC policy (section XI.B.) on travel expense payment for foreign visitors
    • UC San Diego International Center information, including visa information for UC San Diego departments, regarding visiting scholars
    • Internal Revenue Service (IRS) policies on travel expense payment to foreign visitors
    • U.S. Department of State visa services
Notice: UC San Diego travel policy, as published in Blink, is decisive. It has been adapted to UC San Diego's organization, delegation of authority, terminology, chart of accounts and processing applications. The source for UC San Diego travel policy is UC Travel Policy and Regulations (PDF).