I am currently in the final stages of my PhD and am planning on looking for a post-doc position soon, preferably in the US or in Europe in theoretical research (theoretical physics).

Ideally, once accepted to a post-doc position, I would relocate and live close by the hosting academic institution.

Due to personal circumstances, I won't be able to relocate during the first half of my planned post-doc. Instead, I plan on having trips every once in a while to the hosting academic institution, and during all other times to work from home, i.e. from a different country. During the second half of my post-doc I will relocate and do a "traditional" post-doc.

For personal reasons, I want to start my post-doc relatively soon (so while other solutions may be possible to this situation, e.g.postponing my post-doc training to a later time, I do not want to consider these at the moment).

Putting aside practical issues such as whether I will be able to find a PI who will be willing to take a post-doc according to this plan, I was wondering whether:

  1. Pursuing a post-doc position in the US/Europe while working from a different country is possible at all? I imagine during the COVID era, people got stuck in foreign countries, disabling them from working near their hosting academic institution, but this was a temporary issue. I wonder whether such an agreement is formally possible in the US/Europe (in terms of tax regulation, university regulations, or state law).
  2. Does the answer to question 1 above depend on the specific academic institution? The state/country where it is located?
  3. Does anyone know who this question should be addressed to - the hosting PI? student affairs? HR division?
  4. Has anyone had any experience with such a post-doc plan?
  • 3
    Pretty hard to arrange. Especially cross-border salary payments.
    – Buffy
    Dec 12, 2021 at 14:34
  • To second @Buffy's comment, my public US university (and I assume others) cannot hire people who do not yet have residency. What we sometimes do is delay the postdoc hiring until the postdoc can arrive.
    – Kimball
    Dec 12, 2021 at 15:38
  • Some questions following @Kimball's comment - do you imply that there is absolutely no way to do this? I cannot postpone my post-doc hiring, so such a solution will not apply. Also, what do you mean by "residency"? (green card? visa of a certain type? something else?)
    – user54011
    Dec 12, 2021 at 17:49
  • 1
    There is a legal issue with hiring people who do not have a work visa/permanent residency in the US. I believe it's legally possible to hire foreign contractors living abroad, but this is more involved and I think most universities are generally unwilling (and not set up) to do this.
    – Kimball
    Dec 12, 2021 at 18:04
  • @Kimball US "permanent residency" means a green card. Do you really mean that?
    – mkennedy
    Dec 12, 2021 at 22:50

2 Answers 2


I've done something similar before COVID. I had a postdoc at a British university while actually working in the United States. This was legal because I am a United States citizen and have the right to work in the United States; on the side of the university, they had to make sure they don't violate any labor laws, which took them a bit of time to check. I did have to come to the UK for three months, to get a British residence permit and for collaboration; however, I heard about another similar case more recently (also a postdoc working in the U.S., but with a different British university), where a stay in the UK was not even required.

Whether or not this would be possible for you depends on the country in which the employer is located. From what I heard, in some countries (e.g. Switzerland) the employee must reside in the same country, and at least keep up with the official criteria for that.

My understanding is that you would first have to find a PI that agrees to work with you like this, and then they will discuss the matter with the HR and obtain the permission for that. It would help if you have a local institution that can be considered your location of employment; in my case, it was a local lab that already collaborated with the British university.

  • So you seem to imply that at least in the UK it is possible to do a post-doc while physically working from a different location. Do you think it matters where I work from (e.g. that it is OK to work from the US but not from Greece, say?) Also, finding a local institution to be considered as my employer amounts to doing a post-doc in collaboration between two institutions, no? Or do you suggest this only as a technical aspect (while the post-doc is still considered to be performed in the institution abroad only)?
    – user54011
    Dec 13, 2021 at 5:38
  • @user54011 Yes, I guess I am implying that, from my and the other person's experience. But, I'm quite sure it is possible with employers located in other countries. It could be particularly easy if both you and your employer are in the EU. In my case, while there was a collaboration between the two institutions, my employment contract was with the British university, but my work location was listed as the local institution, and I did work in support of the collaboration. Maybe you can find a different solution; right now is a good time for creative solutions.
    – Jake
    Dec 13, 2021 at 10:02

Based on observing the postdocs in the lab where I did my PhD, I would say that this is very much down to the PI. My previous PI was OK with this (after the postdocs had spent the first half of their postdoc while present in the lab), but the university HR might not have been. My old PI's main fear was that a working-by-distance postdoc may become a "ghost-doc". Inquire with potential PIs - the changing landscape of distance-working, brought about by COVID, will likely help you here.

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