Over the years, I’ve taught and done research in a number of locations outside of the United States, including Pakistan (Islamabad and Lahore), India (Delhi and Mumbai), Egypt (Cairo), France (Paris), and Germany (Bonn). I often get questions from colleagues back in the U.S. about how I found my positions, and then also queries about the logistics of spending a substantial time outside of the United States. While this is obviously a long conversation, and one highly contingent on one’s personal circumstances, I thought I would spend a little bit of time here discussing some of the more general aspects of all this. By way of context, this semester I am Visiting Faculty at the Shaikh Ahmad Hassan School of Law at LUMS (university) in Lahore, Pakistan. If you have any particular questions about spending time at this academic institution, or anything else I discuss in this post, feel free to email me or ask your question in the comments section below.
The first question many people usually ask me about my overseas academic position is “How did you find your position? How can *I* find a similar position?” If you’re a comparativist like myself, it’s not difficult to be networked internationally—indeed, you have to be to do your job. But for others, finding a place outside of the U.S. to spend a semester or year can appear to be a daunting challenge. My first response to this kind of query, then, is usually to recommend doing a Fulbright. Indeed, I first taught at LUMS 13 years ago while I was in Pakistan on a Fulbright and have remained, to this day, a friend and intellectual interlocutor with many people that I met during that time.
There are a lot of good things about the Fulbright program—it tends to favor people with little to no experience in the host country, thus providing a crucial opportunity for international/comparative newbies—and just a couple of bad things, namely: 1) You have to apply very early (make sure get your ducks in row for the summer/August application deadline), and 2) It takes the Fulbright bureaucracy a very long time to decide on recipients (be prepared to be waiting into April or even May for final confirmation of your award).
If a Fulbright sounds a bit logistically too complicated for you, another good way to broaden your overseas network is to participate as a faculty member in any study summer abroad program that your school runs. And while you’re in Europe, or South America, or Asia, make a special effort to find out about regional conferences going on while you are close-by, and make sure to attend a couple. You’ll very likely find new collaborators and colleagues at these events. American legal academia tends to be insular and provincial, and it will generally be difficult to find foreign opportunities and interlocutors unless you are actually overseas.
Once you’ve gotten your position lined up, then comes 1001 logistical issues. In what follows, I’ll try to list the issues that are the most pressing (or have been for me, at least). Here goes:
1) Immigration. What kind of permission do you need to live in your host country? Do you need a visa to enter? Do you need a long-stay visa? Do you need to make an in-person trip to the closest embassy or consulate to arrange for all this? In my own experience, for one French sojourn, I had to travel to Chicago from Saint Louis to deposit my passport in person with—and also give my fingerprints to—the French consulate there. I then got my passport mailed back to me within the week; in it was a special visa authorizing both my entry and permission to apply for a residency permit once in Paris—another story in itself. For Germany (also part of the Schengen visa area), the process was much easier, with no pre-departure trip to a consulate necessary. At the time I was there, Egypt gave visas upon arrival at the airport; these could be indefinitely extended one way or another. Pakistani visas used to be easy to get; now they are difficult; hopefully they will be easy to get again some day soon. Non-tourist visas for India are similarly unpredictable. In any event, figure out your immigration situation ASAP—the process of applying for/receiving a visa could take months. The rules governing your situation may also be entirely unclear, so try to get in contact with other foreign nationals working at your academic institution to see how they went about getting their visa. The earlier you start on this, the better; if you start too late, you may not be able to take up your position overseas.