For Families

We would like to welcome you to Cornell and to Ithaca! Whether you will stay in Ithaca for a month, 12 months, or longer, we hope that your time here will be a positive experience! Adjusting to a new environment, a new focus, and a new culture, can be both challenging and rewarding. We hope that the information on this web page will be helpful in facilitating your adjustment.

This guide is designed to help you:

  • get settled in your new home
  • find the resources necessary to build a supportive community
  • meet the demands of adjusting to a new and different life-style while preserving and celebrating your own personal and cultural values.

If you need help in finding information or support, please feel free to contact us or visit our office.

We use social media get the word out about campus events and international community news. “Like” us on Facebook to stay connected. Find out more about our social media and email lists.

Additionally, the Students with Families website provides information for spouses and partners, expectant parents, students with children, and includes a resource directory. Information is also available on Cornell policies, best practices and procedures that promote a supportive culture for families including details about the Parental Accommodation Policy. Check out their facebook page. Also visit Cornell Parent News. This newsletter connects Cornellians to Cornell sponsored family friendly events, activities, and workshops.

  • Visa, Work & Tax Issues


    At Cornell, the majority of international students and academic staff are accompanied by “dependent” family members holding F2, J2 or H4 visas. A small number of family members who are either not eligible for a dependent visa, or will remain in the U.S. for only a very short time, may possess a B2 visitor visa. The immigration-specific advice in this guide is meant only for the categories mentioned here. If you hold a different type of visa, and have a question about work authorization or taking classes, please visit IS and speak with an advisor.

    Work Authorization

    Family members holding F2, H4 or B2 visas may NOT be employed in the United States. Doing so would be considered a violation of legal status, and could result in serious consequences. J2 dependents ARE eligible to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, formerly the INS), in order to be employed in the U.S. The employment must not be for the purpose of supporting the J1. The J2 may begin employment only after receiving the EAD. For information and an application form, please visit IS.

    Social Security Numbers

    If you are not eligible for work authorization, you are not eligible to apply for a Social Security Number (SSN). At first this may appear to be a problem as you may be asked to supply your SSN when trying to open a bank account, having your phone turned on, etc. SSNs are not actually required for most of these tasks. You can find more information here about navigating life in the US without an SSN. Important Note: if you will be applying for a driver’s license, you are required to present an SSN, or if you are not eligible for one, you need to visit the Social Security Administration (SSA) Office in downtown Ithaca to request a letter verifying your ineligibility. This should be done no more than a month before applying for a license. The SSA Office is located at 127 W. State Street, 2nd floor. Once you receive an SSN, it is yours for life!


    If you are authorized to work and choose to do so, Federal and State taxes are likely to be withheld from your pay. The tax year runs from January 1 through December 31. In January you will receive a statement of your earnings from your employer and will use the information provided to file a “tax return” with the IRS. When filing the return, you will be able to determine whether you owe additional taxes to the U.S. governement, or are eligible for a refund. In mid-February of each year, non-resident tax information is available at International Services. We also offer basic tax workshops. For more information about taxes, please visit the Tax section.


    Taking casual courses is permitted for most visa categories. If you would like to pursue a “course of study” (generally defined as full-time and/or working towards earning a degree) please speak with the ISSO (particularly if you hold an F2 or B2 visa).

  • Family & Reproductive Health

    Cornell Health

    Cornell Health provides a broad range of medical and counseling support services for students, spouses and same-sex partners and children over age 14. They know that the US medical system can be particularly difficult to navigate for students from other countries. Healthcare providers may ask questions that feel inappropriate or unnecessary. This may be especially true when it comes to sexual health.

    Their medical staff will do their best to help you understand the reason for their questions and the recommended care and treatment. While some questions may feel intrusive or too personal, the questions are asked only so they can provide established medical practice and care. Their intention is not to insult or to pry into your personal life. Confidentiality is an important component of the US medical system, and they do all that they can to ensure that your care and medical records will be carefully protected at Cornell Health.

    Available sexual health services include contraception, women's gynecological care and examinations, pregnancy testing and referral for obstetrical care, infection diagnosis and treatment, as well as individual and couples counseling on many issues including sexual health care, sexual identity, sexual dysfunction, relationship issues, pregnancy options, healthy relationships, and sexual decision-making.

    Cornell Health also offers language assistance (in over 140 languages). If translation would be helpful to you, let them know when you are making an appointment. You are always welcome to bring a family member or friend with you to your appointment. Cornell Health is open Monday - Friday (8:30 am-5:00 pm) and Saturdays (10:00 am-4:00 pm) during the academic year. Visit their website for more information.

    Planned Parenthood of Tompkins County

    Planned Parenthood of Tompkins County located in Ithaca, provides sexual and reproductive health care services and counseling.

    Obstetric and Gynecologic Care (OB-GYN)

    OB-GYN Associates of Ithaca specialize in the obstetric and gynecologic care of women of all ages.

    Public Health Department

    Public Health Department of Tompkins County offers information on a wide range of topics including immunizations, health promotion programs, and WIC a supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children.

  • Counseling on Campus and in Ithaca Area

    The Faculty & Staff Assistance Program

    The Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) offers free, confidential, professional counseling and consultation services by telephone or in person. FSAP services are available to all benefits-eligible faculty, staff and their dependents.

    "Let's Talk"

    "Let's Talk" is a program that provides easy access to students and their spouses for informal confidential consultations with counselors from Cornell Health Services. Counselors hold walk-in hours at 10 sites around campus Monday through Friday. There is no fee and no appointment is necessary. International Services is one of the "Let's Talk" sites. Walk-in service available every Monday from 2:30-4:30 pm.

    Off-Campus Counseling

    Family and Children's Service located in downtown Ithaca is an organization that provides accessible mental health care for all ages, at any stage of life. Counseling for college students provides assistance in meeting the challenges of life during college, graduate and professional school by encouraging healthy personal choices and balanced perspectives.

    The Mental Health Association in Tompkins County provides many resources including a list of Mental Health Professionals in Private Practice.

  • Child Safety

    Supervision of Children

    If you must leave a child at home, you are required by U.S. law to arrange for an adult (e.g., a friend or neighbor) or responsible older child (12 years or older) to supervise. If you need a baby-sitter or a nursery school or day care, contact the Day Care and Child Development Council of Tompkins County.

    Car Safety Seats

    New York State Law requires all children under the age of 8 to be restrained in a federally approved child restraint system. The Cornell Police Crime Prevention Unit provides instruction in the proper installation, use and maintenance of child safety seats. 

    Poison Control Center

    The Poison Control Center can give you the latest information on emergency treatment for poisons. Their telephone number is (800) 222-1222, and they are open 24 hours a day. In case of an emergency, you may also want to call your pediatrician, or take your child to the emergency room of the hospital. Never treat a child who has consumed a poisonous substance without instructions from a poison center or a doctor.

  • Child Care Information & Referral Services

    Cornell's Work/Life Consultant

    Families should look into their child care options well before they arrive here in Ithaca and at Cornell, as spaces fill up quickly. Check out the Cornell Work/Life web page for resources.

    The Child Development Council of Tompkins County

    The Child Development Council of Tompkins County provides an information and referral service for child care throughout Tompkins County. It matches parents' needs with more than 50 child care and development programs and more than 170 family day care providers. 

    Cornell Work/Life Consultant, Eileen McCoy Whang from Human Resources is available to assist Cornell students, faculty and staff with child, elder and self-care concerns. For more information call (607) 255-1917 or email

    UCNS, A Cooperative Nursery School

    The University Cooperative Nursery School is located at 59 Dart Drive, off Warren Road near the airport. The international enrollment at the nursery school is substantial and children who are between three and five years may apply.  Because it is a cooperative, parents volunteer in the classroom and serve on committees which oversee the running of the school. 

    The Cornell Child Care Center

    The Cornell Child Care Center is located at 150 Pleasant Road, Ithaca and can be reached by phone at (607) 255-1010.

    Child Care Grant Subsidy Program

    Cornell University’s Child Care Grant Subsidy Program for students, faculty and staff is designed to assist with covering the costs of eligible child care, including infant and toddler day care, pre-school/pre-k programs, school holidays, summer camps and programs, and before/after school care. Information is available at Students with Families Website.

    Cornell Family Helper List

    The Cornell Family Helper list helps address the need for additional babysitters and family helpers within the Cornell community. The service establishes a link between Cornell faculty, staff, and students to access various life quality services. This service can only be used by current Cornell faculty, staff, and students. You must have an active Cornell NetID to access the list. A profile of all potential helpers is available on this site. Profiles will include helpers access to transportation, previous experience, references and days and times helpers are available. See details online.

  • Schooling & Immunizations

    Public school education is free in the US for all children age 5 and older. A child must be 5 years of age by December 1 in order to begin school that same year. To enroll your child, contact your local public school office. For a list of local schools and contact information see

    It is very important that you register your children as soon as possible so that school officials will be able to place your child in the proper level.

    To enroll your children in school or child care, you must have a record of their immunizations along with their birth certificate or passport. For up-to-date information about required immunizations visit Ithaca City School District.

  • Fun Activities, Volunteering & Other Resources

    Our Programs and Trips

    In addition to providing immigration assistance, we also organize fun activities, trips, and informational workshops. Fall highlights include a fall break trip to New York City and day trip to Niagara Falls. Our schedule of upcoming programs is posted here. Spouses and family members are welcome to join all programs and trips.

    Family-Friendly Activities on Campus and in the Community

    Sign up for the Cornell Parent News. This newsletter connects Cornellians to Cornell sponsored family friendly events, activities, and workshops.

    Check out fun classes, children's playgroups, festivals and other activities at Ithaca Family Fun

    The Graduate School offers many resources and programs for partners and families such as Spouse/Partner job search help, Spouse/Partner Happy Hour at the Big Red Barn, child care grant program and monthly Time Out dinners. Keep current with information that directly impacts students with children on Facebook.

    Take a Class!

    If English is not your native language, Cornell and Ithaca offer a variety of courses to help you improve your written and spoken English. Many are informal and inexpensive, and can easily be worked into your academic schedule. They are also a great resource for dependent spouses. View a complete list of your options.

    Part-time extramural courses are available to anyone who is not enrolled in a Cornell degree program and is interested in taking one or two courses a semester. To get started, you must obtain the instructor’s written permission on a form provided by the Office of Continuing Education and Summer Session. Non-immigrants may register for extramural study only after their visa status has been confirmed.

    Note: US Immigration does not consider extramural study to be a full course of study; F2s are eligible to take a class, but will not be able to obtain an I-20 form to change to F1 student status. If you are interested in becoming a full time student, visit the ISSO.

    A variety of non-academic classes and workshops are available in the Ithaca area, encompassing a wide range of topics including dance, art, music and more! Just a few suggestions are listed below:

    Community School of Music & Arts, (607) 272-1474
    — Cornell Botanic Gardens, (607) 255-2400
    — The Cornell Cooperative Extension, (607) 255-2237

    Volunteering & Community Service

    If you are new to a community, sometimes the best way to meet people is to volunteer with a local organization. Your broad range of experiences and talents will be a great asset to the community! Below are just a few volunteer sites to choose from. For more options, visit the Cornell Public Service Center in 200 Barnes Hall. Examples of volunteer sites:

    — Adult Literacy Project
    — Friends of the Library
    — American Red Cross
    — AIDS Work
    — Habitat for Humanity
    — SPCA (Animal Shelter)
    — Ithaca Youth Bureau

    Cornell International Friendship Program

    The International Friendship Program (CIFP) matches students and scholars with local alumni and other community members who are committed to providing cultural, educational and social support. This program is intended to enhance the lives of all participants who will share experiences, learn new skill sets, and build lifelong relationships. Popular activities may include sharing holiday dinners, sight-seeing, picnicking, shopping and including the student in family celebrations or events.


    Joint Ventures' mission is to foster ties of friendship and personal growth among Johnson School students, their partners, their families, and the greater Cornell and Ithaca communities.

    Other Practical Resources

    — See the Cornell and Ithaca Resources: A Practical Guide handout. This website has a great deal of information about everything from banking to surviving Ithaca winters.
    — CUInfo is a terrific source for information about all things Cornell. It provides links to information about news and events, special weather conditions, searches and directories, and more.
    — Spouse/Partner Cornell ID