►Review and understand your visa documents
Important documents include your passport, DS-2019 (for J1's), I-797 Approval Notice (for H1B's & O1's), the I-94 arrival/departure card, and your visa stamp. Keep these documents current and be aware of their lengths of validity, expiration dates, and your responsibilities and obligations. Contact ISSO with questions.
►Report to the ISSO
When you arrive in Ithaca, please check in at the ISSO at your earliest convenience. Bring your passport, I-94 admission number, and relevant immigration status document:
►Report to your department
Your department's human resources representative will provide you with information about your workspace, your e-mail account, Cornell ID Card, computer, and other University and departmental hiring procedures. Your human resources representative will also arrange an appointment with the University Onboarding Center, if one is required.
If you need to find off-campus housing, here are a few suggestions:
Ithaca employees with a Staff or Faculty Cornell University ID card may ride TCAT buses (Cornell Campus and Ithaca area only), Monday-Friday for free. For schedules, please go to the TCAT website. Further information regarding transportation is available at the Cornell Transportation website.
New York State honors all valid foreign drivers' licenses, as long as you have a certified English translation. Please ask the ISSO where you can obtain a certified translation. Scholars whose documents list a program period for one year or more and valid six months or more into the future may apply for a New York State driver's license. For more information, please visit the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles website. New York State ID cards for non-drivers may also be obtained from the Department of Motor Vehicles.
►Open a Bank Account
Most people have a checking account for paying monthly bills, but checks are not widely used for everyday purchases. A credit card, a debit card and/or cash will be more convenient for most purchases. Fees will vary for bank and credit card services. Don't forget to ask about the fee for wire transfers!
►Apply for a Social Security Number (SSN)
You may apply in person for a permanent Social Security Number at the Social Security Administration Office located at 127 West State Street, 2nd floor, (607) 256-3651. Please take the following documents with you:
You will need to complete a simple form. The actual number (card) will be mailed to you in approximately 4-6 weeks.
Many employees paid by the university are eligible for benefits (i.e. health and life insurance, dental and eye coverage, etc.). If you are eligible for and elect to receive benefits, you need to complete enrollment forms and attend a benefits enrollment session. Your human resource representative will assist you with this.
►Purchase Health Insurance
Purchase health insurance for yourself (and your dependents) if not covered by your university benefits package, as a part of your appointment. You may be eligible to purchase Cornell University health insurance. Please see your department's Human Resources representative for detailsIf not eligible for Cornell University insurance, you will need to purchase independent health insurance. The ISSO carries brochures for a number of companies who offer short-term health insurance programs for visitors. We do not, however, recommend any particular company. Check out any potential health insurance plan in detail to make sure that it will cover you fully, BEFORE purchasing it. To compare plans from various companies, please visit insuremytrip.com.
Minimum Level of Insurance Coverage Required (J1 Visa Holders)
For more information on the insurance requirement, please see our page on Health Insurance Requirements for J1 Exchange Visitors, and the relevant section of the regulation (22 CFR 62.14).
►Report Address Changes to ISSO
US law requires all international visitors to report your new permanent home addresses to either the ISSO or Department of Homeland Security (DHS) within 10 days of moving to your address and every time that you move or change home address within the US. The reporting location depends on your visa type.
J-1 visiting scholars and family members must report address changes to the ISSO. Submit your address change on our website. We will then update your SEVIS record and that will fulfill your immigration obligation.
Individuals in other categories (H1B, O's, etc.) and their family members, and J-1 scholars who were selected for Special Registration, must complete the address change form on the immigration service website.
►Tax Withholding and Treaty Benefits
When you meet with your Human Resources representative, they will have you fill out a Federal IRS W-4 form for tax withholding. You should ask to complete a Foreign National Questionnaire form, which is located on the Cornell Division of Financial Affairs website. Before you leave Cornell University, be sure that the Payroll Office has a contact address where they can send tax reports at the end of the calendar year.
►Tax Reporting Requirements
Most international visitors (students, scholars, researchers, professors, etc.) residing in the U.S. (even on a temporary basis) are required to file some IRS (U.S. Internal Revenue Service) tax forms. Tax forms are due on April 15 for the previous year (i.e. on April 15, 2012, for the 2011 tax/calendar year). Try to educate yourself about your tax obligations as the Spring "tax season" approaches. In February of each year, tax information will be sent via ISSO's list-serve and will also be posted on the ISSO website reminding you about the tax requirements and forms as well as information about our tax software and New York State information sessions.
►Transportation and Parking
Buses: TCAT (Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit) maintains bus routes both on and off campus. Electronic system maps, bus schedules, and information on buses and fares are available online at the TCAT website.
You can find hard copies of maps and individual bus schedules:
Bus passes: Visit the Cornell transportation website to buy an Omni Ride bus pass for a semester or year or go to the TCAT website for information on weekly and monthly passes (also available at Willard Straight Hall).
Parking: To find information about undergraduate and graduate commuting options, on-campus parking, or access for persons with disabilities, visit the Cornell transportation website.
Bus & Ride: Ride a bus and take your bike with you! TCAT buses feature bike racks available on a first come, first served basis at no cost. Remember to register your bike with Cornell Transportation Services and ask them for a cycling area map with convenient routes.
The ISSO has three different electronic mailing lists, each with a distinctly different purpose. ISSO-NEWS-L is required all currently registered international students. The ISSO uses this list to send students important immigration-related updates and reminders, as well as our monthly electronic newsletter. Students are automatically added (or removed) from the list each academic year, and only ISSO list administrators may post announcements. You can join the other two lists voluntarily, International-L and iPrograms-L.