Assistantship Appointments for Students Outside the U.S. (Updated 7/31/20)

Updated 7/31/20

When the campus closed to non-essential services and classes moved to online instruction for Spring and Summer 2020, some students chose to leave the Ithaca area to be with family or return to their home communities. Cornell is a U.S.-based entity and is generally unable to sponsor work authorization in other countries. The university therefore normally expects and requires that students on TA, RA, GRA, or GA appointments be on campus or performing duties at an approved U.S. location.

During the COVID-19 disruptions, the university has developed a framework for allowing qualified continuing students to proceed with anticipated summer and/or fall assistantship appointments if they are temporarily stranded outside the U.S. due to government-imposed travel restrictions or would experience a significant hardship by returning to the U.S. at the start of the fall term to begin their planned assistantship. 

To be eligible, students must meet the following conditions:

  • The graduate student must be appointed on an assistantship (GRA, GA, TA, or RA).  
  • The assistantship is related to the academic degree program.
  • The student must be registered and enrolled in the semester.
  • The Student must meet the following visa conditions:
    • For continuing students – have an active SEVIS record and a valid visa or have a valid I-20 and have applied for a new visa, a renewal, or a change in visa.
    • For new students – have a valid F-1 visa stamp, and a U.S. bank account.
  • If supported by a sponsored project or grant, the funds must allow activities from a foreign location.
  • The individual must have1)  already returned to his or her home in the country of residence, OR 2) in be in a temporary accommodation while in a third country (not U.S. or home country) as a result of COVID-19, OR 3) face a significant hardship if required to stay in the U.S. for the Fall 2020 semester.
  • Return travel to the U.S. would cause the student a significant hardship or be prohibited due to a government-mandated travel restriction prohibiting or limiting travel out of current country or entry into U.S. as a result of COVID-19 at the initiation of the appointment period.
  • The assignment activities can be performed remotely.
  • If applicable, the Export Controls office has confirmed assignment activities can be performed from a foreign location.
  • The student has resources, e.g. internet, computer, phone, etc. necessary to work remotely.
  • The student has a U.S. bank account.
  • The student be in a country that is NOT one of the following countries: Iran, Syria, North Korea, Cuba, and the Crimea Region of the Ukraine.

The exceptions for graduate assistants who are abroad remain narrow and temporary because there are complex legal and tax implications for both the university and the students. Please note that the exception criteria are for the Fall 2020 semester only.

Students should plan to return to campus by January if they anticipate holding a spring semester assistantship. It is unlikely that continuing exceptions will be possible beyond December. Students who meet the above criteria and plan to be supported as a TA, RA, GRA, GA in the fall should contact their graduate field for more detailed information about eligibility.