Why are international students not allowed to work remotely from abroad?

Date: May 2020

Question

Dear Deans,

I have a question about the following question/answer I found in the COVID-19 related FAQ section of the Office of Global Learning website:

Question: I am an F-1 or J-1 student. I need to leave campus and return to my permanent home residence. Am I authorized to work remotely?

Answer: International students who have left the U.S. are ineligible for remote work abroad.

I would like to know more about the reasoning behind this answer. More specifically, is there something that legally prevents Cornell from allowing international students to work remotely from abroad (provided that they have a valid I-20 and a U.S. bank account for direct deposit and that it doesn’t really matter where students are since the teaching is carried out online, at least for the time being), or is there another reasoning behind this decision?

Thanks.

Remote TA


Response

Dear Remote TA,

Thanks for your question! I think this is an excellent topic for the “Ask a Dean” feature because it’s a bit complicated and there are others, like you, who would appreciate additional context.

Cornell is a U.S.-based entity and is unable to sponsor work authorization in other countries. The Office of Global Learning website information correctly indicates that remote work or assistantships abroad are not generally permitted. The university 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. There are limited exceptions available for students who are currently stranded outside the U.S. and cannot travel back due to government mandated restrictions.

As you can imagine, Cornell students come from nearly every country in the world and each country has its own complex legal, tax, and regulatory considerations that would make such arrangements impossible. As the university continues planning for the campus to reopen students who are abroad and anticipate being supported on assistantships in the summer or fall should begin planning their return to the U.S. as soon as travel between their current location and the U.S. is permitted. No decisions have yet been made about the format of fall instruction so, for now, we should assume that TAs will be supporting in-person classes from campus, as is normally the case.

We’ve also posted some additional information on our website to help clarify the policy. 

All the best,

Jason

Jason Kahabka
Associate Dean for Administration