Assistantship Appointments for Students Outside the U.S.

Updated 5/2021

Cornell is a U.S.-based entity and is generally unable to directly appoint faculty, staff, or students into positions that receive compensation through the Cornell payroll office if they are outside the U.S. 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 an exception process for students who anticipate being supported on a graduate assistantship (TA, RA, GRA, GA) as part of their research degree, if they are temporarily stranded outside the U.S. due to government-imposed travel restriction.

To be eligible, students must meet the following conditions:

  • The student is currently in the country where he or she has permanent residency or citizenship and is legally stranded as a result of COVID-19 for any of the following reasons:
    • A government-imposed travel restriction.
    • A government-imposed entry ban prevents return to the U.S.
    • A government-imposed shutdown of consular operations prevents the student from obtaining a needed travel document or visa.
    • Delays with visa processing due to operational shutdowns and the associated processing backlog prevent the student from obtaining a needed travel document or visa.
    • A government-imposed stay-in-place order prohibits travel within the country.
  • 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 assistantship duties are related to the student’s academic program.
  • 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 is NOT one of the following countries: Iran, Syria, North Korea, Cuba, or the Crimea Region of Ukraine.

The exceptions for graduate assistants abroad remain narrow and temporary because there are complex legal and tax implications for both the university and the student.

Requesting an Exemption

Students who meet the criteria for an exception, based on being stranded in their country of citizenship or permanent residency, due to government-imposed travel restrictions, may request an exception by contacting their graduate field or appointing unit. Students must provide written documentation that they are prevented from returning to the U.S.

Examples of acceptable documentation:

  • Letters or screen-captures from consulates or embassies
  • Letters from airlines
  • Documents from local authorities
  • Print-outs from Cornell University’s International SOS travel restriction service. Visit Cornell’s International SOS online portal to find destination information, learn more about health threats, download your membership card, install the mobile app, and understand all this partnership has to offer.  If prompted, Cornell’s membership number is 11BSCA827281

Graduate fields and appointing units will submit exception requests for review.

Medical Accommodations

Students requesting an exception related to a health condition, mental health condition, or disability believed to be affected by COVID-19 should consult with Student Disability Services ( If an accommodation is obtained, students should include a copy of the accommodation in their exception documentation.