International Postdocs

Penn State has a diverse academic environment with students, postdocs, and faculty from every part of the world. The postdoctoral fellows and scholars at Penn State represent an important research component of the University. We welcome you to Penn State and wish you a productive and successful time.

Postdoctoral fellows from other countries who are not citizens or permanent residents of the United States must have the appropriate visa type to work. The Directorate of International Student and Scholar Advising (DISSA) will work with you and your department to bring you on the visa that is deemed most appropriate for your time at Penn State. DISSA also processes any necessary extensions or changes in your visa status. Currently Penn State will sponsor postdocs on both the J-1 and H-1B visas.

When you arrive at Penn State

Please make sure to visit the Scholars Advising office of DISSA, located at 319 Boucke Building, University Park, PA 16802, within three days of your arrival at Penn State.

During this first visit, you will make an appointment for an orientation and check-in and be given instructions

If you will be receiving a paycheck through Penn State, you cannot work or be paid until you have completed the paperwork at DISSA and have applied for a social security number.

To apply for Social Security number, you must wait until you have been in the United States for at least ten days. After the tenth day visit the Social Security Administration Office, located at 901 University Drive, Suite 2, State College, PA 16801. Please take the following documents with you:

1.      Your passport

2.      Your I-94 card

3.      Your form DS2019 or I-797 Approval Notice

4.      The visa foil in your passport

If there are no problems or delays, you should receive your Social Security number and card within 4-6 weeks. Upon receipt of the card, please give a copy to your department, as well as payroll.

Changing your address with DISSA and USCIS

If you move while in the United States, you will need to file an address change with DISSA, as well as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). If you are in J-1 status, all address changes require an action through the SEVIS system. Please contact DISSA via email with the new information. If you are in H-1B or J-1 status you will also need to notify USCIS of your address change. This can be done electronically on the USCIS website.


You will find in the United States that our health care system is fairly complicated, privately insured, and can be very expensive. It is therefore, strongly recommended that all postdocs carry insurance. If you are on a J-1 visa it is a requirement that you must have health insurance, medical evacuation, and repatriation insurance.

Postdoctoral scholars holding J-1 visas and their dependents qualify for student rates on medical evacuation and repatriation insurance. To apply, take your visa and passport to the Student Insurance Office, 320 Grange Building, University Park, PA, 16802. This insurance must be renewed each year. It will be necessary to demonstrate proof of insurance when requesting extensions of your J-1 visa.

If you are appointed through Penn State, you should qualify for participation in the University medical insurance plan. In order to obtain these benefits you will need to fill out the appropriate forms and return them to your departmental administrative assistant within thirty days of your appointment start date.

International Resources

As a University and State College community member, you will note that there are a number of resources available to you.

Global Connections at Penn State can provide you and your spouse or partner with conversation partners. The Council also organizes a Friendship Program and a Speakers Program, and provides basic English classes and tax assistance. Please contact them to find out more about the tax assistance program.

DISSA/Scholar Advising provides information on the paperwork required when International postdoctoral fellows have to travel outside of the United States. Please email the office for further information or forms and also inform your departmental contact whenever you travel outside of the United States.

The University Payroll Office website has information regarding the types of documents required by international postdoctoral fellows for tax purposes.

As postdoctoral appointments are temporary in nature, Penn State will not sponsor individuals in those positions for employment based on permanent residency.