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Your First Week

Taking a job in a new country is exciting—and also confusing! In the first few weeks, there are many new things to learn about and accomplish. We hope this information will help you as you settle in at Cornell.

What to Do in Your First Week in the U.S.

Cornell insignia on glass of office doorway

Status Activation

Online Status Activation is required for all new J-1 exchange visitors. It will activate your SEVIS record so that you can apply for a SSN.

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Complete Foreign National Questionnaire

If you’re being paid by Cornell, fill out the Division of Financial Affairs tax office’s online form.

Faculty in the Cornell Law School library

Review Cornell Policies

Review HR policies for faculty and staff. Find out about Cornell’s campus code of conduct, diversity, the academic calendar, and more.

The Deans Garden at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Take HR Course

Respect@Cornell is required for all new employees at Cornell. Register here!

Cornell motto carved in a stone university seal

Get to Know Cornell

Learn all about the university. Take campus tours, find maps, and more.

Statue of Ezra Cornell, university founder, with a red scarf

Find Helpful Tips

Check out our Life at Cornell resources page. From transportation to wellness to English programs—we want to help you find everything you need.



I don't have a SSN. Where can I get a bank account?

The Office of Global Learning doesn't recommend any particular bank. Here's a preview of local banks' rules: 

  • CFCU: Permits customers without SSNs or ITINs to get debit cards and access e-banking.
  • Alternatives Credit Union: Requires only a lease document with a local address to open an account.
  • Bank of America: New accounts require a driver’s license and passport. The catch is that the customer must open the account in person, and the nearest location is Syracuse, New York.
  • Ithaca Community Bank: Permits customers without SSNs to open accounts, get debit cards, and access e-banking.
  • M&T: Permits customers without SSNs to get debit cards and access e-banking.
  • Tompkins Trust: Offers a student account option that doesn't require an SSN, but it is only available for students up to age 25. Permits customers without SSNs or ITINs to get debit cards and access e-banking.

More information about local banks can be found on the Local Banking Services page on the Office of the Bursar website. 

Should I apply for a SSN?

A Social Security number (SSN) is not a work permit. You don’t need an SSN to open a bank account, rent an apartment, or get a credit card. SSNs are only required for tax reporting. Find out who is eligible and how to apply for an SSN.
Elmira Savings Bank on State Street in Ithaca

Local Banks

Find out about local and regional banking services in the Finger Lakes area.

U.S. paper money


Your U.S. tax return is due in mid-April. Here’s what you need to know.

The Workday system's graphic logo


Workday is Cornell’s human resources, benefits, and payroll online hub.

Phones and Computers

A woman using a cellphone

Personal Data Plans

Employees are eligible for discounts from companies including AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile.

A laptop at the Cornell Store

Cornell Store Technology

Cornell staff can arrange payroll deductions for computer purchases from the Cornell Store.

More Resources