International students and scholars are a vibrant part of the Cornell community. Cornell Tech is a designated campus for F-1 students with Designated School Officials (DSO’s): Jackie Klein and Monica Patten. We can help facilitate interactions with the DSOs in Ithaca for students in other visa statuses such as J-1 scholars.
Students are encouraged to review the information on the Office of Global Learning’s website.
Frequently Requested Information
Working in the US
Travel Outside the US
Financial Information (Taxes and Social Security)
Driver’s Licenses and NYC IDs
General Information About Travel
F1 students who leave the US must have the following documents in order to re-enter the US in F status:
- Valid passport (passport must be valid for at least 6 months into the future)
- Valid (unexpired) US visa stamp (page) in your passport (except for Canadian Citizens). If you need a new visa stamp click here.
- Valid I-20 form for F1 or F2 status, signed for travel on page 2 by an ISSO advisor or DSO (Jackie or Monica) within the last year (six months for Canadian students and students on Post-Completion Optional Practical Training. Contact Cornell Tech Student Services if you need to update your travel signature or if you lost your I-20.
- Valid DS-2019 form for J1 or J2 status with current travel signature on the lower right hand side
- Evidence of financial funding (bring a copy of whatever funding is mentioned on your I-20 / DS-2019: TA/RA funding letter or bank statements for personal funds)
- Proof of enrollment (certificate of enrollment or transcript). You can obtain a certificate of enrollment from the registrar’s office or you can download the certificate from the registrar’s web site.
To be eligible for a social security number, F-1 students must either
- work on campus OR
- have obtained off-campus work authorization.
Please contact Student Services as we can provide you your hiring department letter and your SSN eligibility verification letter (STEP 1). Once you receive these letters, you can proceed to follow Steps 2-4 on the Office of Global Learning page.
All international students are required to file at least one tax form with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS)–the 8843. Cornell provides tax software for international students, and the software will determine which forms you need to file based on how you answer certain questions. International students should not use Turbo Tax to file taxes.
Cornell Tax FAQs
Some students are interested in obtaining US-government issued IDs or driver’s licenses. We encourage students living in New York City (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, or Staten Island) to consider the NYC ID. The card is a government-issued photo ID and gives you access to NYC services and memberships at cultural institutions. Learn more about it here: http://www1.nyc.gov/site/idnyc/index.page
New York honors all valid foreign licenses. By law, New York will honor a valid driver’s license issued by any other nation to a resident of that nation. The DMV recommends that you not apply for a New York State (NYS) license unless you become a resident of New York. If you drive using your valid home country license and your license is not in English, you must also carry a certified English translation of your license. Cornell language departments can provide Official Translations. If possible, we suggest obtaining a current International Driving Permit only available in your home country, because it informs authorities, in several languages, that you have a valid foreign driver license. An International Driving Permit by itself is not valid for driving in New York State. New York honors the underlying license, not the permit alone.
Should I apply for a NYS License?
Although there is nothing in the Vehicle and Traffic Law which prohibits a non-US resident from applying for and receiving a New York State license, the DMV recommends against this because it is not necessary; New York will honor your foreign license, as long as you have certified English translation of your license. Many non-US residents, however, find it difficult to register a personal vehicle and find that automobile insurance companies either charge higher rates or will not insure those without a US driver’s license. If you decide to apply for a NYS driver’s license, keep the following in mind:
- If you have a license from any nation other than Canada or Puerto Rico, you must pass a written test, complete a 5-hour pre-licensing course and pass a road test to qualify for a New York license. Your foreign license is valid for driving, but not for waiving the tests and course for new drivers. If you have a valid license from Canada or Puerto Rico, you do not need to take a driving course or a road test.
- You must be able to provide proof of identity and date of birth. You must also show your Social Security card, or provide a letter from the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) stating that you are not eligible for a Social Security Number (SSN). In order to get this denial letter from the SSA, you will first need to get a letter from the ISSO stating that you are not working—just come in to walk in advising hours at the ISSO to get that letter. The SSA Letter must have been issued within the last 30 days. (Note: If you do not have a SSN, your application may be delayed an additional 1-4 weeks while the DMV headquarters in Albany conducts additional background checks. You will be notified by the DMV when this process is finished and you may return to the local office to complete your application.) You MUST also present an I-94 card, with supporting documentation of visa status, such as an I-20 or DS-2019. Some visa types cannot apply at the DMV in Ithaca or need additional documentation. For more information, please see the handout “Proofs of Identity”, available at the ISSO or on the DMV website.
- When you receive your New York license, you must surrender your foreign license. Your foreign license will be stored at the local DMV office and destroyed after 60 days. If you will need your foreign license in the future, ask the examiner that your foreign license be filed. You may then request that license back by going to the office where it is filed, and surrendering your NYS license.
Life in The United States
Below are some tips to know about to help acclimate to living in America and New York. Despite its ethnically diverse population, there are generalizations about New Yorkers that continue to persist. Many new to New York, both within and outside of the U.S., think that New Yorkers are rude and impatient, in a constant hurry, and jaded. Without a doubt, New York is a fast-paced city, but as you come to meet people who call New York home you will find that they have individual qualities to which you easily relate. There are, however, some tips you will want to follow to better immerse yourself in the local culture.. Tips are written under alphabetized headings.
- Drinking under the age of 21 is illegal.
- When going to a bar, always carry ID. Chances are that you will be asked to show proof of your age
- In NY, you cannot smoke in restaurants, places of business, and public parks. There are typically designated “smoking areas”. If you smoke and wish to avoid offending those around you, ask permission to smoke in their vicinity.
- Pets are considered “part of the family”.
- There are animal protection laws to prevent animal cruelty.
- The most popular pets in the U.S. are dogs, cats, hamsters, and fish.
- When you go to the bathroom, close the door and make sure to lock it (if you can). Sometimes stall doors have wide enough gaps to look through. Expect less privacy.
- Check to see that no one is using the bathroom before walking in to use it.
- Restrooms are not appropriate places to have a long conversation
- Once you are done, remember to flush the toilet and clean up after yourself
- Never leave a restroom without washing your hands.
- Class discussion and participation are HIGHLY encouraged and may contribute to the overall grade.
- Students remain seated when the professor arrives or when the student’s name is called.
- Attendance is expected and critical.
- Understanding, not just memorizing class material is important.
- Using electronics in class can be considered rude, if the instructor asks otherwise. A number of Cornell Tech classes have a no electronics policy.
- Some professors allow eating and chewing gum in class. Check with your faculty or follow syllabus regulations.
- When taking escalators, those who want to stand and use the escalator to move them up the incline generally stand to the right side of the escalator and those who want to walk up the escalator generally walk up on the left side.
- When a person says, “no”, he/she means “no”.
- Regardless of what someone is wearing, it is NOT an invitation to touch them.
Dress and Modesty Standards
- Students tend to dress casually during the daytime at school.
- While Cornell Tech is relatively informal, it is always a good idea to dress up a bit for presentations, corporate events, etc.
Driving Laws and Etiquette
- The frequency of honking is more limited compared to other parts of the world.
- If you will be driving while you are in The States, make sure that you follow local driving laws. Check with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to learn the specific laws for the area. Some of these laws include:
- Wearing a seatbelt
- No texting while driving
- Headlights must be on at night and while windshield wipers are in use.
- In general, Americans eat quietly with their mouths closed.
- Burping and slurping are seen as rude,
- Americans like sweets!
- Generally, Americans have a more casual form of hospitality, eating such foods as burgers, sandwiches, and pizza with hands and no utensils. .
- Americans tend to value convenience when it comes to food. They don’t spend as much time cooking and savoring their food.
Etiquette When Visiting a Home or at a Party
- When going to someone’s home, ask if they prefer for you to take your shoes off.
- People tend to appreciate when using eye contact during social interactions
Gender Issues, Interactions, and Perceptions
- Public affection is acceptable.
- Everyone should be treated fairly and respectfully. It is normal for both men and women to share the responsibilities of the home and children.
- While potentially offensive in many cultures, giving the “thumbs up” can mean, “Good!”, “That’s cool!”, “Congratulations!”, or “Good job!” in the USA.
- Pointing at people is often seen as rude.
Getting in Line
- People queue and wait their turn for things such as buying tickets, shopping, using the restroom, or waiting for a bus, etc.
- It is considered rude to cut in line or push your way through.
- The healthcare system is quite complicated in the US. Before you make a doctor’s appointment, make sure it’s “in-network” with your insurance to avoid paying a higher price. It’s good to build a relationship with a primary care physician (PCP) to whom you can reach out to with any health problem and who will refer you to the appropriate provider if your health problem needs more specialized attention.
- Asking how much money a person makes is considered taboo.
- Americans blow their noses with tissues and dispose of them in a trash can.
- If you need to sneeze, do so into your inner elbow opposed to your hands or in the air.
- Tap water is clean enough to drink and to brush your teeth with.
- It is rude to spit in public.
- Smiles are basic signals of politeness, a non-verbal way of being friendly.
- Engaging in “Small talk” or polite conversation about unimportant or uncontroversial matters is acceptable & is considered “nice”.
- In the U.S., asking “How are you?” is not necessarily a request for your state of health, but rather a general greeting, to which one might respond by asking that same question.
- Most people prefer to have some personal space when engaging in conversation with others and stand about 2 feet apart when talking.
- Ask if you can touch another person before doing so.
- If you accidentally bump into someone, it is customary to say “excuse me” to explain that the touch was accidental. Don’t be offended if you are on the subway and no one takes a seat next to you; they are looking for a seat with the most personal space.
- Most people shake hands firmly and briefly when they meet for the first time or in a formal situation.
- When people are good friends or family, they will sometimes hug each other to say hello, goodbye or thank you.
- Kissing as a greeting, however, is usually only done between relatives and close friends (on the cheek) or between lovers (on the lips).
- Displays of affection are acceptable in public.
- Blocking traffic: If at all possible, do not come to a sudden stop in the middle of the sidewalk or decide to hold a group discussion in a heavily trafficked place. If you wish to stop or slow down you should move to the side to allow others to pass.
Standards of Safety
- Bike helmets are encouraged.
- The work/class week runs Monday-Friday. Saturdays and Sundays are both set apart as the “weekend”.
- It is important to show up to class, meetings, and social gatherings on time.
- Tipping your server 15%-20% is customary.
- Tipping a NYC green/yellow cab driver (not Uber, Lyft, Via, etc.) is a common practice in New York City; those are generally 15-20%
- Tipping delivery people is generally 10%
- No tips are needed at fast food restaurants, for “carry out”, or coffee shops.
Trash, Littering, and Recycling
- In general, littering is greatly frowned upon and each state has its own littering law.
- The idea of recycling has become very popular to help take care of the environment.
- Cornell Tech recycles items; please follow the instructions posted near the garbage bins.
Usage of First Name, Last Name, and Title
- Most people, even in a business setting, will prefer to be called by their first name. However, it is a good principle to address them by their title (Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr., or Professor) and last name unless you are invited to do otherwise.
- Others may call you by your first name once they’re introduced to you. This is not considered rude, but may reflect a casual style.
- Using “Sir” and “Madam” are not common