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Graduate Assistants (GA, TA, RA)

Congratulations on receiving a Graduate Assistantship!  To make your transition to UMBC as smooth as possible, please carefully review the information below to learn more about what to expect upon your arrival to UMBC.  Please note, the term GA (Graduate Assistant) refers to Research Assistants, Teaching Assistants, and general Graduate Assistants.

 

PLANNING YOUR BUDGET AND EXPENSES

  • Initial costs upon arrival to UMBC
    • Because of the timing required to process payroll paperwork, Graduate Assistants do not usually receive their first paycheck until typically 6 weeks, or possibly longer, after beginning the payroll process with their department.
    • Please plan to cover your own expenses from the time you arrive in the US, through at least the first 6 weeks that you are in the US, as you wait to begin receiving your paychecks.   Please contact your academic department for more details about the payroll process.
  • Your bi-weekly stipend, and taxes
    • Your assistantship award letter will usually indicate the total amount you are awarded per year, as well as how much you will receive in each paycheck.  Paychecks are issued every 2 weeks.
    • Please note, the amount of your stipend DOES NOT account for the taxes that will be taken out.  The amount in your paycheck will be less than what is indicated on your award letter.
    • The amount of taxes that are taken out of your paycheck is determined by many factors, including what country you are from.  You can work with your payroll provider in your academic department to try to get a more specific idea of how much you will receive each paycheck, after the tax amount is removed.  Sometimes as much as 30% of your paycheck will be taken out for taxes, so please plan accordingly!
  • You are responsible for covering the cost of mandatory fees each semester.
    • Your assistantship will likely cover your tuition costs (refer to your award letter to clarify), but will require that you pay the mandatory fees.  This usually amounts to about US$1,000 per full-time semester. 
    • Please be prepared to cover these costs by your billing due date to avoid late fees and blocks to your course registration for the following semester.

 

APPLYING FOR A SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER (SSN)

  • An SSN is required of any individual in order to get paid in the US.
  • You can only apply for an SSN after the following:
    • You are physically in the US in F-1 immigration status
    • Your SEVIS (immigration) record has been activated by the IES Office
  • Please note, you cannot begin the process of getting on payroll with your department until you have applied for a social security number.
  • The delay in applying for an SSN is often an important reason as to why students cannot get paid earlier in their first semester.  Students with existing SSN’s may not experience such a drastic delay in their first paycheck.
  • The IES office will help you with the SSN application process. Please click here to learn more.

 

OF SPECIAL NOTE TO STUDENTS CHANGING THEIR IMMIGRATION STATUS:

  • Please note that you cannot hold a GA position unless you are in an immigration status that allows you to work and be paid in the US.
  • If you are changing your immigration status from a student NOT eligible to work, to F-1, the change MUST be complete before you can begin your GA duties and be paid.  If your status will not be changed to F-1 by the end of the Schedule Adjustment period (usually the first 2 weeks of school), your department may choose to revoke your GA until the following semester, presuming you would then be in F-1 status.
  • Please contact the IES office with questions about how to change your status.  There are different ways to change your status based on your situation and how much time you have.  Please plan ahead, and contact us early!

 

 RESOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

  •  All GA’s are expected to have read and understood the Graduate Assistant Handbook.  Please be sure to address all questions with your GA supervisor.
  • The Payroll staff person in the academic department in which you have your assistantship will also be responsible for helping you with payroll forms and can help with many questions you may have about your payment for your GA.
  • The IES office can help you apply for your SSN once you have met the 3 requirements listed above.