During your stay here at Hampshire College under the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program you are required by the U.S. State Department to have adequate insurance in order to maintain status. This insurance must meet the requirements set forth by the U.S. State Department and the state of Massachusetts, and provide coverage for the duration of your authorized stay. Hampshire College provides health insurance for our incoming scholars through United Health Care (Chinese Scholars) and Gallagher Koster for other incoming students and scholars. Both health care plans meet the State Department and the state of Massachusetts requirements. For information regarding specific plans, please visit their websites:
Social Security Number (SSN)
While you are here in the U.S., you will need to get a Social Security card. This number is required if you wish to work in the United States. To apply for a Social Security card, you must present your passport, I-94, DS-2019, and a copy of your contracted agreement with Hampshire College stating that you have been offered and accepted a job here. These cards are free of charge. The GEO will schedule a time to take you to the SS office within the first month of your program. Should you be unable to come with us at the designated time, you will need to find another time to go on your own. Office hours and locations are available on their website: https://secure.ssa.gov/apps6z/FOLO/Controller. If you already have a Social Security card you do not need to apply for a new one. If you need assistance with transportation, contact GEO and we will assist with arrangements.
You should be aware that taxes may be deducted from salaries, stipends, and fellowships. The amount withheld from your paycheck is dependent upon your tax status. Income taxes, when applied, usually amount to about 14% of total income, but may be as high as 30%. Tax treaties may exist between the U.S. and other countries that may exempt you from paying income tax in the U.S. Information about treaties and income tax requirements can be obtained from the U.S. consulate in your country and from the University of Massachusetts Payroll Office, after you arrive.
All foreign scholars and spouses are required to report their annual income by filing a tax return between January 1 and April 15 of the following year (for 2006 tax year, returns are filed between January 1 and April 15, 2007). Current regulations require that all F and J visa holders must file form 8843 even if they had no U.S.-based income.
Depending on your own needs, you will probably need to open a U.S. bank account for the duration of your stay. Several banks in Amherst offer many different types of personal account services for checking and savings. Traveler's checks are accepted immediately. Checks from abroad may take up to two weeks to "clear" before funds are available to you. Upon opening a bank account you will receive a bank /ATM card which will allow you to take out money from automatic teller machines as well as make purchases in stores as you would with a credit card. Common bank cards are Cirrus, NYCE, and Maestro. In addition, credit cards such as Visa, Mastercard, and American Express are widely accepted in almost all stores, supermarkets, and restaurants. The GEO can help you to set up a bank account during the first few weeks you are here.
Before you leave you MUST close out your bank account and any other credit card or accounts that you may have that you will not use once you return home. Simply withdrawing all of your money from the account DOES NOT close the account. The GEO can help you with this before your departure.
A word about online banking and identity theft…
Most banks now have the option where you can keep track of your banking transactions online. To do so, you will need to set-up an online account. Once you have your account you can see your account balance and in some cases even pay credit card bills right online. Please be warned that identity theft is becoming more of a problem in the United States. You should NEVER give out your passwords, Social Security number, or any other personal information online, as people can easily access your information. You should also be very careful if you use a computer that is shared by other people you do not know.
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