In order for a visiting research scholar or professor to be paid by the University they must have a US Social Security number and the correct visa status. In order to apply for US SSN they must enter the US on a visa which allows for work. In most instances this will be a J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa.  If a visitor arrives in the US without the correct type of visa the University may not be able to pay him/her. Departments who intend to pay a visiting scholar should work closely with their Dean, their HR Partner and Payroll.

If the J-1 scholar needs to apply for a US Social Security Number he/she must:

  • Be in the US for at least 10 business days before they are eligible to apply for a SSN. This allows time for their immigration record to be processed by USCIS in order to be accessible by the Social Security Administration.
  • Must be in the US at least 14 days beyond the date that they are submitting the Social Security application in person, If not, their application may be automatically denied.
  • Understand that it can take 2-6 weeks to process and receive a new SSN.

Visitors who enter as tourists (on a B1 or B2 visa or via the Visa Waiver program) are not eligible to apply for a Social Security number.

Important Tax Implications

It is also important to understand that the University and your visitor will be subject to all US tax and payroll laws and regulations. In many instances any payments made to your visitor (with the exception of expense reimbursement) will be subject to US payroll withholding lawsThis is also true for honorariums!

In some instances your visitor may be exempt from US taxes based on a tax treaty agreement between the US and their home country. However, to take advantage tax treaty benefits your visitor MUST successfully apply for and obtain a US Social Security Number.

It is important to keep these rules in mind as you work with your visiting scholar to plan their time at this institution. While they may still be eligible for payment without a SSN it does mean that they may be subject to having 35% of their salary or honorarium withheld for tax purposes.

A note about Honorariums

A visitor who enters as a tourist (B1/B2 or Visa Waiver) would be eligible to receive an honorarium and/or be reimbursed for expenses as long as:

  1. Payment is made for “usual academic activities”
  2. The activities at USM will not last longer than 9 days
  3. The visitors have not accepted payment or expenses from five institutions during the previous 6 months. 
  4. The activities are for the benefit of USM only

Remember that the honorarium may be subject to tax withholding (see notes above).