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Onboarding Remote Postdocs during COVID-19

Postdocs are an essential component of the fight against COVID-19, and there will be cases where postdocs will need to be onboarded remotely. While most of the steps outlined in the New Postdoc Onboarding Checklist and the Orientation Toolkit for Administrators are still applicable, there are some additional considerations, noted on this page. If you have requests for an FAQ not listed, please email Please note, COVID-19 regulations change quickly, so keep an eye on the OPA COVID-19 Updates page.

Questions to consider before authorizing a postdoc to work remotely

  • Is the postdoc unable to travel to the US due to travel restrictions?
  • Is there significant negative impact in postponing the appointment until campus activity resumes?
  • ​If the postdoc is electing to remain outside of the US, are there funds available to pay by stipend?*
    • Will the funding source approve of stipend payment?*
    • Federally funded research may require prior approval of work in a foreign country.
  • Are there export control restrictions, or issues around data security and privacy?
    • ​Use of university, corporate, or other third-party lab space for Stanford research while overseas requires export control review.
    • The following also require export control review:  export of physical items outside of the US, accepting third-party export-controlled technology or software, Stanford personnel who are party to an NDA and in possession of information subject to that NDA, taking or using Stanford-owned digital devices overseas, and digital device transport to "high-risk" countries.
  • Has the telecommuting form been signed (maintained in the department)?
  • Is the department maintaining records and sharing with the requisite Dean and with FMS/Global Business Services?

*Please note that changes in the source or mechanism of funding may impact disability leave options. If you have any questions, please contact the Postdoc Disability and Benefits Specialist, Cecy Avila, directly.


 Pay-related questions

How does pay work for California, other states in the US, and internationally?
It depends. Remember that salary and stipend are treated differently, so contact Payroll if you have a non-standard question about pay.

What are the tax implications? 
Again, it depends. If you have an international postdoc working remotely overseas, contact Global Business to discuss tax implications. Also, have the postdoc review the Global Advisory guidelines to make sure they understand any tax implications in their home countries. Remember, there could be a difference between salary and stipend tax implications. 

Can we pay a postdoc without an I-9 form?
At this time (and this could change) Payroll is allowing a virtual signature on an I-9, so you CAN have a remote postdoc complete an I-9 form if one is needed. But if they are 100% overseas, they don't need an I-9 at this time. 

How do I get a SSN right now?
The SSN office is closed right now. Track status here:

How do I fill out an I-9 form?
You can complete an I-9 form electronically:

In what circumstances is it appropriate to start a postdoc overseas and have the appointment / payline start date prior to the DS 2019 start date? In what circumstances is it NOT appropriate?
The payline has to match the appointment start date. The DS-2019 does not. If they are starting remotely, the DS-2019 start date will be different than the appointment and payline start date. 

How do we pay overseas postdocs?
If they have a US bank account, they can set up direct deposit. If not, they will be paid a paper check via snail mail. FYI: Stanford Federal Credit Union allows postdocs to create bank accounts if needed. 

Other questions

How do I get an ID card?
Only essential staff are being issued ID cards at this time. You will need to contact the ID card office directly to set up an appointment. If you are not essential staff and don't need to be on campus right now, you cannot get an ID card at this time. 

How do I get equipment?
Right now, equipment is handled on a department-by-department basis. But we are looking into a more uniform approach. 

Do remote postdocs fill out the telecommute form? 

Should postdocs and PIs craft a plan for how the postdoc will work remotely? 

Can postdocs start overseas even if they can't arrive within 15 days of the appointment start date, per visa requirements?
Yes. There is no 15 day arrival requirement, because the DS-2019 will have a different start date. 

Does working remotely overseas only apply to postdocs who have approved visas but cannot travel, or can we start postdocs whose visa processing is delayed?
With PI approval, postdocs can start overseas for either reason. 

Why can't you just give us crystal-clear instructions? 
Each kind of visa can have different regulations, and each US Embassy/Consulate around the world is operating under rules and regulations that can be unique to it and change rapidly. Until the pandemic is resolved, we may have to deal with each postdoc's situation on a case-by-case basis. If you need more info or have an idea to make things clearer, please do get in touch. 

What about a postdoc who is a citizen of country A, but lives in country B, and wants to come to Stanford (in country C)? 
This needs to be handled on a case-by-case basis. Check in with Bechtel I-Center. 

Are there special health-related protocols for COVID-19 I should be aware of? 
Yes. Please review Associate Vice-Provost Russell Furr's email from May 21, 2020: russell_furr_email_covid.pdf

If we want to start a postdoc overseas, which central offices need to approve the request?
OPA, Bechtel, and Global Business Services. 

How many of these policies are temporary and contingent on COVID-19, and how many are standard?
Varies; COVID-19 is impacting all policies.  

When should the postdoc telecommuting form be filled out and submitted for new postdocs?

What is the process for waiving postdoc health insurance if an overseas postdoc using insurance abroad, like, home country social health care?
Contact the Postdoc Benefits office.

Is it okay if the postdoc is overseas for the duration of their appointment?
Yes, as long as the PI approves. 

Is there guidance on how to approach pushing back DS 2019 start dates, eg, do we push back two weeks at a time? One month at a time? Is there any issue with doing it over and over again indefinitely?
There is no official formula, as circumstances vary. However, please do not submit a change like this more than monthly if you can help it.