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getting started

Getting Started

The first few days on campus, you should make sure these basics are taken care of in order to help you transition to being part of the Columbia community. Please be sure to check in with your Department Administrator in case they have an existing checklist of forms, authorizations, and orientations.

bullet Getting a Columbia University ID Card and Your UNI
bullet Social Security Administration/Number
bullet Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN)
bullet Business Cards and Credit Cards
bullet New Postdoc Orientation

bullet New Postdoc Arrival Checklist

bulletResources for Columbia University Postdocs (pdf)


Getting a Columbia University ID Card
and Your UNI

Your Columbia ID and UNI are your gateway to the University. In addition to being your official University identification, the Columbia Card is necessary to gain access to the numerous libraries, campus buildings, and gym facilities. Outside the University, your Columbia Card can help you take advantage of all the excitement New York City has to offer through certain programs and discounts.

The key to accessing computer services and electronic resources at Columbia is your University Network ID (UNI). Every student, faculty member, and permanent staff member is assigned one of these unique identifiers, consisting of your initials plus an arbitrary number. You will also need your UNI to gain access, for example, to restricted library information on the Web, Human Resources, and other University systems.

Your UNI and its associated password are generally the basis for gaining access to your university email account. Note that it is against University policy to share your password. Someone who knows your password can gain access to personal information about you, such as your benefits or certain employment records.

To activate your UNI and manage your account visit: http://www.columbia.edu/acis/tools.

Additional information on the University’s Computer Usage policies may be obtained online at http://www.columbia.edu/cu/policy/.

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Social Security Administration/Numbers

You must have a social security number (SSN) in order to lawfully work in the United States and receive a salary. To get a SSN or a replacement card, you must prove your U.S. citizenship or immigration status, age, identity, and employment eligibility. Only certain documents are accepted as proof of U.S. citizenship. These include your U.S. birth certificate, a U.S. passport, a Certificate of Naturalization, or a Certificate of Citizenship. If you are not a U.S. citizen, different rules apply for proving your immigration status.

Under the current law, only certain documents can be accepted as proof of identity. If you do not have a SSN, the Social Security Administration’s website provides detailed information about the application process and acceptable proofs of identity.

Once you have applied for a SSN you will be given a receipt. Bring this receipt to your departmental administrator for his/her use in preparing the paperwork for your appointment. Once you receive your official card from the Social Security Administration, give your department administrator a copy so that your records can be updated properly and the appropriate paperwork filed.

The nearest Social Security Office to Columbia’s Morningside Campus is:

Cav Bldg, 6th Floor
55 West 125th Street
New York, NY 10027

The nearest Social Security Office to the Columbia’s Medical Center Campus is:

4292 Broadway (182nd Street)
New York, NY 10033

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Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN)

An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is a tax processing number issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS issues ITINs to foreign nationals and others who are required to have a United States taxpayer identification number for United States tax return and payment responsibilities under the Internal Revenue Code (i.e., those who are to receive stipends only), but who are not eligible for a SSN.

ITINs are for federal tax reporting only, and are not intended to serve any other purpose. An ITIN does not authorize you to work in the United States or provide eligibility for Social Security benefits or the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Examples of individuals who need ITINs include:

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Business Cards and Credit Cards

Business Cards

With departmental approval, all Postdocs may order business cards through Columbia Print. All orders must be placed in person at:

Morningside Campus: 106 Pulitzer Hall, 2950 Broadway

CUMC Campus: Hammer Building, 701 W 168th Street, 2nd floor #610

Find the approval form here: http://www.postdocs.columbia.edu/forms.html

Credit Cards

Citibank offers a Citi-Secured MasterCard (secured by an 18-month Certificate of Deposit) developed to meet the needs of individuals with no established credit or with little credit history, with or without either SSNs or ITINs. For additional information, contact: Earl Allen, Citibank on Campus (located behind Café 212, Alfred Lerner Hall; (212-663-2179) or visit the Citibank branch located at Broadway and 111th Street. At CUMC, contact Ray Dyal at the Citibank branch in the Black Building. If you have a Citibank credit card in your home country, you may also qualify for a Citibank card in the United States. Please contact the above individuals for additional information.

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OPA New Postdoc Orientation – In an effort to acclimate new Postdocs to Columbia University, we would like to offer a first look at the research resources, professional development resources, and quality of work-life resources available at Columbia to postdoctoral trainees. Discussion also includes a brief rundown of benefits, introduction to creating an Individual Development Plan (IDP), and a Q&A session. A one-hour Orientation is held once a month (except December) and rotates between the Morningside (MSD) and Medical Center campus (CUMC). All new Postdocs University-wide are welcome to attend any campus session. Time and room location will be announced at the beginning of each month on the Events Calendar.



HR New Employee Orientation– Please also make sure to attend the Human Resource new employee orientation. The HR orientation goes into more detail about the benefits available to you at Columbia and your enrollment options. The Human Resource offices at the Morningside Campus and the Medical School Campus each run their own new employee orientation (the one on the Medical Campus is called the "Welcome Program"). Please click on the appropriate link below to obtain the orientation schedule.  It is strongly recommended that postdoctoral research scientists/scholars attend one of these sessions within 30 days of their start date.


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