General Lab Information

For New Foreign National Employees

As you begin life near Brookhaven National Laboratory, our hope is to aide in your transition while alleviating some of the unknowns. Below you will find general information about common needs to assist you.

The use of any of the below mentioned companies is not an endorsement or recommendation by Brookhaven Lab.

Obtaining a Social Security Card

Foreign nationals need to possess a Social Security card to work in the United States. Although you do not need to have a social security number prior to the start of your job at Brookhaven, you must apply for a social security card (and show proof of such application), shortly after you begin work.

You may apply at the nearest Social Security Administration, which is located at 75 Oak Street, Patchogue, NY, 11772. Identification such as a passport, visa, employee ID card, original USCIS/Immigration documents (like I-797 Approval Notice, DS-2019, Form I-20) or other original forms of identification will be required at time of application. Photocopies are not acceptable. For more information, visit the Social Security website or call 1-800-772-1213.


It is recommended that you open a bank account as soon as possible upon your arrival. Most financial institutions require a Social Security number to open an account, however you may not receive your Social Security Number (SSN) for several weeks.  Contact the institution directly to confirm requirements and needed documents.

Money deposited into a US bank account by check may take a few days to clear (even when funds are drawn from a U.S. Bank). Generally, wire transfers between U.S. and foreign banks tend to take approximately two (2) days, provided the funds transferred are in U.S. dollars. (It is recommended that foreign currency be exchanged abroad, as these transactions tend to be more expensive when conducted at U.S. banks).

U.S. banks offer two types of accounts, checking and savings. The benefits of each account may vary by institution and account subtype, for more specific information contact the location or visit their website. It is recommended that you sign up for on-line and/or mobile access to your banking information, the website/app will allow you to view balances, create transfers, access account number and routing number, potentially other services as well.

Banks within 7 miles of the Lab

There are many options to choose from and we advise that you select the bank that is most fitting to your financial requirements. Below are a few options close to the lab:

Teachers Federal Credit Union (On-Site) - TFCU
Building 400, Research Support Building, Brookhaven Avenue – Ext. 2790

Teachers Federal Credit Union | Mortgage & HELOC, Checking, Loans (
Monday – Thursday: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Friday – 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday: Closed

The TFCU Branch located on the lab property will make the exception to cash a Brookhaven National Lab/Brookhaven Science Associates issued paycheck for both members and non-members; the following identification would be required:

  • Brookhaven National Laboratory ID Badge
  • Foreign Passport
  • Driver’s License or State/Federal ID (if applicable)

You can apply for a TFCU Credit Card, with all applicable documents, they may initially provide a low spending limit. Credit limit increases can be requested by the Member.

TFCU offers free checking, share savings, and money market accounts, VISA credit cards, loans, mortgages, and share certificates of deposit.

Requirements vary, please contact Branch or access website for current process.

Webster Bank (Located within 5 miles of Lab)
1880 Middle Country Road, Ridge, NY 11961 – 631-924-4200
Personal, Commercial & Business Banking | Webster Bank
Monday – Thursday: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Friday – 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Sunday: Closed

Accepted Forms of ID:

  • Passport with Photo (US or Foreign)
  • Green card

Requirements vary, please contact Branch or access website for current process.

Chase Bank (Located within 7 miles of Lab)
645 William Floyd Parkway, Shirley, NY 11967 – 631- 399-1446
Credit Card, Mortgage, Banking, Auto | Chase Online |
Monday – Friday: 9:00a – 5:00p
Saturday: 9:00a – 2:00p
Sunday: Closed

Acceptable forms of ID to open an account (PDF)

Requirements vary, please contact Branch or access website for current process.

Bank of America (Located within 7 miles of Lab)
1017 Montauk Hwy, Shirley, NY 11967 – 631-281-1601
Bank of America - Banking, Credit Cards, Loans and Merrill Investing
Monday – Friday: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Sunday: Closed

Acceptable forms of ID to open an account

The Power of Cash

It is expected that you will need a considerable amount of available funds during your first month here in the US, not only for living expenses but potentially for advance deposits on apartment rental, telephone, other utilities, and buying or renting a car. US Regulations state that you may not bring more than $10,000 cash or other negotiable monetary items into the country.

Initial costs involved in your relocation can potentially use up these funds quickly. Please note that your first paycheck will come at the end of the first month of employment and subsequent checks at the end of each following month worked.

In the U.S., few people make purchases in cash and generally allocate cash to small purchases. Larger payments are often made by credit card, debit card or personal check.

The most convenient way to access your stored funds is with the use of an Automated Teller Machine (ATM). ATMs can easily be found throughout the area, one at Berkner Hall and another in the lobby of Building 400. If you are using an ATM outside of your Banks network, there may be additional charges. Note: Be aware of daily limits for your specific account type.

Both on-site ATM locations are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The ATM accepts both credit and debit/ATM cards within the following networks: CIRRUS, HONOR, NYCE, and PLUS. The amount that can be withdrawn using the ATM will depend upon the limit pre-set by your bank. If you have any questions about the on-site ATM, please contact the on-site branch of TFCU at ext. 2790, Monday through Friday.

Please be aware that it is difficult to change foreign currency on Long Island (most local banks cannot do it). You will want to consider exchanging money while at the airport (International Terminal at LaGuardia or John F. Kennedy Airport).

Credit & Debit Cards

As mentioned above, Credit and Debit cards have become the primary resource for many in the US when making a purchase. Not only does it allow for convenient shopping experiences, but it also assists with building your Credit Score. The Credit Score is a reference number calculated off a series of variables which will be evaluated when requesting large purchases, such as, Car Loans, Home Loans, and Credit Card applications, etc.

A debit card is issued by your financial institution, allowing access to the ATM, as well as, making purchases at most retail locations. With a debit card, money is immediately withdrawn from your account to pay the bill. Many find this convenient, although the use of a debit card may not contribute to establishing a credit rating.

Understanding all the rules and regulations surrounding Credit and Debit cards is important to protect the safety of your funds and avoid unnecessary fees.

Credit Card versus Debit Card

Action Credit Debit
Make Purchases Yes Yes
Build Credit History Yes No
Ease of Use Need ID and signature Need Personal Identification Number (PIN)
Withdraw Cash from ATM Yes – interest will start accruing immediately Yes – Taken directly from the account of choice (Savings/Checking)

Applying for a Credit Card

When applying for a credit card, you should fully understand the terms and conditions.

Safe Deposit Box (Safety Deposit Box)

To protect certain documents and other valuables from loss by fire, theft, or negligence, commercial banks may offer you the benefit of their safe deposit vaults. Safe deposit boxes, of almost any size, can be rented based on availability, rate is subject to change – check with your specific banking institution.


Loans are granted by a financial institution based on varying criteria; rates fluctuate depending on the time of application. Loans are generally subject to a review of Credit Score, including Length of Credit, Debt to Income Ratio, Income and a series of factors which are determined by the issuing bank. Some banks allow for an applicant to furnish a Co-Signer, when in agreement, this person would ultimately take shared responsibility of the debt, as a guarantor of repayment if you were to default on the loan.

Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV)

New York DMV | Resources for non-US citizens (

Driving Privileges in New York State with a Driver License from Outside the US or Canada

If you are a resident of another country and have a valid driver license issued by that country, you can operate a motor vehicle in New York State (NYS). You can operate the same types of vehicles in NYS that you operate in your home country. The Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) recommends that you keep your driver license from your home country. You are not required to immediately obtain a NYS driver license unless you become a NYS resident. A NYS license becomes necessary 30 days after you become a resident of NYS. 

See DMV for Vehicle Insurance Requirements

Cell Phones

Your current phone service provider may offer international rates for US based use, prior to your arrival it is suggested to contact the provider to confirm if any adjustments are needed to your account. If you are interested in subscribing to cell service in the US there are many carriers, contract and non-contract options, as well as retailers who can assist with the initiation of a new account.

Tax Treaties and Social Security Tax Exemptions

Foreign Nationals arriving in the U.S. on certain J-1 and F-1 visa may be eligible for exemption from federal and state income tax withholding for a period. The United States has tax treaties in effect with many countries that contain terms permitting an individual "conducting research at a recognized research institution" to be exempt from income taxes for terms of two or three years.

While Brookhaven Lab may not grant the exemption for every country, many do apply. There are other restrictions based on prior usage of treaty exemptions, prior visits to the U.S., or stays more than five years.

For additional information, see IRS Publication 519 (PDF) and a list of countries with tax treaties.

In addition, eligible J-1 and F-1 visa holders may be entitled to an exemption from social security tax withholding for a period of up to two and five years, respectively. Foreign nationals who may not be eligible for a tax treaty exemption may still be eligible for an exemption from social security taxes. Additional information is available at these two IRS website pages: Foreign Student Liability for Social Security and Medicare Taxes and Aliens Employed in the US.

Guide to Brookhaven National Lab

Please take some time to review "The Guide" which provides an enormous amount of information that may prove helpful to you in getting to understand ways to get things accomplished in the U.S. Some topics you may find especially helpful are:

  • Housing On/Off – site
  • Schools
  • Airports / Train stations
  • Occupational Medical Clinic
  • Post Office
  • Childcare

Disclaimer: Information provided on this webpage is strictly for personal use and in no regard to an endorsement by Brookhaven National Laboratory or Brookhaven Science Associates. Some of the information provided in this document is based off the experience of Foreign National Employees, past and current. We do not vouch for the accuracy of this information, but always confirm directly with the agency or retailer.

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