Your first point of contact for most questions related to your postdoctoral appointment is the Lab’s postdoc manager Meg Rodriguez. Check out the Postdoc Resources website maintained by the Postdoc Office for appointment regarding information as well as career development opportunities available for you. Employees at the Lab are eligible for several discounts and benefits.
Healthcare in the US can seem quite complicated especially if you are not familiar with the US healthcare system. In this section, we will introduce you the basics of health insurance and point you toward useful resources.
Your Berkeley Lab postdoctoral appointment comes with health insurance benefits that you need to enroll for within 31 days of initial hiring. You will encounter several new terms, many of which you may not be familiar with. Please browse through the healthcare vocabulary below for basic explanations.
- Garnett Powers: Third party healthcare administrators that manage insurance benefits.
- Health Net: The insurance company that provides your medical insurance. It includes Vision (Eyemed via Health Net).
- Principal: The insurance company that provides your dental insurance.
- Dependents: Your spouse and/or children.
- HMO for Health Maintenance Organization: A type of health insurance plan that usually limits coverage to care from doctors who work for or contract with the HMO.
- PPO: Preferred Provider Organization.
- In-network: A provider network is a list of the doctors, other health care providers, and hospitals that a plan has contracted with to provide medical care to its members. These providers are called “network providers” or “in-network providers”.
- Out-of-network: Out of network simply means that the doctor or facility providing your care does not have a contract with your health insurance company.
- Premium: Insurance requires monthly payments.
- PCP: Primary Care Physician: First point of contact (equivalent to family doctor). Your PCP can refer you to a specialist if you need to see one. You can change your PCP every month.
- Co-pay: Fixed amount you pay out-of-pocket when you go see a doctor.
- Open enrollment: Your choice of HMO or PPO plan is valid for the fiscal year(October-September) and cannot be changed in the middle of it. If you wish to change your choice, you can do so during open enrollment, which is usually between October-November. The new changes go into effect in January. Note: Life changes, such as birth of a child or adoption of a child, or marriage, or a dependent arriving in US or losing other health insurance can qualify you for changing your options during the fiscal year.
Berkeley Lab offers a free check-up for all new employees including health physical examination, routine laboratory analysis (CBC, blood chemistry panel, lipoprotein analysis and urinalysis), audiogram and vision screening for acuity.
Reach out to the International Researchers and Scholars Office (ISRO) or Visa Services representatives for questions related to your visa. Postdocs at the Lab are typically on J1 visa or F1 visa with STEM OPT. If you’re on OPT, ensure that ISRO and your Designated School Official (DSO) at the international office of the University you graduated from have your most recent employment updates. If you plan to travel, make sure you have a valid visa and travel signature on your I-20. If you are on J visa, make sure you have a travel signature from ISRO on your DS-2019 (must be renewed annually) and inform them before leaving the country regardless of whether it is for a conference or vacation. Also, remember to send them a copy of your I-94 form after returning to the US.
Information about taxes can be found on Berkeley Lab’s Tax Services website. You typically pay both Federal and State taxes on your income. Many countries have Tax Treaties with the US, which exempts individuals from such countries from paying Federal taxes for two years (not exempt from California State tax). The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) accepts tax returns starting in January and the deadline for filing taxes is typically April 15th. If you’re a resident alien, free services such as TurboTax can be used to file taxes. For non-resident aliens, the Sprintax software can be used for both Federal and California State taxes. As a non-resident, you should have been contacted by Sui Hing Jen for Tax Class. She will also ask you to fill up the Glacier form. She is a great resource so contacting her (firstname.lastname@example.org) directly for any inquiry you may have is highly recommended.
UAW 5810 is the labor union representing over 6,500 postdocs at the University of California (UC). Through the union, postdocs bargain collectively with the UC system to improve our pay, benefits, rights, and terms and conditions of employment. The results of the bargaining are spelt out in a collective bargaining agreement (contract). Please refer to the Union website for the most up-to-date information on our union representatives.