Historians on the Run: Resources for Enrolled Students Preparing for Research Travel

Reinventing the Wheel

After completing coursework, orals, and writing a prospectus, many students spend a semester or a year doing research away from Berkeley.

This can affect your status at the university, and requires some planning ahead. Following are questions students often ask before traveling.

Revised June, 2012

Q: Should I register for the year that I'm away?

A: A: Some fellowships (i.e., DNTF/DCF) require that you be enrolled at Berkeley as a requirement for receiving funds. If your fellowship requires this, you should register for 12 units of Dissertation Research (History 296) every semester. If your research requires you to remain outside of California, students advanced to doctoral candidacy can apply for in absentia status for a total of 4 semesters. The cost of in absentia is full health insurance fees, and 15 percent of the combined tuition (formerly known as educational fees) and student services fees (formerly known as University registration fees). For the 2012-2013 academic year, the cost of in absentia registration per semester is slightly more than the cost of purchasing health insurance per semester from the Tang Center as a withdrawn student. More information is available at http://grad.berkeley.edu/policies/guides/in-absentia-faq/.

The in absentia application is available on the Graduate Division's website. Deadline to submit to Graduate Division is July 15 for fall, December 9 for spring. The application requires the signature of your major professor and the department’s head graduate adviser.

Graduate Division offers financial assistance to doctoral students whose external fellowship does not provide sufficient educational allowance to cover the fees and health insurance assessed by the University. The conditions for this assistance and the process by which it is provided are outlined here.

  1. External fellowships that are administered through Graduate Division (i.e., Graduate Division is responsible for disbursement of funds to the student and for financial reporting.):
    Graduate Division automatically 'tops off' the educational allowance provided by the external fellowship in order to pay in-states fees and health insurance (Graduate Division generally pays non-resident tuition only for the first year, and does not pay professional degree fees). Examples of such external fellowships include NSF, Javits, DDRA Fulbright, and HHMI International.
  2. External fellowships that are administered by outside agencies:
    Graduate Division will ‘top off’ the educational allowance for fees provided by an external fellowship to pay in-state fees and health insurance (but not non-resident tuition or PDF), provided that
    • (a) the fellowship pays directly to the student a stipend of at least $16,000 annually,
    • (b) the student receives no other funding, and
    • (c) the student submits a written request for a fee subsidy and provides the official notification letter with the terms of funding and confirmation of tenure for the current year.

    Examples of such fellowships include DOE, DHS, and NDSEG.

Students electing to withdraw from the university while researching should “cancel” their registration via TeleBears before the beginning of the term of withdrawal. Students should maintain their California residency while away since residency status will be re-assessed at the time of re-admission. International students are advised to consult with the Berkeley International Office (BIO) BEFORE withdrawal. If BIO is informed prior to the withdrawal, the office may be able to provide a student with a 15-day grace period during which time s/he would be able to stay lawfully in the U.S. and prepare for departure. If the Berkeley International Office is not informed prior to the withdrawal, there is no grace period. The student’s SEVIS record is terminated and s/he will lose his/her lawful F-1 or J-1 status. In this case, the student must depart the U.S. immediately.

Q: What about my loans?

A: If you have UCB loans, there are a few more steps. If you borrowed a Federal Direct, Health Professions, Perkins, or Institutional student loan, you must complete the Exit Loan Counseling requirement. This is an opportunity for your lender to remind you of your rights and responsibilities as a student loan borrower. Completing the Exit requirement is only one step in keeping your loans in good standing. Remember that loan indebtedness is reported to credit agencies. Until your loan is paid in full, you should continue to communicate with your lender regarding any changes in your address, school enrollment status or questions about making repayment. More information can be found at http://studentbilling.berkeley.edu/exitDirect.htm.

It may be possible to get a deferral. Most lenders will grant a deferral while you have fellowship support; ask for the Education Related Deferment Request form. Some may require a department letter verifying your status. Deferments only apply to fellowships that will provide a minimum of six months support. Definitely ask your lender(s) for written confirmation that they have accepted your deferral request. Fellowship deferral often times does not defer the summer months.

Q: How will I receive my University fellowship checks?

A: EFT (electronic funds transfer) is available if you're registered and available to withdrawn students only if their fellowship is awarded for travel. If you will be withdrawn, it is important that you cancel your registration using TeleBears before the start of the semester in which you begin your travel status. If your last effective EFT was not set up for fellowship stipend, you must complete a new EFT application available on-line. The alternative is Billing and Payment Services will hold your check for pick-up.

Q: Do I lose my health insurance if I'm not registered?

A: Yes, since your health insurance is paid for from your registration fees. However, you may buy health insurance from the university as a withdrawn student with a memo from the department. Students can only purchase up to 1 semester of insurance while on withdrawn status (including when on filing fee status). Since the cost of purchasing health insurance as a withdrawn student is only slightly less than the cost of being on in absentia status, students who are eligible for in absentia should consider applying for in absentia instead of withdrawing.

More information can be obtained at http://www.uhs.berkeley.edu/students/insurance/.

Fall semester coverage is from August 15-January 14. Spring semester is from January 14-August 14.

Q: Do I lose my residency status if I leave the state?

A: You will automatically be reclassified as out-of-state by the residency office when you withdraw. When you apply for readmission, you will also fill out a form for residency. Retain a copy of your fellowship award letter and a copy of your visa, if applicable, in the event that the Residency Office asks for documentation to support your need to be away from the state for educational purposes.

While you are away, you can help maintain your residency status by keeping your local bank account open, using a California address as your permanent address on UC records, filing a CA income tax form, keeping your CA drivers license and car registration current, making sure to obtain an absentee ballot and voting while you are away. To get an absentee ballot, call the Registrar of Voters.

Q: How do I get my W-2 form so I can pay my taxes while I'm away?

You are advised to sign-up to receive your W-2 statement electronically at http://controller.berkeley.edu/payroll/Taxes/ElectronicW2signup.htm.  Please do so no later than early December. 

All employees, both current and former, who did not elect electronic W-2 delivery will be able to print a duplicate W-2 after February 15 by logging on to At Your Service (http://atyoursevice.ucop.edu).

You should think about how you will get any other necessary tax records before you go, and notify your financial institutions and employers where to send tax-related documents. Taxes are still due April 15 even if you're away. Estimated tax payments are also due as usual. Embassies and USIS have tax forms overseas.

Fulbright grantees who are out of the US for 330 out of 365 days may be exempt from US taxes. Get the IRS form Scholarships and Fellowships.

Please contact the Campus Payroll Office at payhelp@berkeley.edu if you have any questions.

Q: What about my mail received in the department?

A: If you receive journals or newsletters on a regular basis, please give them your new forwarding address or else delete yourself from their mailing list until you return. Please do not forward your personal mail to the History department.

Q: Do I lose my e-mail account if I'm not enrolled? Can I use it while away?

A: User and Account Services will notify you by email when your account is about to expire.

If you are leaving the Bay Area and want to use your e-mail account you should use the CalMail web interface at: http://calmail.berkeley.edu. Calmail accounts will remain for nine months after a student's name is no longer in registration records. You can receive an extension of your email account for 2 years while on withdrawn status for educational purposes. Mabel can extend your account if you notify her within 10 days of when you "cancel" your registration on Telebears. You can set your UCB account to forward all incoming e-mail to a second account, i.e. gmail. (Choose "mail forwarding" from The Post Office menu.)

Q: Should I get a letter of introduction to use the archives I'm going to visit?

A: An excellent idea. Fill out a form on line at:http://history.berkeley.edu/graduate/students/letter.html. The graduate assistant will prepare a letter saying you are a graduate student at the department, describing your dissertation topic, and asking that you be granted access to the archives. It takes 5 working days for the letter to be available.

Some archives are restricted. For example, to use the archives at the German Foreign Ministry, you must have a letter of introduction from the American Embassy. Be sure to contact the archives you plan to visit well in advance of your trip to introduce yourself, describe your project, and ask questions about their collections and usage policies. Some US archives even offer small travel grants.

Q: I have 500 library books checked out. Should I return them?

A: If you are withdrawing, you need to return your books to the library or be prepared to pay fines. To return books by mail, send to Circulation Dept., Doe Library, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-6000.

If you wish to purchase a library card while on withdrawn status, get a letter from the graduate assistant and pay Doe $25 for a library card valid for 6 months. This will allow you access to on-line resources.

Q: I'm going abroad. Anything else I should know?

A: Passports and visas: Make sure that your passport will not expire before the end of your trip, or get a new one before you go (this can take 4-6 weeks, or ten days if you pay for rush service). Check visa requirements for your country. Many countries that do not require a visa for tourists do require a visa for stays longer than three months. To get a student visa, you may need a letter from the department, and may have to pay a fee. Call the consulate for your country for more information. Do this as early as possible; obtaining a student visa for France, for example, can take several months! Once in-country, you may be required to register with the local authorities and even get a medical exam. It's a good idea to let the US Embassy know your local address and travel plans in case of emergency.

Foreign Students: Those with F1 or J1 visas withdrawing from the university must notify the foreign student advisers at Berkeley International Office (BIO). Contact BIO for a visa before your return. E-mail: internationaloffice@berkeley.edu

Computers: You may wish to get an insurance policy that covers your computer in case of theft. Also check whether you have a power source that will be compatible with the electric current in your country, and if not, what kind of converter you need. (This applies to printers too.) Power surges are fairly common in some countries, so pick up a surge suppressor once you are abroad. American ones are made for 110 current and don't work with 220 or 240 current. Small lightweight single units are available that can handle a laptop computer. Computer locks can bring peace of mind on archive lunch breaks. Backups are essential to protect your hard-earned data. Make copies often, keep some separately from your computer, and you might take extra blank discs with you to mail home periodically from the road. Winzip is one of the programs that will easily compress your data so it fits on one disk. For extra security, e-mail your most important zipped files to a friend or two and ask them to store them until you get home. There are also storage sites on the internet where you can upload your files. That way, if your computer and all your disks go missing, you still have copies of your work. Stranger things have happened.

Money: How you access your US account while overseas depends on the services available in your country. With the American Express card, you may go to any AmEx office, write a personal check drawn on your US bank, and they will cash it for you in local currency. Many ATM cards are accepted at machines abroad, sometimes with a surcharge, but at a good exchange rate; ask your bank. Credit Unions don't charge an ATM fee. You can also send a large check to your credit card company ahead of time, and use the card to draw against that balance.

Finally, even though the rate isn't very good, get $50-100 in local currency from a US bank before you leave. It will smooth your entry with airport fees, taxis, and a few meals while you get oriented. (This is especially important if you'll arrive on a weekend.)

Housing: Most students find housing through word of mouth, so start asking around. In addition, you might inquire at local universities, check newsletters that serve the academic community, and try the internet. There are web sites that carry free classifieds for housing in some countries.

Vaccinations: Get any required vaccinations, and keep a record with you. Some must be given weeks before travel. Be sure to factor immunizations into your travel budget. Shots and preventive medicines for some parts of the world can run into the hundreds of dollars, and are not covered by SHIP.

Phone: There are numerous ways that you can call the US for reasonable rates or in some cases for free. Usually calling via Skype, Google Voice, or similar chat programs will be the cheapest method but of course requires a computer and reliable internet connection. You may also want to investigate calling cards, either from US companies like AT&T or from local companies overseas. Having a mobile phone overseas can be very helpful as well. Usually you'll need to buy a pre-paid or pay-as-you phone or SIM card overseas. Your US mobile phone may be able to work overseas if it is "unlocked" to accept a SIM card from a foreign provider. Call your US carrier and inquire about unlocking, do an internet search, or purchase a cheap "unlocked" handset overseas. Usually an mobile provider overseas will be much less expensive than paying international roaming charges on your US phone plan. Having an overseas mobile number makes it easier for people to contact you as well.

Student ID: Your UC ID won't help at most places, but you can get an International Student Identity Card from STA Travel or Council Travel that gets you discounts on travel, museums, and the like and includes a small amount of traveler's medical insurance.

Q: How do I resume my enrolled status when I return?

The application for readmission is available on the Registrar's website (http://registrar.berkeley.edu/elecforms/ReadmGrad.pdf)

Send the completed form to the graduate assistant for Department signature along with the check made payable to UC Regents. Forms for fall readmission should be submitted by early July; early November for spring readmission.

If you're not sure whether you'll be ready to enroll again, wait until you're sure, so you don't lose the $70 processing fee. Late re-admission applications signed by the department may be accepted.

Q: What about applying for fellowships or GSI positions for when I return?

A: Contact the graduate assistant for a GSI/Readership application or for department write-up fellowship application (applies only if you plan on completing your dissertation in the upcoming academic year). Forms are available in November and likely due February 1. Contact the Graduate Fellowships Office in 318 Sproul for University Fellowships (FLAS, Graduate Division Summer Research Grant, etc.)

For extramural fellowships, collect the information before your trip. (Watch those deadlines!) Pick up any necessary transcripts before you go too.

If you receive a GSI appointment for the fall term, make sure to complete employment forms by early August to ensure that the fee remission is applied to your CARS statement and your first paycheck arrives on time.

Q: What about financial aid when I return?

A: The financial aid deadline is March 2 for the following fall. You can complete a FAFSA on line athttp://www.fafsa.ed.gov

Contact Information You May Want to Keep On Hand

Q: Does the university have travel insurance I can use?

A: Yes.  For registered students traveling on official business (such as research and confrence travel) the university offers free travel insurance.  See http://riskservices.berkeley.edu/student/travel for details and to sign up.