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Do universities offer relocation assistance to a newly employed postdoc who comes from another country? Is it appropriate for the postdoc to ask for relocation assistance if it is not already offered?

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You can ask; in my experience (UK), the answer will be no. – David Richerby Apr 21 '14 at 22:17
Are you talking about something financial (which I have not heard of yet), or about help with finding a place to stay and university-internal offers of temporary locations for the newly-arrived before they have found a permanent place to rent (which is pretty much standard in some places)? – O. R. Mapper Apr 22 '14 at 8:30
@O.R.Mapper, I think your comment can be written as an answer. – adipro Apr 23 '14 at 20:54
@adipro: I'd be wary of that, as on the one hand, I'm asking for clarification of the question, and on the other hand, I cannot provide any more than anecdotal evidence from the few places that I have contact to. – O. R. Mapper Apr 24 '14 at 6:46
up vote 17 down vote accepted

It varies. In my experience some of the more prestigious postdoctoral fellowships sponsored by universities might have some amount of moving expenses built into the budget, and more typical postdoc positions funded out of grants probably won't. But it might be possible to get a professor to help you out, perhaps out of startup or some other funds that aren't earmarked for a particular purpose. You should try to negotiate it with the person who offers you the job before you accept the offer.

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I think this is right, but be careful in negotiating and offer. Make sure the amount of assistance you are asking for is reasonable. – shane Apr 21 '14 at 15:05
You highlighted the word before; does that mean that it is too late to ask after one accepts the offer? For example, how if, after one moves to the country, temporary accommodation turns out to be much more expensive than first estimated? – adipro Apr 21 '14 at 15:14
@adipro: You could certainly ask, but after you have accepted the offer you have no leverage. They have no real incentive to give it to you, other than just to be nice. – Nate Eldredge Apr 21 '14 at 15:47
On two occasions my PI started my pay a week or two before I actually arrived to start work, but that was as good as it got. – dmckee Apr 21 '14 at 23:50

In disciplines that I'm familiar with, postdoc money comes from a grant obtained by a PI. So the university has little-to-no role in the hiring and compensation process. I imagine the postdoc would have to discuss this issue with the PI.

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In the early 90's, when I did a postdoc for a U.S. National Laboratory, full relocation expenses were included, which involved moving my household clear across the country, and staying in a hotel for a bit at the other end while I looked for a new home. I doubt such generous deals are readily available today.

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In the Netherlands, relocation reimbursement for post-docs, both a lump sum and a refund for transporting your possessions, is customary in many scenarios. I have no experience elsewhere, (un?)fortunately.

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Some Australian universities offer very generous relocation packages as a matter of institutional policy. Most other places do not seem to offer it, but it is definitely okay to ask.

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