Stipends & Relocation

The NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP) Fellowship appointment provides a stipend (paid monthly); limited reimbursement for relocation expenses, if applicable; limited reimbursement for professional conferences, meetings, and programmatic travel (see Travel During Appointment); and partial payment for health insurance, if the Fellow selects the ORAU insurance option (see Health and Accident Insurance).

Stipends

The Fellow’s stipend amount is indicated in the ORAU offer letter. The stipend amount for Postdoctoral Fellows is determined by NASA and is based on the location of the appointment. Stipends for Postdoctoral Fellows are typically increased by $1,500 if the appointment is renewed. The stipend amount for a Senior Fellow is based on academic achievement, defined by academic rank; experience, defined by the number of years past Ph.D. (five or more); and is adjusted for location, based on the OPM locality table. Stipends for Senior Fellows increase by 3% each year after the first year if the appointment is renewed.

Before any stipend payments can be made, the Fellow must provide ORAU with a United States Social Security number (SSN) or a Tax Identification Number (TIN). Fellows who do not have a U.S. SSN or TIN must apply for one in the United States at a local office of the Social Security Administration.

If the Fellow’s appointment begins after the first day of the month or terminates before the final day of the month, the stipend for that month will be prorated based on the number of days of participation in that month.

Fellows can decide whether to have the stipend payments deposited electronically to a bank account or mailed to a home or other address. Direct deposit to a bank account is recommended to avoid delays.

ORAU will provide the Fellow’s final stipend payment after the final report has been submitted (see Required Reporting by Fellows on the Policies and Procedures page) and a request for reimbursement of any outstanding travel expenses.

The Fellow may request an advance of up to 50% of the first month’s stipend. ORAU must receive a written request for the advance at least 30 days prior to the starting date. A check for the advance stipend payment will be given to the Fellow by the NPP Center representative on the day the appointment officially begins and the Fellow is in residence at the facility. A stipend advance is an interest-free loan of a portion of the monthly stipend payment. To recover the amount of the stipend advance payment, ORAU will reduce the stipend payment by a fixed amount each month for the number of months specified by the Fellow (up to 10 months) beginning with the second month of the appointment. If the Fellow chooses to terminate the appointment before the stipend advance has been repaid, the Fellow must repay the stipend advance in full before the final stipend check will be released.

This section is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal or tax advice, or a definitive interpretation of the law.

Fellows in the NASA Postdoctoral Program, administered by ORAU, receive award payments from ORAU. Awards paid to Fellows will be reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by ORAU as “Miscellaneous Income-Prizes and Awards,” as defined in IRS Code Section 74. To be consistent with ORAU reporting, all payments by ORAU should be reported on the Federal income tax return, Form 1040, as “Other Income” and be identified as a “Fellowship Award.”

U.S. Citizens

Since NPP Fellows are not employees, and since Fellows receive awards (not wages), ORAU does not withhold state or federal taxes, social security, worker's compensation, or Medicare taxes from award payments for U.S. citizens. Travel expense reimbursements for Fellows are not reported to the IRS by ORAU. The NASA portion of the premium for health insurance obtained through ORAU is part of the Fellowship award and, therefore, is taxable. Effective 2018, relocation expense reimbursements are also taxable. Prior to 2018, relocation expense reimbursements were not taxable.

All U.S. citizen Fellows should consider consulting a tax professional and filing Form 1040-ES on a quarterly basis to pay estimated federal income taxes, in order to avoid late payment penalties.

Non-U.S. Citizens

ORAU may be required to withhold federal taxes from the stipends of non-U.S. citizen Fellows, who have non-immigrant Visa status, and report this deduction to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) annually. The amount withheld is determined by the treaty between the country of citizenship and the United States, stipend level, Visa status, and other factors. Travel expense reimbursements for Fellows are not reported to the IRS by ORAU. The NASA portion of the premium for health insurance obtained through ORAU, however, is part of the Fellowship award and is taxable. Effective 2018, relocation expense reimbursements are also taxable. Prior to 2018, relocation expense reimbursements were not taxable.

All non-U.S. citizen Fellows should consider filing Form 1040-ES on a quarterly basis to pay estimated Federal income taxes in order to avoid late payment penalties.

Relocation

When allowed by federal regulations and NPP guidelines, a limited allowance will be provided for the reimbursement of expenses associated with relocating to the appointment location. ORAU NPP staff will provide the Fellow with information regarding the policy and guidelines for the reimbursement of allowable expenses for inbound travel from the current address to the appointment location. Any reimbursement is contingent upon the Fellow’s acceptance of the NPP offer and approval by ORAU. Relocation expenses can only be reimbursed after the Fellow has officially started the appointment. Effective 2018, relocation expense reimbursements are considered taxable income by the IRS. Prior to 2018, relocation expense reimbursements were not taxable.

U.S. Citizens

For Fellows who are U.S. citizens and reside more than 50 miles from the assigned NASA facility, limited reimbursement of expenses for relocating from the Fellow’s current residence address to the area of the assigned NASA facility will be provided, when allowed by the federal travel regulations and ORAU/NPP travel guidelines, as applicable. The relocation allowance may include only the following:

  • Movement of household goods and personal belongings by a commercial moving company or U-Haul; if applicable, movement of one personal vehicle by a commercial moving company, unless it is less expensive for movement of a second personal vehicle by a commercial moving company than it is to pay the current mileage rate for travel by personal vehicle for the most expeditious and direct route as verified by Rand McNally, MapQuest, Apple Maps, Google, etc.;
  • The least expensive airfare for the Fellow and immediate family (spouse and legal dependents), if applicable; or the current mileage rate for travel by personal vehicle for the most expeditious and direct route as verified by Rand McNally, Apple Maps, MapQuest, Google, etc.;
  • Up to 12 nights of temporary lodging, either en route or at the relocation destination, while locating permanent housing;
  • Up to 12.5 days of per diem for meals and incidentals (reduced rates for family members);
  • Up to 7 days for a rental car at the relocation destination, if required and pre- approved by ORAU; no optional insurance coverage such as Loss Damage Waiver (LDW), Personal Accident Insurance (PAI), Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), Safe Move on U-Hauls, etc., will be reimbursed;
  • Ground transportation to/from the airport(s), if needed.

Expenses for ‘house hunting’ prior to the inbound move are not included in the relocation allowance. If a Fellow chooses to make a house hunting trip, however, a reimbursement may be requested from the relocation allowance, if approved in advance by ORAU. The total number of days used for lodging, per diem, and rental car for ‘house hunting’ and inbound move combined may not exceed the maximum numbers of days referenced above.

ORAU staff will provide additional information regarding commercial moves and allowable expenses for relocation. ORAU must provide pre-approval for the use of a rental car at the relocation destination. Fellows should contact ORAU before any relocation plans are made to ensure that proposed travel expenses meet all the guidelines and are reimbursable.

Non-U.S. Citizens Residing Outside the U.S.

For Fellows residing outside the United States, Canada or Mexico, limited reimbursement of expenses for relocating from the Fellow’s current residence address to the area of the assigned NASA facility will be provided, when allowed by the federal travel regulations and ORAU/NPP travel guidelines, as applicable. The relocation allowance includes only the following:

  • The least expensive airfare for the Fellow and immediate family (spouse and legal dependents), if applicable, for the most direct route on a U.S. flagship carrier (required by the federal Fly America Act);
  • Ground transportation to/from the airport(s), if required;
  • Shipment of up to 200 pounds of unaccompanied baggage per adult and up to 100 pounds of unaccompanied baggage per child (unaccompanied baggage is in addition to the suitcases/baggage associated with the Fellow’s airfare and includes small personal items such as clothing, linens, dishes, cooking utensils, books, toys, etc., that are packed in boxes or crates and shipped by air or sea freight.);
  • Up to 12 nights of temporary lodging while locating permanent housing;
  • Up to 12.5 days of per diem (includes travel time to the U.S.; reduced rates for family members);
  • Up to 14 days for a rental car at the relocation destination, if required and pre-approved by ORAU; no optional insurance coverage, such as loss damage waiver (LDW), Personal Accident Insurance (PAI), Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), Safe Move on U-Hauls, etc., will be reimbursed, unless it is required by the rental car agency (the coverage is not ‘optional’ and cannot be ‘declined’). If the rental agency requires the insurance as a requirement to rent a car to a non-U.S. citizen Fellow, the Fellow must provide ORAU with the appropriate documentation from the rental car agency in order to receive reimbursement for the cost of the insurance.

There will be no reimbursement for costs incurred for the shipment of household goods (furniture, appliances, automobiles, etc.) from a foreign country to the United States.

ORAU staff will provide additional information regarding allowable expenses for inbound relocation and preapproval for the use of a rental car at the relocation destination. Fellows should contact ORAU before any relocation plans are made to ensure that proposed travel expenses meet all the guidelines and are reimbursable.

Non-U.S. Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents Residing in the U.S., Canada, or Mexico

If a non-U.S. citizen Fellow or lawful permanent resident Fellow resides in the United States, Canada, or Mexico at the time the ORAU offer is made and has a residence address that is more than 50 miles from the assigned NASA facility, limited reimbursement of expenses for relocating from the Fellow’s current residence address to the area of the NASA facility will be provided, when allowed by the federal travel regulations and ORAU/NPP travel guidelines.

The relocation allowance may only include only the following:

  • Movement of household goods and personal belongings by a commercial moving company or U-Haul; if applicable, movement of one personal vehicle by a commercial moving company, unless it is less expensive for movement of a second personal vehicle by a commercial moving company than it is to pay the current mileage rate for travel by personal vehicle for the most expeditious and direct route as verified by Rand McNally, MapQuest, Apple Maps, Google, etc.;
  • The least expensive airfare for the Fellow and immediate family (spouse and legal dependents), if applicable; or the current mileage rate for travel by personal vehicle for the most expeditious and direct route as verified by Rand McNally, MapQuest, Apple Maps, Google, etc.;
  • Up to 12 nights of temporary lodging, either en route or at the relocation destination, while locating permanent housing;
  • Up to 12.5 days of per diem (reduced rates for family members);
  • Residents of the United States only: Up to 7 days for a rental car at the relocation destination, if required and pre-approved by ORAU; no optional insurance coverage such as Loss Damage Waiver (LDW), Personal Accident Insurance (PAI), Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), Safe Move on U-Hauls, etc., will be reimbursed;
  • Residents of Canada and Mexico only: Up to 14 days for a rental car at the relocation destination, if required and pre-approved by ORAU; no optional insurance coverage such as Loss Damage Waiver (LDW), Personal Accident Insurance (PAI), Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), Safe Move on U-Hauls, etc., will be reimbursed;
  • Ground transportation to/from the airport(s), if needed.

Travel for ‘house hunting’ prior to the inbound move must be approved by ORAU. Expenses incurred are considered part of the relocation allowance. The total number of days used for lodging, per diem, and rental car for ‘house hunting’ and inbound move combined may not exceed the maximum numbers of days referenced above. ORAU staff will provide additional information regarding commercial moves and allowable expenses for relocation and provide pre-approval for the use of a rental car at the relocation destination. Fellows should contact ORAU before any relocation plans are made.

U.S. Citizens

There is no relocation allowance for U.S. citizens at the end of their tenure. However, Senior Fellows on sabbatical may qualify for limited reimbursement, to be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Non-U.S. Citizen Fellows Who Relocated from a Foreign Country

Non-U.S. citizen Fellows who relocated from outside the United States will be provided a limited allowance for outbound relocation expenses to return to their home city and country when their appointments terminate. The allowance for outbound relocation will be the balance of funds that remains after the inbound relocation expenses have been deducted. The outbound relocation allowance includes the following:

  • The least expensive airfare for the Fellow and immediate family (spouse and legal dependents) on a U.S. flagship carrier (required by the federal Fly America Act) for the most direct route;
  • Ground transportation to/from the airport(s), if required.
  • Shipment of up to 200 pounds of unaccompanied baggage per adult and up to 100 pounds of unaccompanied baggage per child (unaccompanied baggage is in addition to the suitcases/baggage associated with the Fellow’s airfare and includes small items such as clothing, linens, dishes, cooking utensils, books, toys, etc., that are packed in boxes or crates and shipped by air or sea freight);
  • Per diem for the travel days (reduced rate for family members).

There will be no reimbursement for costs incurred for the shipment of household goods (furniture, appliances, automobiles, etc.) from the United States to a foreign country. The Fellow will have up to 30 days to complete the outbound move. The travel expense report and original receipts should be submitted to ORAU within five (5) days of the arrival in the home country.

Non-U.S. Citizen Fellows or Lawful Permanent Residents Who Resided Within the United States

Non-U.S. citizen Fellows who were already residing in the United States when the ORAU offer was made and accepted will not be reimbursed for outbound moving expenses to another destination in the United States or to their home countries upon completion of their NPP appointments.