Appointing a Postdoctoral Fellow

Faculty Supervisors are responsible for ensuring that all steps are followed including the Letter of Invitation/Appointment and the Registration Form.

1. Determine the Definition for this PDF

Is this individual an External PDF or a Grant PDF?

This can be determined through the source of their funding. If their primary source of funding is an external source then they are an External PDF. If they are being funded through a Faculty members’ grant, then they are a Grant PDF

2. Create a Letter of Appointment or Invitation

All PDFs require a letter regardless of their funding arrangement. 

External PDFs receive a Letter of Invitation and Grant PDFs receive a Letter of Appointment. The letter outlines the PDFs relationship to the University, and what benefits they may or may not receive. The faculty supervisor must write a Letter of Appointment or a Letter of Invitation to the PDF.

According to Policy R50.03:

  • One faculty member must be designated as the Faculty Supervisor. Simon Fraser University requires that an Appointment/Invitation Letter be sent by the prospective Faculty Supervisor to the prospective Grant PDF or External PDF; the letter must include:

a. position title

b. starting date and term of appointment

c. remuneration (if not already specified by an external agency)

d. statutory and additional employment benefits (for Grant PDFs)

e. extent (if any) to which moving expenses will be reimbursed

f. nature of the research to be undertaken

g. any special conditions that may apply

Please note: often the Letter of Invitation for an External PDF is missed, because there is a belief that the PDF has established an agreement with a funding agency, which is enough. This is incorrect. The PDF has established a funding relationship with the agency, yet the Faculty Supervisor must still establish a supervisory relationship (non-employment relationship) with the PDF. The Letter of Invitation should include the sentence “This is not an employment relationship” when the External PDF is funded entirely from an external source. 

3. Set-up SFU ID and email 

In order to ensure that PDFs have access to university services and facilities as soon as they arrive, it is important to complete a PDF registration form before their state date. The form must then be submitted to the office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (email at along with a copy of the Letter of Appointment or Invitation.  

Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies can generate SFU ID numbers even before PDFs are set up for payroll, which then allows PDFs to set up an SFU email account right away and avoid potential waiting times. Financial Services will use the same number our office generates when they set up the PDF on payroll.

This applies to both domestic and foreign national PDFs as SINs are not required on the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies registration form.

This registration will also allow the PDF to access library and gym privileges and be notified of upcoming professional development opportunities. 

4. Set-up Payment 

The next step is to ensure the PDF will be paid. There are three possible processes to follow at this stage, depending upon the PDFs funding arrangement:

a. Department Managers [DM] will use a Payroll Appointment Form (PAF), as with any new employee, for all Grant PDFs (found here on payroll’s website: )

b. Some External PDFs will have their funding sent to them directly from the external funding agency. In this case SFU is bypassed altogether and there is no need to process this PDF through the payroll office.

c. Some External PDFs will have their external funding administered by SFU, if the funding agency chooses to have SFU administer the funds on their behalf.

Processing a Notification of Award

If a funding agency would like SFU to administer a PDF’s fellowship on their behalf, then the official Notification of Award (NOA) should be sent to Research Accounting at the following address:

Leeann Liew, Manager, Research Accounting   ( )
Room 210, Discovery 2
Simon Fraser University
8888 University Drive
Burnaby, BC
V5A 1S6

A postdoctoral NOA will be processed by Vivian Poon in Research Accounting ( Research accounting must receive original signed documentation, so please use inter-campus mail (do not send signed documents electronically).

 Once a NOA is received, Vivian will need:

 1.     A copy of the application the PDF submitted to the external agency.

 2.     A complete and fully signed Non-Research Funding Application Signature Sheet (FASS), found here:

Please provide the following detail on the form:

  • The PDFs name and the faculty supervisor’s name should both be recorded on the form.
  • Under award type please write: “postdoctoral fellowship”.
  • In the budget section, if the fellowship is solely for salary, you can add the total annual amount in the “personnel salary costs”. If the award includes a research allowance that allowance can be recorded as “other direct costs”. No other line items need to be filled out.
  • The series of 11 checkboxes are not applicable to your fellowship (check “no”).
  • In the Special Requirements box you may want to write “Postdoctoral Fellowship”.
  • Four signatures are required on the form. Please write the name, the position of the individual, and then a signature. Four signatures are required (PDF, Supervisor, Departmental Chair, Dean of Faculty). There is no need for a signature from Legal Affairs. Research accounting will sign as “Financial Services” once they have your form.  As an example of the four necessary signatures:

Principal:  xxxx, PDF, (sign); xxxx, Faculty Supervisor, (sign)

Chair/Director: xxxx, Chair,  (sign)

Faculty Dean:  xxxxx, Dean,  (sign)

3.      Once research accounting has received the NOA, the cheque from the agency, and the completed and fully signed FASS (Non-Research Funding Application Signature Sheet), the account will be set up. Both the Faculty Supervisor and the Departmental Manager will receive a memo from research accounting regarding the new account.

4.     Usually the Departmental Manager or Department Assistant will fill out the Payroll Appointment Form (PAF). A copy of the External PDFs Letter of Invitation should be attached to the PAF and sent to research accounting. In the “Notes” (or comments section) of the PAF, the DM should write “This is not an employment relationship”, if this text is contained within the Letter of Invitation. For most External PDFs, the phrase “This is not an employment relationship” will be contained within the letter. This step is very important as it alerts the payroll team that this stipend should not be deducted CPP/EI, which an External PDF is not eligible for. Research accounting will forward the PAF to the payroll office.

Also, in order to ensure the PDF is covered by Workers Compensation Board, please ensure to check the box indicating Employment Income and NOT Scholarship Income.

  • Email, in the Office of Graduate Studies & Postdoctoral Fellows for any questions regarding these procedures or questions related to PDFs in general.
  • Contact Leeann, Manager, Research Accounting, for any inquires related to the set up of the external fellowship funds.
  • Contact Rose , Payroll Manager, with any questions in filling out the PAF or other PDF payroll inquiries.

*Sometimes a PDF will receive a combination of grant funding and external funding. In these cases the DM would create two separate FPP4 for payroll. The PDFs Letter of Invitation should be attached to the FPP4 when it is sent to the payroll office.

To summarize:

  • External PDFs may receive a cheque sent directly to them from the external granting agency (bypassing SFU administration altogether), or their fellowship may be sent to SFU to be administered as a bi-weekly stipend through the payroll office.
  • Grant PDFs will always receive their bi-weekly salary through the payroll office (as any other employee would).

5. Extending a Postdoctoral Fellowship

A new appointment (renewal) or any extension of the original dates needs to be communicated to Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. Please resubmit the PDF Registration Form alongside a revised Letter of Invitation (External PDFs) or Letter of Appointment (Grant PDFs) to ensure the Postdoc remains registered while at SFU. You must also notify Financial Services regarding payroll.