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NIH Visiting Program Scientists

Visiting Program Scientists

About NIH Visiting Program

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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Visiting Program provides opportunities for foreign scientists to train and conduct collaborative research at the NIH, the principal agency of the U.S. ​Government responsible for conducting and supporting biomedical research. Annually, more than 2,000 scientists from other nations conduct research in the basic and clinical science laboratories on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland, and in several field units around the country.

The NIH is composed of 27 different Institutes and Centers. Working within and through these organizations, scientists investigate many aspects of basic biomedical sciences as well as specific diseases. These range from heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes to influenza, tooth decay, arthritis, AIDS and other disorders that affect millions of people.

The knowledge, experience, and facilities at the NIH make it a unique international resource in the effort to understand, prevent, and cure disease. The NIH has long considered close interaction with foreign scientists in the conduct of collaborative research to be an essential ingredient in achieving its objectives.


The Visiting Program is open to foreign national scientists, typically those at the early stages of their careers. Foreign national scientists are not U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents. They are invited to conduct research and/or training at NIH on a temporary basis. NIH Intramural Research Program (IRP) designations are divided into two categories: Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) and Non-FTE. Each participant works closely with a senior NIH investigator who serves as supervisor or sponsor during the period of award or appointment. The Visiting Program is limited to the NIH IRP. NIH extramural programs are not authorized to use IRP designations. 

Types of Awards

Visiting Fellow           

The Visiting Fellow award provides foreign national scientists with opportunities for developmental training and practical research experience in a variety of disciplines related to biomedical research, medical library research and related fields. There are two types of Visiting Fellows:          

  • Postdoctoral Visiting Fellows – Candidates must have a doctoral degree or equivalent in the biomedical sciences and five years or fewer of relevant postdoctoral research experience at the start of the fellowship period.
  • Pre-doctoral Visiting Fellows – Candidates enrolled in a doctoral degree program for whom the research experience is undertaken as an integral part towards completion of degree requirements.

A full description of the Visiting Fellow program, including eligibility requirements, can be found at the NIH policy manual for the Intramural Visiting Fellow Program (VFP). Current Fellowship opportunities are available under the “How to Apply” tab.          

Visiting Fellows receive a monthly stipend during the award period to cover living expenses. The stipend level is determined by the number of years of relevant postdoctoral research experience. Visiting Fellows are not considered employees of the NIH. U.S. citizens are not eligible for the Visiting Fellow award.*          

Visiting Fellow awards generally are made for two years, although a minimum one-year award is an option. Fellowships are renewable in one or two-year increments up to five years. Renewals are based on merit and are subject to approval by the hosting Institute/Center. All renewals are contingent upon applicable U.S. immigration rules and regulations.​​       

* U.S. citizens and permanent residents (“green card” holders) should apply for an Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) or, if with the National Cancer Institute (NCI), for a Cancer Research Training Award (CRTA).       

Visiting Scientist           

Visiting Scientists are foreign national scientists appointed to Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) positions to conduct biomedical research. They are considered NIH employees, receive a salary and, depending on the length of appointment, receive most of the benefits available to employees of the U.S. Government. They are appointed via a special hiring authority referred to as “Title 42.”          

Dependent upon the amount of relevant postdoctoral research experience, the NIH Institute/Center will appoint the foreign national scientist to a particular FTE designation such as:           

  • Research Fellow (VP)
  • Clinical Fellow (VP)
  • Staff Scientist (VP)
  • Staff Clinician (VP)
  • Investigator (VP)
  • Senior Investigator (VP)

Current FTE opportunities are available under the “How to Apply” tab. Visiting Scientist appointments generally are made for up to two years, but may be made for a shorter period. Renewals are based on merit and are subject to approval by the employing Institute/Center. All renewals are contingent upon applicable U.S. immigration rules and regulations.​



Visiting Program participants must possess a valid United States non-immigrant, work authorized immigration status that permits training or employment. Most foreign nationals in the Visiting Program are found under one of the following non-immigrant visa classifications:        

  • J-1 Exchange Visitor (Research Scholar)
  • F-1 (Student - for post-completion practical training after award of doctoral degree)
  • H-1B (Temporary worker in a specialty occupation)
  • O-1 (Extraordinary ability in the sciences)

Under the NIH's J-1 Exchange Visitor Program, any clinical responsibilities are limited to incidental patient contact, and credit for medical specialty board certification is not available. To have full patient contact and/or obtain board certification, foreign national physician-scientists at NIH must conduct their training under as a J-1 Alien Physician sponsored by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) in those programs at NIH that meet graduate medical education or training accreditation standards.       

English Proficiency        

All Visiting Program participants must be proficient in the use and understanding of spoken and written English. This is necessary for the participant to successfully carry out the proposed research program and engage in day-to-day activities in the United States. Additionally, all Visiting Program participants must comply with the NIH Office of Intramural Research (OIR)’s policy on the Use of English for Official Scientific Communication in NIH Laboratories and Branches.       

Certain immigration regulations specifically require that the participant must be evaluated for English ability by an objective measurement of English language proficiency. This must be done by the hosting NIH Institute/Center (IC) before the participant can be offered immigration sponsorship by the NIH. In addition, the hosting IC must retain documentation of the measurement of English language proficiency and provide it upon request to the Division of International Services (DIS), Office of Research Services.   

To document English proficiency, the IC must retain documentation of one of the following:   


  • Signed documentation from an academic institution or English language school
    • For example: The participant provides a copy of his/her diploma and/or a signed, dated academic transcript if she/he obtained a degree from an educational institution in the United States or where instruction is all in English.
    • For example: The participant provides a signed letter from his/her school that s/he possess English proficiency to be successful during his/her stay in the United States


  • A documented interview conducted via in-person, videoconferencing, or telephone (if videoconferencing is not available)


All Visiting Program participants must pay U.S. income taxes, unless they are determined to be exempt under an income tax treaty between the United States and their country of tax residence. Although the tax assessment differs according to stipend/salary level (higher levels are taxed at higher rates), Visiting Program participants can expect to pay at least 20 percent of their stipend/salary in federal income tax. (Those determined exempt due to a tax treaty may have to pay taxes to their home country, depending on the country/treaty). Visiting Program participants, including many exempt from federal taxes, must pay state income taxes, depending on their state of residence. Additional taxes may apply for those receiving Visiting Scientists/Full-Time Equivalent appointments.        

Additional details concerning taxes and income tax treaties are available here.       

Before leaving the United States, all foreign nationals must fulfill their tax obligations. After returning to their home country, they must file a final U.S. tax return by April 15 of the year following the year they received a stipend/salary in the United States.       

Vacation & Sick Leave        

Visiting Fellows may be granted excused absence at the discretion of their sponsors.       

In addition to federal holidays, Visiting Scientists/Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) appointments may request annual (personal/vacation) leave or sick leave. Guidance on leave for FTE appointments can be found on the NIH Office of Human Resources (OHR) website.       

Health Insurance        

All Visiting Program participants must have health insurance for sickness and accidents. J-1 Exchange Visitors (and accompanying J-2 dependents) are required by immigration regulations to be covered by health insurance, including medical evacuation and repatriation of remains. These regulations can be found on the U.S. Department of State website.       

The NIH pays the basic premium for health insurance coverage for Visiting Fellows and dependents (spouse and/or unmarried children typically under age 21) with the Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences (FAES). Information about the FAES insurance is available here.       

Visiting Scientists/Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) appointments have the option to enroll in the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program that can also cover dependents (spouse and/or unmarried children typically under age 21) if the initial appointment is greater than 12 months. Details about FEHB and other government benefits can be found on the NIH Office of Human Resources (OHR) website. Those on an initial appointment of 12 months or less are responsible for making their own health insurance arrangements and paying the full cost involved.       

Compensation for Injury        

Visiting Program participants may use the Occupational Medical Service (OMS), ORS, OD, for injuries sustained and emergency care on the training assignment. Workers’ compensation and benefits under the Federal Employees Compensation Act may be available in the event of a work-related injury.       

Outside Work        

Immigration rules and regulations generally do not permit outside work, employment or income. Visiting Program participants may only work at the NIH as approved under his/her immigration status. NIH-sponsorship typically requires participants to work full-time at NIH facilities.       

All foreign national scientists—including those not sponsored by the NIH—must also abide by all applicable rules and regulations concerning conduct at the NIH. Therefore, Visiting Program participants may not accept outside employment or any compensation that results in a conflict of interest or even the appearance of such a conflict. Additional information is available under the NIH Ethics Program. For Visiting Fellows and other trainees, review the guidelines on outside and NIH-related activities.       

How to Apply

Foreign national scientists (pre/post doc) who wish to participate in the NIH Visiting Program must first secure an invitation for an award or appointment from a senior NIH investigator at the NIH. The award or appointment is offered based on a candidate's qualifications and the research needs of the host laboratory.        

Individuals interested in a Visiting Program fellowship or appointment should write to a senior NIH investigator at NIH who works in the same research field, enclosing a resume and brief description of their particular research area and interests. The NIH senior investigator serves as the participant's supervisor or sponsor during the period of award or appointment.        

Information about the research opportunities at the NIH may be obtained through the following websites:         

Prospective Visiting Program participants should review the NIH Visiting Program overview and Information for NIH Visiting Program Participants brochure to help make an informed decision before accepting an award or appointment.        

Once an award/appointment recipient has been invited to participate in research at NIH, the Division of International Services, Office of Research Services, will be informed by the hosting Institute or Center (IC) and we will begin to process the immigration documents required by the prospective participant to obtain the appropriate visa to enter the United States.        

We appreciate your interest and hope this information is useful to you. Good luck in your search for research opportunities at NIH.        

Please note that the NIH is an E-Verify employer.​

Notification of Award or Appointment

Successful candidates for the NIH Visiting Program will be notified of selection for a fellowship award or appointment and the date it begins in a letter from the Director of the Division of International Services, Office of Research Services, NIH, along with the appropriate immigration document (such as the Form DS-2019 for those offered sponsorship as J-1 Exchange Visitors). At that time, candidates should refer to the Visiting Scientists section of our website for more information on coming to NIH.          

Until this official notice is received, a candidate should make no plans to come to the NIH. Correspondence between an individual and a potential NIH sponsor does not constitute selection, a contract, or an official offer.


The payment of travel expenses to the NIH for Visiting Fellows and Visiting Scientists is at the discretion of the sponsoring Institute/Center (IC) and subject to the availability of funds. Payment of travel to scientific meetings or training is also at the discretion of the IC and subject to the availability of funds.         

Immigration guidance about international travel for those currently sponsored by the NIH is available from the DIS’s Scientist Travel Guidance webpages.

Revised 03/2021

DIS Info

​​​Service Hours:
9:00AM - 4:00PM ET

Non-FTE Check-In/EOD:
Monday By 11:30am (​in local time zone of lab)
Submit Remotely
Advising Services:
Drop-Ins and Appointments​
Document Pickup:
By Appointment
J-1/J-2 Travel Signature Requests:​
Submit Remotely
Badge Validation:
Submit Remotely