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DIS Title Divider Visiting Scientists Title Divider F-1 Overview
​​​Visiting Program Scientists​
F-1 Students

F-1 Classification

F-1 nonimmigrant classification is granted to students to pursue a full course of study to achieve specific educational or professional objective(s) at an approved U.S. academic institution. F-1 students are sponsored by an academic institution, often a university. The student’s sponsoring institution recommends or approves work permission. All F-1 students coming to NIH must possess work authorization.

NIH Designations

F-1 students are eligible for all Visiting Program designations, provided they have the proper work authorization.

Work Authorization

F-1 students must consult with a Designated School Official (DSO) in the International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) office at their academic institution to determine work authorization eligibility.

Sponsoring institutions may require a job offer from NIH before authorizing work permission. In these instances, the NIH Institute may issue a tentative offer letter to the F-1 student and concurrently send a case to DIS without the work authorization documentation. See the relevant NIH Manual Chapter per designation for a template letter.

Types of F-1 Work Authorization:

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
    • Required by DIS: Form I-20 with DSO approval for placement at NIH; must specify start and end dates and part- or full-time authorization
  • On-Campus Employment at an Off-Campus
    Location (OCE)
  • Eligibility: Determined by sponsoring institution. Typically, a formal research relationship exists between the sponsoring school and NIH. OCE is limited in duration of time and hours per week
    • Required by DIS: Form I-20 and letter from the DSO authorizing the work; must specify start and end dates and part- or full-time authorization
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT)
  • Eligibility: Available to F-1 students seeking employment in their field of study via approval by DSO and USCIS. F-1 student should consult with their DSO regarding eligibility and procedures. See Link to the SEVIS Help Hub
  • Extension of OPT for STEM Students
  • Eligibility: Available to certain F -1 students who completed a degree in a designated STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Math) field, may be eligible for an additional 24 months of OPT work authorization. To determine eligibility, F-1 students should consult with their DSO. Link to the SEVIS Help Hub
    • Note: Note: An individual who benefits from a STEM extension of their OPT is not eligible to be a Special Volunteer at the NIH
  • Required by DIS:
    • Applying for STEM extension of OPT: STEM Extension Request Form signed by F-1 student and NIH sponsor. Each request is assigned to a DIS Immigration Specialist for review. DIS will provide the student with NIH’s E-Verify information and sample Form I-983 needed for OPT extension application
    • Pending STEM extension of OPT: I-797 USCIS receipt notice, Forms I-983, I-20, and I-94. If timely filed, DIS can process up to 180 days of additional work authorization, per USCIS G​uidance
    • Approved STEM extension of OPT by USCIS: EAD
  • Special Student Relief
  • Eligibility: Available to certain groups of F-1 students from parts of the world that are experiencing emergent circumstances. F-1 student should consult with their DSO regarding eligibility and procedures
  • Economic Hardship
  • Eligibility: Available to certain F-1 students who have unforeseen changes to their financial circumstances. F-1 student should consult with their DSO regarding eligibility and procedures


F-1 students with travel questions should consult their school’s DSO.

Planning Ahead after F-1

When F-1 students exhaust their work authorization, they must explore other immigration options to continue their research at the NIH. Please contact DIS to discuss options and timeline for this process. Typically, F-1 students will need to change to J-1 Exchange Visitor status. Refer to our Change of Status to J-1/J-2 handout (NIH Users Only). H-1B sponsorship is not available for Visiting Fellows.


Revised 04/2021

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Non-FTE Check-In/EOD:
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Advising Services:
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