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Division of International Services

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DIS Title Divider Visiting Scientists Title Divider Getting Your Visa
​​​​​​​​​Scientists
Pre-Arrival & DIS Check-In/EOD (FTE Scientists)

The NIH Intramural Research Program (IRP) includes both Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) and non-FTE designations. For a list of the most common intramural FTE and Non-FTE designations, refer to the NIH Designations Chart.  This page has information for prospective FTE employees who will be joining NIH. For information for prospective non-FTE designations, please see webpages Arriving from Inside the U.S. and Arriving from Outside the U.S.

New to NIH from Outside the United States

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What is a Visa?

A U.S. visa is a document placed in your passport that allows you to request permission to enter the United States. at a U.S. port-of-entry. You can only apply for a visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate outside the U.S. Visit the U.S. Department of State (DOS) U.S. Visas webpage for more information.

If you are outside the United States and coming to NIH as a new FTE scientist, you and any dependents will need to apply for a visa before you are able to travel to the United States. It is important that you do not make any travel arrangements until after you receive your visa. We recommend buying tickets that are easily changed or refunded.

Note: Canadian and Bermudian citizens do not need a visa to enter the United States. After receiving your appropriate enabling document from DIS, review steps 6 & 7.

Steps to Follow:

Receive Enabling Document from DIS

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Before you can apply for your visa, you need your immigration or "enabling" document. The exact enabling document varies depending on the proposed immigration status. For FTE positions, the enabling document is typically the Form I-797 Approval Notice, most commonly the H-1B approval notice. Based on a New FTE Case Request from the sponsoring Institute or Center, the DIS Immigration Specialist assigned to your case will work closely with you to determine what status and documents will be necessary. After you receive your enabling document(s) from DIS, review to confirm that all personal information is correct.

Submit Visa Application & Schedule Appointment

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Online Application – Submit the DS-160 Non-Immigrant Visa Application directly online to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate for yourself and any dependents. You will need to submit a photograph that meets specific requirements. If you will not be applying in your home country, ask the U.S. Embassy or Consulate if they allow visa applications from third country nationals. Visa applications in third countries may be screened more critically by consular officials unless you are a current resident of that country or have another valid purpose for applying there.

Interview Appointment – Visit the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will be interviewed for instructions on setting up a non-immigrant visa interview appointment. Embassy and Consulate websites should explain the process for requesting an earlier visa interview appointment, if necessary.

Wait Times – Visit the DOS website for information on Visa Appointment & Processing Wait Times for the U.S. Embassy or Consulate processing your visa application.

If you have trouble making an appointment, contact us for additional guidance.

Attend Interview Appointment

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Required Documents – You and any dependents will need to bring your passports, enabling documents, and the invitation letter sent to you by DIS to your interview appointment. You should also check with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will be interviewed for specific instructions on any additional required documents.

Note: Some U.S. Embassies and Consulates do not require in-person interviews for visa renewals. Check the instructions on the U.S. Embassy or Consulate's website.

U.S. Embassy/Consulate Processes Visa  

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Wait Times – Wait time for a visa appointment can vary widely. Look up Visa Appointment Wait Times for the specific U.S. Embassy or Consulate processing your visa application.

Notify DIS of Any Long Delays – Contact DIS if you are going through administrative processing for longer than 60 days. DIS maintains records of visa processing delays to track trends but is not able to expedite visa processing at the Department of State.

Common Reasons for Visa Delays/Denial -

221(g) Incomplete Application or Supporting Documents (also referred to as Administrative Processing)

The consular officer cannot determine that an applicant is eligible for a visa with the information submitted. The applicant is referred for more extensive checks, referred to as “Administrative Processing." This may delay visa processing by several days to several weeks or longer. Refer to the DOS Administrative Processing Information webpage. 

214(b) Intent to Immigrate

The consular officer cannot determine that an applicant will leave the United States at the end of their nonimmigrant stay. Most nonimmigrants must provide evidence of strong ties to their home country which would compel departure from the United States at the end of the program. However, nonimmigrants in H-1B status can be the beneficiary of an immigrant visa petition, apply for adjustment of status, or take other steps toward Lawful Permanent Resident status without affecting their status. This is known as "dual intent" and has been recognized in immigration law since passage of the Immigration Act of 1990, so 214(b) denials are rare for H-1B status.

Make Travel Arrangements

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It is important that you do not make any travel arrangements until after you receive your visa. If you need to purchase tickets before then, we recommend buying tickets that can be easily changed or refunded.

After you receive your visa, confirm your travel plans. For those starting an initial appointment in H-1B, O-1, TN, or E-3 statuses, you may enter the U.S. up to 10 days prior to the start date on your enabling document.

Our Welcome to the DC Area webpage is designed to help connect you with local resources.

Enter the United States

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U.S. Port of Entry Inspection – When you arrive at a U.S. port of entry, you and any dependents will go through an immigration and customs inspection with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer. During the inspection, you will be asked to describe the purpose of your visit and provide documentation to support your entry. Make sure to hand-carry the following documents to present to the CBP officer:

  • Your and your dependents' passports, with visas, as applicable
  • Your enabling document
  • Your invitation letter from DIS/NIH
  • Evidence of your relationship with your dependents (marriage or birth certificate)

More information about what to expect is available on the CBP website.

Form I-94 Record – Your admission information is used to generate your electronic Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record. The Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record is a document used to record an individual's entry to and exit from the United States. This is an important document that reflects your status and authorized length of stay in the United States. You must print the I-94 for your records every time you travel internationally and re-enter the United States and provide DIS with a copy. See our Form I-94 Handout for more details.

Passport Admission Stamp – The CBP Officer may also provide you evidence of immigration status by stamping your passport (and any dependents' passports) with your work-authorized immigration status, date of entry, port of entry, and any special conditions that may apply to your stay. However, CBP at some airports are moving away from providing entry stamps and your status may only be documented on the I-94 record, as described above. If you do receive an admission stamp, please review for accuracy and politely request a correction, if needed.

Check-In with DIS

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Start Your NIH Position – You must check in with DIS to start your position at NIH. See the "Check-In with DIS" section below for more information.

International Travel – After any international travel and re-entry into the United States, DIS needs to review any new immigration documents for accuracy and to make sure your DIS record is updated. Send DIS copies of your and your family's new passport admission stamps, electronic Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Records, and new U.S. entry visas (if applicable).

Dependents – Notify DIS when your dependents arrive in the United States. If you want to add dependents after your arrival, some general instructions are available on our FTE Dependents webpage.

New to NIH from Inside the United States

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Coming to NIH while you are already in the United States takes careful planning between you, your current employer or sponsor (if applicable), your prospective NIH lab, and the NIH Division of International Services (DIS). The steps below provide an overview of this process to assist you in this transition.

Steps to Follow:​

Confirm Start Date with DIS Immigration Specialist

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If you are currently inside the United States, please work closely with your DIS Immigration Specialist (IS) to ensure a smooth transition to NIH. A DIS IS will contact you to discuss these procedures once we receive a request from your future NIH laboratory/branch. We recommend discussing your case with the IS before solidifying plans to leave your current employer.

NOTE: If your arrival date to the NIH has changed or is delayed, please coordinate a new arrival date with your NIH Institute/Center lab sponsor and administrative Key Contact. Always notify your DIS IS of these changes.

Make Travel Arrangements

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Do not make any travel arrangements until you confirm your start date with your IS. If you need to purchase tickets in advance, we recommend buying tickets that can be easily changed or refunded.

Our Welcome to the DC Area webpage is designed to help connect you with local resources.

Report to DIS

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Start Your NIH Position – You must check in with DIS to start your position at NIH. See the "Check-In with DIS" ​section below for more information.

Dependents – If you have a dependent who will change their dependent status or leave the United States prior to your arrival at NIH, notify DIS. To add dependents later, refer to our FTE Dependents guidance.

Check-in/EOD With DIS

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All FTE Visiting Program participants must check in, or enter-on-duty (EOD), with DIS to start their NIH appointment. During the check-in, DIS verifies that scientists have the appropriate immigration documents to conduct research at NIH.

Considerations:

  • The DIS check-in/EOD process is currently completed remotely. However, scientists must still be present in the United States to check in with DIS.
  • If you are joining the NIH from abroad, you must report your arrival to DIS within 3 days after your arrival to the United States, even if you do not yet have your long-term local address or NIH email.
  • If your duty station is outside the local area of the main NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland, contact your “Key Contact" to schedule an appointment to process the DIS check-in remotely.
  • DIS check-in/EOD is not the same as onboarding with NIH Human Resources (HR). You are also required to onboard with HR. You may also have additional required processes with your NIH Institute or Center – confirm any additional onboarding requirements with your “Key Contact".

DIS Check-in/EOD Process:

  • Your assigned Immigration Specialist (IS) will email you guidance about required onboarding paperwork and the DIS check-in/EOD process.
  • Send your and any dependents' immigration documents to your IS. This includes the passport, electronic Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record, and Form I-797 Approval Notice. To protect your Personally Identifiable Information (PII), you must submit all documents to us through a secure method; your IS will provide instructions on how to safely send documents to DIS.
  • Notify DIS if any family members will be arriving in the United States at a later date. 
  • The IS will check your documents and have you sign any required forms.
  • The IS will provide important information for your stay in the United States
  • DIS will schedule you to attend any applicable orientation, seminar, or workshop.
  • After the EOD check-in, DIS will complete validation of your work authorization in NED and notify your IC via email with an electronic Notice of Action (eNOA).

The Division of Personnel Security and Access Control (DPSAC) office is ultimately responsible for issuing the NIH badge. After DIS validates your work status in NED during the check-in/EOD, contact DPSAC to complete the badge process. Many scientists must obtain a Social Security Number (SSN) before NIH badge issuance; refer to our SSN guidance as needed.


Revised 11/2021



​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​DIS Info 
Service Hours:
8:30am - 4:30pm EST
Check-In/EOD:
Monday – Thursday
By 11:30am EST
Zoom "Drop-In"​ Advising:
Monday – Thursday
1:30pm – 3:30pm EST
Badge Validation:​​​​​​​​​​
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