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NIH Visiting Program Scientists

Visiting Program Scientists

Welcome to the DC Area​

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​​The National Institutes of Health main campus in Bethesda, Maryland, is just a few miles outside of Washington DC, the capital of the United States. Washington DC is a vibrant area; a unique place to experience both the past and present of this country. Tucked between the Appalachian Mountains, the Chesapeake Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean, and home to over half a million people, DC is culturally and geographically diverse with plenty of things to see and do!

While we are excited for you to explore this area, we also know that living in an unfamiliar place can be overwhelming. In this page you will find a collection of web links designed to assist you in your transition to the United States. We hope that your stay here will be very enjoyable!

The NIH Office of Training and Education (OITE) also publishes a “Moving Guide” and “Postdoc Handbook” that discuss these and other helpful topics.



There are three major airports that serve the Washington D.C. area. Please consult the website of the airport that you will be using to learn more about “Ground Transportation Options” from each airport to the NIH.  

Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD)    

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)     

Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI)    


Public transportation is widely available in the Washington D.C. area, and is a popular way to travel for work or pleasure. The NIH is located at the “Medical Center” stop on the Washington D.C. Metrorail’s Red Line. Many buses also stop at this location. We also provide some select transit links for those at NIH facil­ities outside the D.C. area. 

Washington D.C. Metrorail and Metrobus    

Montgomery County, Maryland (MD), Ride On Bus    

Maryland Transit Administration (MTA)    

TransIT Services of Frederick County, MD    

MARC Maryland Regional Train    

Alexandria, Virginia (VA), DASH Bus    

Virginia Railway Express (VRE) Regional Train    


If you wish to drive a motor vehicle in the United States, you must obtain a Driver’s License from the authorities in the state where you reside. Please consult DIS’s Driver’s License Guidance BEFORE you visit these offices.    

Washington D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles    

Maryland Motor Vehicle Association    

Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles    


The Washington D.C. area is also home to numerous bicycle routes and trails. However, safety is important. Learn more at the following web sites: 

NIH Bicycle Commuter Club    

Washington Area Bicyclist Association


The NIH Office of Training and Education (OITE) also publishes a “Moving Guide” with housing resources.


The Washington D.C. area experiences all four seasons and a wide range of weather conditions. Winters are cold and rainy with a moderate amount of snow. Summers are hot and humid. Autumn (also known as “Fall”) and Spring seasons are mild and pleasant, but can be rainy. Climate in other parts of the U.S. can vary. Temperatures in the U.S. follow the Fahrenheit scale.  

The Weather Channel     


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration     

Celsius/Fahrenheit Converter



Living in the U.S. – particularly in the Washington, D.C. area – can be expensive. If the NIH is funding your stay, it is important that you have enough funds to live on for at least one month. Allow two to four weeks for your first payment to be issued.    


Currency in paper form consists of bills and coins. Provided you have an account with a financial institution, U.S. currency/cash is typically accessible by visiting a U.S. bank or through an Automated Teller Machine (ATM). ATMs can provide many banking services (deposits, cash withdrawals, account balanc­es). Note, however, that many financial institutions may charge a fee if you use an ATM that is not associated with your bank or other financial institution. 

Information about U.S. currency is available at: 

U.S. Department of Treasury     

Currency Converter     


An online search of “Cost of Living” can lead you to various web sites, such as: 

CNN Money     



Banks and Credit Unions offer many kinds of financial services, such as checking and savings accounts, foreign currency conversion, money orders, credit cards, and loans. However, each financial institution offers slightly different services and charges different fees. Carefully reserach the services and fees as well as the bank’s various locations and ATMs. You should consider institutions that are backed by the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation ( FDIC )or the National Credit Union Association (NCUA). 

When opening a bank account, banks are required under the U.S. Patriot Act to verify your identity. At a minimum, banks will ask for your name, street address, date of birth, and a tax or other identification number. In many cases, banks will ask for a U.S. Social Security Number (SSN) as the identification number. However, other identification numbers can be used (such as a passport number). Although banks may prefer the SSN, it is possible to still open an account without this number. Banks may have you sign other forms to certify your eligibility to open an account in lieu of the SSN. 

There are a wide variety of financial institutions that offer services locally and/or throughout the country. An online search of “banks” can lead you to many web sites, such as: 

The Yellow Pages -– search “Banks”    

The White Pages – search “Banks    

The NIH has a Credit Union in Bethesda – the NIH Federal Credit Union(NIHFCU) – that you can choose for your banking needs, including loans and credit cards: 

NIH Federal Credit Union

Spouses & Children


Education in the United States is generally compulsory for children between the ages of 5 and 16. Your children may be eligible for free elementary and secondary education provided by the local public school district. However, eligibility restrictions apply and some schools (such as those in Montgomery County, Maryland) may charge a fee (known as “tuition”). For more information, contact the appropriate school office for your city of residence. 

Maryland Public Schools    

Washington D.C. Public Schools    

Virginia Public Schools    


Pre-school for younger children, or day- and after-school care for children of any age, may be available from many sources for a fee. The NIH maintains its own Child Care Center on the Bethesda campus, but there may be a long waiting period to be eligible to use the center. However, the NIH Child Care Center can also assist with referrals to other child-care options. 

NIH Child Care Center    

NCI-Frederick Play and Learning Station (PALS)    


The primary purpose of a dependent is to accompany the prin­cipal status holder in the United States. Some dependents, however, may also be full-time students or apply to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for special permission to work or apply for a change to a working status. Please contact the DIS to discuss these options.

Health Insurance & Health Care


It is necessary for you to obtain health insurance coverage for yourself and any dependent family members during your stay at the NIH. Those sponsored as J-1 Exchange Visitors are required under immigration regulations to have specific insurance coverage for themselves and J-2 dependent family members. Check with your Institute/Center’s (IC) administrative office to learn if you will receive health insurance coverage during your stay at the NIH.    

The U.S. does not have a nationalized health care system. To protect yourself against exorbitant medical costs, it is best to obtain a comprehensive health insurance plan if you are not eligible for coverage at the NIH. Insurance coverage at the NIH (whether covered by your IC or not) is available through: 

Foundation for the Advanced Education in the Sciences (FAES)    

If you plan to purchase your own insurance in the U.S., be aware that there are different types of insurance plans. The following information (adapted from describes typical U.S. insurance plans and can help you make the best choice for your situation:   

  • Traditional fee-for-service health insurance plans are usually the most expensive choice. They offer you the most flexibility when choosing healthcare providers.
  • Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) offer lower co-payments and cover the costs of more preventative care, but your choice of healthcare providers is limited. The National Committee for Quality Assurance evaluates and accredits HMOs. You can find out whether one is accredited in your state by calling 1-888-275-7585. You can also get this information as well as report cards on HMOs.
  • Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs) offer lower co-payments like HMOs, but give you more flexibility when selecting a provider. A PPO gives you a list of providers you can choose from.

When choosing among different plans, you’ll need to read the fine print and ask questions, such as: 

  • Do I have the right to go to any doctor, hospital, clinic or pharmacy I choose?
  • Are specialists, such as eye doctors and dentists, covered?
  • Does the plan cover special conditions or treatments, such as pregnancy, psychiatric care, and physical therapy?
  • Does the plan cover home care or nursing home care?
  • Will the plan cover all medications my physician might prescribe?
  • What are the deductibles? Are there any co-payments?
  • What is the most I will have to pay out of my own pocket to cover expenses?
  • If there is a dispute about a bill or service,how is it handled? In some plans, you may be required to have a third-party decide how to settle the problem.


If you have a life-threatening emergency, dial “911” for an ambulance or seek care from an Emergency Room (ER) of the nearest hospital.  

Non-emergency medical care is typically provided by a phy­sician of your choice (often referred to as a “Primary Care Physician”). Other care is provided by specialists, urgent care centers, and/or hospitals. Check with your health insurance plan for available physicians that accept your insurance plan. Using physicians that participate with your insurance carrier (known as “in-network providers”) may be less expensive. You may also do an online search for “physicians” that can lead you to various web sites, such as: 

The Yellow Pages - search “Physicians”    

If you require certain medications or drugs, you may need written authorization (known as a “prescription”) from your physician. Other medications do not require a prescription (known as “over-the-counter” or OTC). Prescription medication can only be obtained at a pharmacy or drug store. Check with your insurance plan if they provide coverage for prescription medications. OTC medications are typically not covered by insurance plans.​


The United States is a vast and diverse country. No matter where you are working, we encourage you to explore your temporary home as much as possible! 

Washington D.C. Tourism Board  

State of Maryland Tourism  

Commonwealth of Virginia Tourism

Miscellaneous Information


The United States Constitution guarantees freedom of religion for everyone and prohibits the establishment of a state religion. Many of the world’s religious faiths have places of worship throughout the country. The following web sites can help you find a local place of worship:   

The Yellow Pages 

The White Pages 

The Church Finder 


It is a general U.S. practice to pay a small additional fee or “tip” for a service performed for you, such as for taxi-cabs, restaurants, bars/pubs, barber/beauty/hair salons, baggage handling, and hotel services. The amount of the tip can vary. Tips, howev­er, should never be offered to U.S. police, government employees, or public officials. An online search of “tipping” can lead you to various web sites, such as:  

CNN Money    



Electric currents and plugs are likely different in the United States than in your home country. The U.S. electric current is 110 volts/60 hertz. You must use a converter or adapter if you bring small appliances to the U.S. Otherwise, you may consider purchasing such appliances after your arrival.  


The United States is the last major country in the world to convert to the metric system. Although some aspects of the U.S. use the metric system, it is less common in everyday life in the U.S. An online search for “U.S. weights and measurements and conversion” can lead you to various web sites, such as:  

U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)    

Convert Me 

Online Conversion


Professional and personal communication in the U.S. rely heavily on electronics, from cellular telephones, to email, to Internet telephone and video services. Online searches can help you find the right communication style for yourself. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates our communications infrastructure – from radio, television, wire, satellite and cable.    

For mailing documents and packages, the U.S. Postal Service offers many delivery services (including international shipping) for a fee. Private couriers are also available for your shipping needs.  

Safety Precautions

Crime in the United States, particularly in the Washington D.C. area, is an unfortunate reality and certain precautions should be taken both inside and outside the NIH. If you experience a safety emergency, dial “911” for police, fire, or ambulatory assistance. The following web sites can assist in making your stay at the NIH safer. 

NIH Work Place Safety   

NIH Security and Emergency Resources   

Montgomery County, MD, Police   

City of Baltimore Police Department   

Frederick, MD, Police Department   

Maryland State Police   

Washington DC Metropolitan Police Department   

Virginia State Police   


Identify theft involves the stealing of your personal information. It is, unfortunately, a growing crime in the U.S. due to online and other electronic accessibility. Protect yourself from imposter web sites that try to steal your identity or money! Non-immigrant and other foreign national visitors are often targeted by immigration, tax, and other scams. Do not disclose personal information (e.g. name, date of birth, Social Security Number, passport number, etc.) without verifying the source and confirming why it is necessary. We recommend that you avoid email when submitting information or documents with personal information (such as a passport). Please take a few moments to read more about identity theft and imposter websites: 

U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC)   

U.S. Department of State (DOS)   

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)   

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)   


This is particularly important as the majority of individuals in the U.S. rely on automobiles as their primary mode of transportation. Take a few minutes to view an NIH video regarding pedestrian safety. Please also read the following tips for pedestrian and driver safety: 


  • Cross streets at a corner using traffic signals and cross walks, always try to make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of them
  • Look left, right, then left again before crossing, continue to look while crossing
  • Walk on side walks or paths
  • Watch for cars turning or backing up
  • Be predictable, stay off free ways and restricted zones
  • Don’t expect a driver to stop
  • Never run across a street


  • Always be prepared to stop for pedestrians, not just in cross walks
  • Scan the roads and side-walks ahead for potential pedestrians
  • Drive slowly and be prepared to stop when approaching across walk
  • Yield for pedestrians in cross-walks, whether marked or unmarked
  • Do not attempt to pass other drivers who are stopped for pedestrians
  • Look all directions for pedestrians before making a turn
  • Never drive distracted​
DIS Info

​​​Service Hours:
9:00AM - 4:00PM ET

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