NIH Visiting Program: Requirements

Visas
English Proficiency
Taxes
Vacations & Sick Leave
Health Insurance
Compensation for Injury
Outside Work

Visas

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)
Visiting Fellows are ineligible for H-1B or O-1 visa classifications.

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.

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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:

  1. Results from a recognized English language test

    OR

  2. 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

    OR

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

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Taxes

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


 

Division of International Services
Office of Research Services
National Institutes of Health
Building 31, Room B2B07
Bethesda, MD 20892-2028
Tel: (301) 496-6166
Fax: (301) 496-0847
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