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Visiting Fellow Hiring Mechanism for Postdoctoral and Pre-Doctoral IPDs

Please note that the primary policy source for the NIH Visiting Fellowship program is located within NIH Policy Manual 2300-320-3.

The Visiting Fellow (VF) program allows scientists from around the world the opportunity to work with senior NIH investigators on research areas of mutual interest. The program is designed to provide non-immigrant foreign participants opportunities for developmental training and practical research experience in a variety of disciplines related to biomedical research, medical library research, and related fields. Fellowships are designed to provide research training “for which fellowship support is not provided under Section 487 of the Public Health Service (PHS) Act, and which is not residency training of physicians or other health professionals.”

All Visiting Fellow Program participants are non-citizens who must possess a work authorization issued by the appropriate federal agency. The NIH Division of International Services (DIS), Office of Research Services (ORS) serves as the central point for all immigration matters for NIH. DIS prepares all immigration documents necessary to recruit and retain foreign participants and reviews and verifies work authorization for program participants. DIS issues a "notice" to the Institute and Center (IC) once work authorization is verified and monitors the stay of program participants, as well as immigration compliance for NIH. In addition, DIS also alerts ICs of need to renew or terminate a participant.

Service is a by-product of the Visiting Fellow Program, unlike Research and Clinical Fellowships where service is a dominant part of the training objective. Please note that Fellows may not independently engage in patient care activities (any clinically-related activity must explicitly be under the direct supervision and control of an NIH employee), be assigned official supervisory responsibilities, or sign documents (e.g., requisitions) on behalf of the Government.

Visiting Fellow opportunities are available thru the following two programs:

  • Postdoctoral
    • Provides advanced practical research experience to doctoral researchers and physicians. Fellowships are not available to scientists who have more than 5 years of relevant research experience since the receipt of their most recent doctoral degree. Participation is contingent on applicable immigration rules and regulations.
  • Pre-Doctoral
    • Provides practical research training and experience to students, by supplementing academic course work and/or encouraging pursuit of professional careers in biomedical research to students enrolled in doctoral degree programs in biomedical sciences. The research experience, which frequently involves dissertation research, is undertaken as an integral part of the student's academic preparation and will involve close cooperation and planning between NIH and the academic institution (foreign or domestic).

Additional information regarding the Visiting Fellowship program can be found at the NIH Division of International Services (DIS) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page.

A Visiting Fellow is a non-Full-Time Equivalent Employment (FTE) position.

Approvals (Process)

Please refer to the NIH Policy Manual 2300-320-3 for approval requirements and information.

In recent months, there has been an increasing trend of predoctoral students being assigned as Special Volunteer (SV) or Guest Researcher (GR). The Office of Intramural Research (OIR) is concerned about how this can lead to reduced oversight for these vulnerable trainees and about misuse of the SV/GR authorities. Thus, we are implementing the following clarification:

For Visiting Fellows that require clinical credentialing, an additional approval must be received from the Director, CC (or delegate) after recommendation by the Clinical Center (CC) Credentials Committee and the Medical Executive Committee (MEC). For further information, please contact the Office of Credentialing Services, Clinical Center (OCS/CC) at or 301-496-5937.

Check Sheets / Checklists

There is currently no Deputy Director for Intramural Research (DDIR) -approved check sheet or checklist for the Visiting Fellow designation. Individual ICs may have additional requirements and check sheets. Please contact your Administrative Officer (AO) or HR Specialist for additional guidance. For examples of IC-specific check sheets and checklists, please visit:


Intramural scientists at the NIH, as is true for all scientists, should be committed to the responsible use of scientific tools and methods to seek new knowledge. While the general principles of scientific methodologies are universal, their detailed application may differ in various scientific disciplines and circumstances. All research staff in the Intramural Research Program should maintain exemplary standards of intellectual honesty in formulating, conducting, presenting, and reviewing research, as befits the leadership role of the NIH.

Within the NIH IRP, the ethical conduct of researchers is governed by the following three disciplines:

Ethics information may also be available through your specific IC. Please contact your Ethics Counselor for additional guidance.

Pay / Compensation

Please refer to the NIH Policy Manual 2300-320-3 for specific pay and compensation information.

Recruitment Process / Appointment Mechanisms

Please refer to the NIH Policy Manual 2300-320-3 for recruitment and appointment criteria. For specific information and eligibility regarding the NIH-Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Fellowship, please review the NIH-JSPS Fellowship program information.


It is the policy of NIH to limit the Postdoctoral training period so as not to unnecessarily extend training and delay employment. However, a 6th year of training is occasionally needed by a Visiting Fellow to complete training in-progress and/or to complete applications for jobs outside of the NIH. Additional information can be found on the Exceptional Extensions of IRTA and Visiting Fellowships to a 6th Year page of this Sourcebook. Visiting Fellows qualify only if their visa allows. J1 visa extensions beyond 5 years is subject to review and approval by the G7 Peer Review Committee at OIR by filing a complete G7 package with DIS at least 6 months in advance.

G7 Peer Review Committee approval is required under the following circumstances:

  1. Exceptional extensions are limited to select high-quality fellows based on well-articulated career plans. Please note that training plans are required for fellows entering their 4th year, so that an additional extension is less likely to be needed.
  2. The fellow is not being considered for a position at NIH and understands that the 6th Visiting Fellow year is a terminal extension. For instances in which application for a tenure-track position or staff scientist position is being considered, a Research Fellow appointment is the appropriate mechanism. Once a Visiting Fellow has been at the NIH for a 6th year, s/he may not remain in the Intramural Research Program (IRP) in any capacity.
  3. The supervisor and fellow must prepare a "Career Development Plan" which describes how the 6th year will be used to complete work in-progress and to arrange for subsequent employment for the fellow. This must be reviewed and approved by the SD during the 4th year.
  4. The fellow must show appropriate promise for a scientific career, including evidence of publications, or publications in preparation, and/or substantial evidence for preparation for a career in a science-related field. The 6th year extension for additional training is not intended as a means to provide stipend-support to someone who will subsequently choose a non-science career direction.

For additional G-7 Program renewal information, please refer to the following:

Pre-Doctoral VF appointments are generally renewed in one-year increments. Beyond three years, renewal requires a written student justification requesting additional time, followed by a rigorous review that includes the SD’s approval, an interview with the Deputy Director of the Graduate Partnerships Program (GPP) to establish a timeline for completion, and a review by an Assistant Director, OIR. Occasionally, additional extensions are requested, but obtaining approval requires justification beyond five years.

For additional renewal information, please refer to the NIH Policy Manual 2300-320-3.


A Visiting Fellow is not granted independent resources by their Institute.


Please refer to the NIH Policy Manual 2300-320-3 for termination information. For additional guidance regarding the termination of a Postdoctoral Fellow, please visit the Guidelines for Early Termination of Awards to Postdoctoral Fellows page of this Sourcebook.

Please note that ICs must notify the Division of International Services (DIS), Office of Research Services (ORS), of non-immigrant foreign national Visiting Fellow assignment termination at least 30 days prior to the end date.

The page was last updated on Wednesday, August 12, 2015 - 10:11am