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PHS Foreign Work / Study Program Policy

TO: IC Directors, Scientific Directors, OD Staff
FROM: Senior Advisor to the Deputy Director for Intramural Research
SUBJECT: PHS Foreign Work/Study Program for 2000-2001

Guidelines for the 2000-2001 Foreign Work/Study Program issued by the Office of International and Refugee Health (OIRH) are attached. As indicated in the December 27, 1999, transmittal memorandum from Dr. Tom Novotny, the duration of such assignments can be between three to twelve months. For NIH intramural staff these have conceptually been regarded as a kind of “sabbatical.”

Also, as in the past, applicants are encouraged to utilize outside sources of funding for partial support of their stay (exclusive of salary). This may be the subject of negotiations between the IC and the applicant.

The PHS Guidelines indicate that there will be two OIRH reviews, the first, for applications received by February 1, 2000, and the second, for applications received by June 30, 2000. Unfortunately, the OIRH guidelines were issued by OIRH, and received by NIH, too late to allow sufficient time to comply with the February 1 deadline. However, the NIH will submit nominations as soon as possible after that deadline. Please send your nominations, if possible, by close of business (COB) February 4 to my office (Building 1, Room 140). As appropriate, our office may schedule interviews with IC nominees.

 - Philip S. Chen, Jr., Ph.D.


This guide provides policy and procedures for implementation of the PHS Foreign Work/Study Program, which is conducted under the authorities provided by Sections 301 and 307 of the Public Health Service Act and authorities for research of the Public Health Service.

Basic Program Concepts

The Foreign Work/Study Program was initiated in 1974 as a mechanism for providing PHS personnel with a valuable overseas experience to develop their capabilities personally, to gain knowledge/experience that would enhance their employing office's efforts and to contribute, overall, to the domestic and/or international health goals of the PHS and the Department. Potential assignments are developed directly with foreign institutions, U.S. organizations having overseas facilities, or other appropriate organizations which can provide a foreign work/study experience, which will fulfill the Program's objectives.

The Foreign Work/Study Program was constituted as an official Program in order to: (1) fulfill Department of State requirements for approval of the assignment of PHS personnel overseas for work/study purposes; and (2) to create an orderly process for selecting PHS personnel who will benefit from a foreign work/study experience. The Program does not have any funding or positions of its own. The funding and personnel ceiling are provided by the sponsoring PHS Agency.


The objectives of the Program are:

  1. To advance the international and national status of the health sciences.
  2. To advance the respective missions of the participating PHS Agencies, OPHS staff offices, and PHS regional offices.
  3. To advance the PHS' and Department's international health objectives including, but not necessarily limited to, the exchange of knowledge and ideas in the health sciences, enhancement of cooperation with the U.S. private sector in the field of international health, increasing knowledge on health problems of the developing world.
  4. To enhance the capabilities of PHS scientific and other professional personnel.


Employees of the Public Health Service who are engaged in research, program administration, planning and/or evaluation and who may benefit from a work/study assignment as judged by senior management of their agency. Employees in "term" positions or visiting scientists are not eligible.

Examples of Types of Assignments

Assignments may be based on a number of activities. Examples include: biomedical research utilizing a unique or exceptional foreign research opportunity; study of the use of a new technology developed at a foreign institution; study of an interesting overseas epidemiological situation that is relevant to domestic interests; work with a foreign ministry of health directed toward implementation of an activity provided for in a bilateral health agreement or program. Applicants are encouraged to be creative in the development of assignments, but keeping in mind the basic program concepts and objectives outlined above.

Period of Assignments

Assignments should involve work and/or study in cooperation with or under a fellow health professional for a minimum of 3 months and/or a maximum of 12 months. A full 12 months must be spent out of the country on assignment for the participant to be eligible for travel of dependents and other allowances, such as shipment of limited household goods and personal effects and education of children. (Note: In recent years, because of budgetary constraints, some applicants have voluntarily waived their right to post allowances. These arrangements must be worked out between the participant and his/her sponsoring agency).

Extension of Assignments

Assignments may, on the basis of an exceptionally sound justification, be extended for up to 1 additional year, subject to approval by the sponsoring PHS Agency and the Foreign Work/Study Review Committee. The participant(s) must submit a written request for extension through appropriate channels within his/her Agency prior to the expiration of his/her current assignment.

Application Process

The Office of International and Refugee Health, OPHS, announces the Program in approximately December of each year. Each PHS Agency and other PHS components designate a coordinator for the Program. The Coordinators are responsible for assuring that the opportunity to participate is made known to organizational components and interested individuals in the Agency/office. There will be two submission and review dates. Applications are due in the Office of International and Refugee Health, Office of Public Health and Science (OIRH/OPHS/OS), on February 1, 2000 and again by June 30, 2000 with a review by the Foreign Work/Study Review Committee which will be convened by OIRH/OPHS/OS.

All applications must be submitted to OIRH/OPHS through the designated channels in the applicant's Agency or Office. Applications must have the Agency's/Office's full endorsement, since the cost of the assignment is borne by the participant's employing organization. Additionally, the personnel ceiling which the participant occupies is provided by the participant's home agency.

Format for Applications

  1. Name, title and current assignment.
  2. Civil Service or Commissioned Corps rank.
  3. Site of proposed assignment; evidence of approval of assignment by host institution; facilities to be provided, and any other pertinent information. Assignments should generally have a single base of activity.
  4. Summary or scope of work.
  5. Justification, stressing relationship of work/study experience to Agency's/Office's mission; the need for assignment to be overseas rather than in the United States; and, relationship to the individual's career development.
  6. Statement concerning foreign language capability. If the site of the assignment is in a non-English speaking country, a statement must be given regarding the proposed assignee's proficiency in the language of the country; and, if the assignee does not speak the local language, how any language barriers will be overcome.
  7. Approximate dates of departure and return.
  8. Names and relationship of dependents who will accompany participant.
  9. Has applicant obtained any outside source of support to help defray the cost of this assignment (e.g. fellowship, provision of lodging by host institution)?
  10. The applicant's curriculum vitae.

The Agency/Office should rank its nominations before they are submitted to the Office of International and Refugee Health, OPHS.

Selection Process

Agency Screening

Initial screening of applications is performed by the nominating Agency/Office before submission of nominations to the Office of International and Refugee Health, OPHS, to determine whether the application meets specific criteria established by the individual Agency/Office and to assure that funding is available.

Review by Committee Convened by OIRH/OPHS

The nominations will be reviewed by the Foreign Work/Study Review Committee, which is convened by the Office of International and Refugee Health, OPHS. This selection committee will consist of at least three PHS agency representatives, and a representative from OIRH/OPHS.

The Committee recommends the participants on the basis of criteria that reflect the overall program objectives as well as considerations such as potential sensitivity of the proposed assignment, the current diplomatic/scientific relationship between the U.S. and the proposed host country. The Review Committee may seek supplemental information about a particular nomination from the submitting Agency/Office.

The submitting Agency/Office will be informed promptly of the Committee's recommendations.

Clearance Through Department of State

An official Department of State telegraphic communication is prepared by OIRH/OPHS advising the appropriate U.S. Embassy of the proposed assignment and providing that post with the opportunity to either concur or express any concerns they may have about the assignment. The post's clearance generally consists of a no-objection statement, which is received in an official State Department telegram. Concurrences are usually received from the appropriate Embassy within 3 weeks.

Administrative and Other Support

Salary and administrative support are provided directly by the participant's employing agency or office. Work/Study assignments do not include certain benefits provided by U.S. Embassies or constituent posts to permanent overseas employees. Examples of services which participants should not expect are: check cashing privileges, use of Embassy transportation, etc. From time-to-time, if a special situation prevails, agencies (not the participant) may ask the Embassy, through official State Department channels, whether certain services could be provided (e.g. use of diplomatic pouch for official mail; if assignee will be in a developing country, use of Embassy commissary). The Embassy may, at its discretion, charge the agency a fee for these services. Such fees are paid through an agreement entered into between the supporting agency and the Embassy.

Allowance Payments

In 1980, an arrangement was made between NIH and the Department of State for Embassy payroll offices to make allowance payments to qualified program participants. This benefit would extend only to Civil Service employees who would be overseas for a minimum of 1 year; i.e., change of duty station.

Over the past 7-8 years, however, a number of Embassies have declined to make these payments because of the extra administrative burden that is placed on their personnel. When the Embassy is advised by official cable of the proposed assignment, PHS/OIRH will include a query regarding the willingness of the post to make allowance payments to qualified employees. If the post agrees, the participants should be instructed to contact the appropriate Department of State post in their country of assignment and to provide to them the necessary documentation authorizing the payment of allowances.

Information on overseas allowances may be obtained from the Allowances Staff at the Department of State [(202) 663-1121]. This information is contained in the "Department of State Standardized Regulations (Government Civilians, Foreign Areas)." A copy of this document may also be obtained from the Office of International and Refugee Health, OPHS [(301) 443-1774].

A determination of which benefits each participant is qualified to receive is made by the appropriate PHS Agency personnel office. In the event the participant receives post allowances through the Embassy or other post, the program participant must provide to the Embassy a completed State Department Form 1190, "Foreign Allowances Application, Grant and Report." A copy of this document may also be obtained from Mary Lou Resko (301-443-9725). If allowances are paid through the Embassy, they will instruct the participant in the maintenance and submission of the data for calculation of amounts to be paid. The post will provide the data to its servicing payroll office in accordance with normal time and attendance procedures.

If the Department of State post declines, as a condition for approving a proposed assignment, to pay allowances, it is the responsibility of the participant's home PHS agency to make the arrangements for payment of these benefits, unless other understandings have been reached in writing with the participant. Agencies may make direct payroll deposits to the participant's bank account.

Other Financial Arrangements

In light of restricted salary and expense budgets in agencies, Foreign Work/Study Program applicants may decide to waive in writing their right to certain benefits (e.g. post allowances) in order to be able to undertake an assignment. Such arrangements are to be worked out between the applicant and his/her agency.

It is appropriate for an applicant to arrange financing for the assignment through another source (e.g. Fulbright Fellowship, lodging through the host institution, etc.). Information on such support must be shared with the applicant's employing agency.

Use of Official Passports

As evidence of their status as U.S. Federal Government employees, participants will be issued official passports. Arrangements for official passports may be made through the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health, (301) 496-3441.

Advising Embassy or Consulate of Presence

Assignees are encouraged to make their presence known to the U.S. Embassy or, alternatively, the nearest American consulate, as soon as possible after their arrival in the country. Work/Study Program participants come within the authority and responsibility of the U.S. Ambassador in the country of assignment.


Program participants must provide a report on their experience to their Agency/office directors and to the Agency/office coordinator for the Program. A copy of the report should be sent, within 6 months of the completion of the assignment, to the Office of International and Refugee Health, OPHS (Room 18-87, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, Md. 20857).

Contact with Prior Program Participants

Participants are encouraged to contact other PHS personnel who have completed a Work/Study assignment in the country where they propose to go in order to obtain useful information on such matters as: the need for work permits, local customs, how to arrange housing, etc. Assistance on these matters may generally be obtained from contacts at the host institution.

A list of Work/Study Program participants in prior years and the sites of their assignments is available from the Office of International and Refugee Health, OPHS Contact: Mary Lou Resko, (301) 443-9725.

Any questions on the Foreign Work/Study Program should be directed to the designated Agency Foreign Work/Study Program Coordinator or to the Office of International and Refugee Health (Mary Lou Resko).

First Established:
Wednesday, December 1, 1999 - 9:00am

The page was last updated on Monday, March 23, 2015 - 10:44pm