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DIS Title Divider Administrative Staff Title Divider About DIS Processing Times
Administrative Staff
About DIS Processing Times

The goal of the Division of International Services (DIS) is to work with the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) Institutes/Centers (ICs) to provide immigration related-services for visiting foreign national scientists invited to conduct biomedical research at the NIH. Because there are many immigration rules and regulations, adequate time is needed to process immigration-related documents and applications necessary to bring the foreign scientist to the NIH. The time it takes to process requests depends on the type of visa used for the foreign national scientist.

The very first step to host or employ a foreign national scientist is for the IC to submit a request or case to the DIS. Any foreign scientist that is not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident must be cleared by the DIS (exception: those brought on as NIH contractors). Cases are processed by the DIS in the order received. The DIS has prepared a Processing Time Chart to assist the ICs in determining the average DIS processing times. DIS processing times begin when a complete request is received in our office.

Please note that the DIS processing times chart does not provide an overall lead-time. The times focus solely on the DIS's processing in our office. It does not take into account, for example, IC processing times; other NIH offices; other federal agencies; nor the time necessary for a foreign scientist to obtain a passport, a visa from a U.S. embassy/consulate, or make travel arrangements to the NIH. For further guidance on case submission, please review our “Helpful Tips”

DIS processing times generally include entering the request in our database, reviewing the case documents, reviewing the scientist's U.S. immigration history, preparing the applicable immigration document(s), official invitation letter, and pre-arrival information, and shipping the applicable documents. To avoid delays in DIS processing, please allow the printed processing times to elapse before making a status inquiry.

To assist the ICs in submitting cases to the DIS, each IC has designated an individual to be the main liaison with our office for a particular IC lab/branch. This liaison is known as the IC Key Contact (KC) . The KC is knowledgeable about the IC’s requests and internal approval process, and has access to the DIS online case status and reports system . Inquiries should be routed through the KC for your lab/branch.

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DIS Processing Times Frequently Asked Questions

How do I use the DIS Processing Times chart?

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Locate the type of case or request that you filed under the heading “Case/Visa Type.” Then follow the fields across to find out the average time it takes the DIS to process that type of case (under the heading “DIS Processing Time”). In addition, you can also see if other agencies or organizations are involved in the process.

When do the DIS processing times begin?

The DIS processing times begin when a complete request is received in our office. However, in some instances, a complete request may take longer than the printed times due to the uniqueness of the case. Please note that unless otherwise indicated, all days listed in the chart are “business” days.

To find the day that your case was received, your Institute/Center's (IC) Key Contact (KC) can access the DIS online case status and reports system.

How do I establish a realistic start date?

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The IC should submit cases with a realistic and reasonable start date. The first step in determining such a date is to discuss with the foreign national scientist when they will be ready to come to the NIH. Many scientists need time to resign/separate from their current employer or educational institution. Second, confirm that the scientist has completed or will soon complete the required educational level (note: a doctoral level degree is required for most NIH designations). Third, consider the time it takes to internally (i.e. within the IC) obtain the required signatures and approvals on the request forms. Lastly, consider the number of agencies involved in the process besides the DIS. The cases that usually take the longest are those that require visa issuance by the Department of State (DOS) or those that require review and approval by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Even though the DIS can issue immigration documents within a certain time frame, this does not mean that the foreign scientist will be in the lab/branch immediately after the DIS processing is completed!

For certain immigration statuses, such as H-1B and O-1, or for those changing immigration status, advance approval is required from the USCIS BEFORE DIS can prepare and mail the official invitation letter and supporting documents. With these cases, make sure to review the USCIS processing times. (scroll down to “Instructions on Using the Table” and then select the appropriate Service Center, usually California for H-1B cases or Vermont for all others).

For those outside the U.S., the scientist will need to make arrangements with their government to apply for a passport, if they do not already possess one. Once the scientist has a valid passport, then they can apply for a U.S. entry visa from the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Visit the U.S. Department of State website: for more information on current visa wait times.

Most foreign national scientists will arrive to the NIH anywhere from ninety days to as late as six months (in some cases, even longer!) after the IC submits the request to the DIS. As a general rule of thumb, you should allow at least ninety days from the time a case is received at the DIS to the proposed start or EOD date of the scientist. However, keep in mind that each foreign national scientist’s case is unique and processing times can change without any advanced notice. Please also note if you choose an unrealistic start date, the DIS will consult with you to determine a more realistic date.

When can I contact the DIS for a status check?

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Before contacting the DIS, be sure to first check with your Institute/Center's (IC) Key Contact (KC) for your lab/branch.

Once the DIS processing time listed for your case/visa type has elapsed and you have not previously been contacted by our office, please have your KC (or delegated individual) contact the DIS for an update. You can reach the DIS Team by calling (301) 496-6166 or sending an email to our Customer Service Team at dis@mail.nih.gov

If you received a request for additional information and you provided that information more than 30 business days ago, please contact the DIS for an update.

How can I check the status of my case before the
DIS Processing Time has elapsed?

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There is limited information that we can provide before the stated times have elapsed. Your IC Key Contact (KC) can, however, check on your case by accessing the DIS Case Status and Reports

Does it really take that long for the DIS to
process my case?

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The DIS times are based on the outer ranges of our processing. The DIS normally processes cases sooner than the printed times. However, we post these times to allow flexibility for urgent situations. This also includes time to process cases that required approval from other federal agencies.

If you feel that you have an urgent situation, please contact your DIS Team.

How do I know if my case was received?

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You can find out if your case was received at the DIS by accessing the DIS online case status and reports system through your IC Key Contact(KC).

How do I know who is working on my case?

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Your case is being handled by one of two DIS Processing Teams of Immigration Specialist. To find out which DIS Immigration Specialist is handling your open case, please contact our Customer Service Team at DIS@mail.nih.gov.

How do I obtain access to the DIS Case Status
and Reports?

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To gain access to DIS Case Status and Reports, you will first need to check with your IC to find who is permitted to have access to the IC View. Permission to access DIS Case Status and Reports is set by your IC, not the DIS. Access is generally limited to your IC Key Contact (KC).

If you are a KC who would like to have access to DIS Case Status and Reports, please have your Lead Administrative Officer send a request for your access to your DIS.

How do I know when my case is completed?

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You can find if your case was completed at the DIS by accessing the DIS Case Status and Reports through your IC Key Contact

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DIS Info 
Office Hours:
8:30am - 5:00pm
Check-In Hours:
9:00am Mondays
Walk-in Hours:
1:30pm - 3:30pm Mon-Thurs
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1:00pm - 3:00pm Mon-Fri
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