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The participation of foreign national scientists in the Intramural Research Program (IRP) plays an essential part in furthering the NIH mission. Foreign national scientists participate in the IRP by invitation, and the community of foreign national scientists at NIH is widely referred to as the Visiting Program.

Sponsor Responsibilities


As a sponsor, you play a vital role in the experience of foreign national scientists in the Intramural Research Program (IRP). Here are a few reminders of some of your sponsor responsibilities:

Vetting Professional Qualifications
Prior to sending DIS a case for a prospective foreign national scientist, it is your responsibility to ensure that the applicant has adequate professional scientific qualifications for the research to be performed. DIS will verify minimum requirements are met per NIH policy, but will not question the individual's scientific qualifications and experience, as DIS staff do not have scientific expertise.

Ensure English Proficiency
When determining whether to extend an offer to a prospective foreign national scientist, you must evaluate the candidate's 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. This is also consistent with the NIH Office of Intramural Research (OIR)'s policy on the Use of English in NIH Laboratories/Branches.

Renewals and Extensions
All requests to extend the stay of a foreign national scientist at NIH must be initiated by you, the sponsor. While it is the scientist's responsibility to maintain a valid immigration status, sponsors should work with IC administrative staff to ensure that DIS receives renewal cases within DIS Processing Times to avoid lapses in work authorization and status.

Refer All Immigration Questions to DIS
DIS staff provides guidance to sponsors, administrative staff, and the foreign national scientist community on all immigration-related matters. Contact DIS with any immigration questions, as the immigration landscape is constantly evolving, and each scientist's situation is unique.  DIS also welcomes questions from sponsors about prospective candidates, especially when the candidates have questions about immigration sponsorship that are difficult for the sponsor to answer.

Awareness of NIH Policy
All sponsors of foreign national scientists at NIH should be aware of relevant policies that affect their scientists. For example, per the Foreign Influences on NIH Research, all immigration actions performed by DIS are done at the request of the sponsor and should be in the interest of NIH. Additional NIH policy considerations are linked below for your convenience.

Cross-Cultural Experience
Many foreign national scientists at NIH are in J-1 Exchange Visitor status. The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program places an emphasis on cultural exchange and immersion. Providing foreign national scientists with exposure to American customs, events, and experiences both inside and outside of the lab is a crucial part of the program. Consider the ways in which you can assist your scientists in their exchange experience.

Subscribe to the Sponsor Listserv
DIS shares important immigration updates, procedural changes, and event invitations on our sponsor listserv. A newsletter is sent bi-monthly and alerts are sent out as necessary. To subscribe to the sponsor listserv, send an email to with the following text in the message body:

Subscribe your first and last name

If you have an issue subscribing to the sponsor listserv, contact DIS at

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