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DIS Title Divider Administrative Staff Title Divider Selecting an NIH Start Date
Administrative Staff
Selecting the NIH Start Date

When submitting a case to DIS, the Institute/Center (IC) should include a realistic and reasonable start date. This page outlines factors to be considered, the process of assigning a start date, and options for changing the start date after the case has arrived at DIS.

General Information on Proposing a Start Date

The first steps in determining the start date is to confirm:

  1. When the foreign national scientist will be ready to come to the NIH. Many scientists need time to resign/separate from their current employer or educational institution.
  2. That the scientist has completed or will soon complete the required educational criteria. A doctoral level degree is required for most NIH designations.
  3. The time it takes within your IC to obtain the required signatures and approvals on the request forms.
  4. The impact of processing times at agencies involved in the process besides DIS. While DIS lists our internal processing times, this does not mean that the foreign scientist can be in the lab/branch immediately after DIS processing is completed. For example, scientists arriving from outside the U.S. will need to obtain a passport and go through the visa process at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. 

Refer to our case preparation tips when you submit a case to DIS, as a complete case ensures processing times can be met. Note that each foreign national scientist’s case is unique, and processing times can change without advance notice.

Once DIS finishes processing a case for a foreign national new to the NIH, an official invitation letter that lists the authorized start date will be issued. Upon initial arrival to the NIH, all NIH-sponsored foreign national researchers must check-in with the DIS to activate their award/appointment/assignment. DIS must verify that the scientist was lawfully admitted to the United States and is in the proper immigration status to undertake activities at the NIH.

Non-FTE Start Date Selection

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If you submit a case to DIS with an unattainable start date, an Immigration Specialist will determine a reasonable start date and inform you of the new date.

DIS mandatory check-in sessions for Non-FTE Visiting Program participants are held every Monday morning (except for U.S. Government holidays and closures), beginning promptly at 9:00 a.m. For more information, please refer to our Initial Check-In with DIS webpage. Note that if the individual’s site of activity is not in close proximity to the main NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland, the IC Key Contact or Administrative Officer should schedule an appointment to process the check-in remotely upon the scientist’s arrival.

Modifying the Start Date after Case Processing is Complete

Starting Earlier than Planned

DIS requires IC approval in order to activate NIH-sponsored visiting scientists requesting an earlier start date than the date previously authorized by DIS or the start date listed on the final DIS invitation letter.

The Early Start Date Confirmation form should be completed by an IC Designated Official (IC Key Contact, Administrative Officer, or Lab/Branch Sponsor) and sent to DIS. The scientist must still check-in with DIS before they begin their research at NIH. Please note that DIS only honors Monday start dates except in cases of U.S. Government closure. For more information, please refer to our Initial Check-In with DIS webpage.

Delaying the Proposed Start Date

Please notify DIS if a foreign national will not be able to check in with DIS on the start date listed on the official DIS invitation letter. DIS needs to know when their new NIH start date is confirmed so that we can send the scientist updated check-in session information. Keep in mind that all DIS non-FTE check-in sessions are held on Monday mornings at 9 a.m. except in cases of U.S. Government closure. For more information, please refer to our Initial Check-In with DIS webpage.

For individuals experiencing visa delays due to administrative processing, please see Step 4 on our Arriving from Outside the United States webpage.

Note for J-1 Exchange Visitors: DIS will issue an updated Form DS-2019 to all J-1 Exchange Visitors sponsored by the NIH who change their start date at the DIS check-in session. We will not send the updated Form DS-2019 to the individual abroad unless it is explicitly requested by the Department of State.

NBS/FPS and NIH Fellowship Start Dates

As a reminder, administrative staff can create an award in NIH Business System (NBS) Fellowship Payment System (FPS) and leave in “submit” status until they are more confident of the foreign national’s start date and/or the funding amount. Once the start date and funding are confirmed, the AO can move the status from “submitted” to “approved” in NBS/FPS. Waiting to approve the award until the start date is finalized eliminates the need for DIS to reject multiple FPS awards for the same individual.

DIS can only approve new fellowship awards after the foreign national attends the DIS check-in session.

FTE Start Date Selection

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Full-time Equivalent (FTE) start dates must coincide with the beginning of a pay period. If the scientist is already at the NIH in a Non-FTE capacity, select a start date that falls before their current NTE date to avoid a gap in pay and work authorization.

We strongly encourage early submission of cases to DIS for FTE employees (preferably 8 to 12 months in advance). External agencies usually play a large role in determining the processing time for FTE cases, as most are processed through U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS processing times can vary widely depending on the case type and the current trends at the agency. With some exceptions, final approval is required from USCIS before DIS can prepare and mail the official invitation letter and supporting documents.

The Immigration Specialist assigned to the foreign national’s case will ultimately work with the IC and the scientist to determine the final FTE start date. If you submit a case to DIS with an unattainable start date, the Immigration Specialist will propose a more feasible date based on relevant factors.

Modifying the Proposed Start Date

Once a start date is established, it is usually difficult to change. When the scientist will begin an FTE appointment in H-1B or O-1 status, the start date is listed in the petition submitted to USCIS and cannot be modified to an earlier date. In some scenarios, the scientist may be able to begin at a later date than planned; however, this option will be case-by-case and must be confirmed with the Immigration Specialist.

Entrance-on-Duty (EOD) for FTE Scientists

The Immigration Specialist assigned to the case will schedule an EOD appointment with the scientist once all appointment requirements are met. The EOD will be a one-on-one appointment, after which DIS clearance (Notice of Action, NED, credentials if applicable, etc.) will be issued.

Immigration Specialists will work with IC key contacts to schedule remote check-ins for scientists at remote locations.  


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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
Badge Clearance:
1:00pm - 3:00pm Mon-Fri
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