- Getting Your Visa
The first step on your journey to the NIH is to apply for a visa. It is important that you do *not* make travel arrangements until you have received your visa. Apply for your visa after you receive the necessary immigration or "enabling" document(s) from the Division of International Services (DIS), NIH. The enabling document helps to define to the U.S. Consulate the purpose of your visit to the U.S. For H-1B Temporary Workers, the enabling document is the Form I-797 Approval Notice issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
To obtain a visa, submit a visa application directly to a U.S. Consulate or U.S. Embassy. Only a U.S. Consular Officer, Department of State (DOS), has authority to issue visas. Consular officers are located at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide. See the U.S. Embassy website for more information. (See Getting Your Visa for more information)
- Entry to the United States
After receipt of your visa, the second step on your journey is to make your arrangements to travel to a U.S. port of entry. In general, it is a good idea to wait until you receive your non-immigrant visa to book your airline tickets. However, if you decide to book your flight earlier, it is suggested that you include the option to change your travel dates with a fee in the event that your visa is delayed.
After your arrival at a U.S. port of entry, you and any family members will queue up for immigration and customs inspection with a Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Inspector. Make sure to hand-carry your passport, enabling document, letter of invitation from the DIS/NIH, and evidence of your relationship with any dependants (marriage or birth certificate); do not pack them in your checked luggage. You will need to present them to the Inspector.
During the inspection process, you will be asked to describe the purpose of your visit and provide documents to support your entry. You will also be fingerprinted and photographed under a security program through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM), formerly known as the U.S. Visitors and Immigration Status Indicator Technology (US VISIT). Additional information about what to expect is available on the CBP web site.
If you are permitted to enter the U.S., the Inspector will provide you “immigration status” by stamping your passport (and any family member's passports) with your U.S. admission information:
- Date of entry;
- Port of entry;
- Class of admission (which corresponds to your immigration status, H-1B;
- Length of stay you may remain in the U.S.; and
- Any special conditions that may apply to your stay.
This admission information is also used to electronically generate the Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record. Always check your admission stamp in your passport and electronic Form I-94 to ensure they are annotated appropriately based on your enabling document.
Please report to the DIS immediately after your arrival to the United States, but no later than your first day in the laboratory or branch! Please contact the DIS for an individual check-in appointment.
If you are "visa exempt" - that is, you are *not* required to obtain a visa before entering the United States - you can make your travel arrangements after receipt of your immigration or "enabling" document. The "enabling" document helps define the purpose of your visit to the U.S. Citizens of Canada, for example, are "visa exempt."