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DIS Title Divider Visiting Scientists Title Divider H-1B Overview
Visiting Scientists
H-1B Overview

Before Coming to NIH as an H-1B

Congratulations on your new position as an H-1B at the National Institutes of Health! The Division of International Services (DIS) is the official NIH office responsible for assisting visiting foreign national scientists with navigating visa and immigration issues. Let us know if you have questions or concerns, we want your immigration journey to go as smoothly as possible.

If you have questions on administrative matters (such as health insurance or stipend payments), see your Institute/Center’s (IC) Administrative Key Contact. Your “Key Contact” is responsible for assisting you with administrative matters and serves as a liaison with the DIS. A full listing of IC Key Contacts is available here.

Checking In With DIS (Or EOD: Enter on Duty)

Upon initial arrival to the NIH, all NIH-sponsored foreign national researchers must check-in with the Division of International Services (DIS) to activate their award/appointment/assignment. The DIS must verify that the researcher was lawfully admitted to the United States and is in the proper immigration status to undertake activities at the NIH.

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. Certain immigration reporting requirements only allow the DIS to activate your stay as of the date you check-in with our office. You can, however, check-in with us early (i.e. before your first day) to complete the activation process. The DIS will not be able to “back-date” or approve a start date in the past. Failure to check-in can result in cancellation of your program at the NIH!

If you are outside the local area surrounding the main NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland, contact your IC “Key Contact” to schedule an appointment to process the check-in remotely.

When reporting for the check-in, please bring your and any family members’ original immigration documents. This includes your passport, print-out of your electronic Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record, and Form I-797 Approval Notice. Copies of immigration documents are not acceptable for check-in. Please notify us upon arrival if your family members will be joining you in the United States at a later date. 

At the initial check-in, we will check your documents and have you sign any necessary forms. You will be given information essential to review for your stay in the U.S. and scheduled to attend any applicable orientation, seminar, or workshop. It is critical that you attend your scheduled orientation, seminar, or workshop.

Going from J-1 to H-1B

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H-1B sponsorship is not available to Visiting Fellows (since fellows are not NIH employees).  You could be eligible for H-1B sponsorship, however, if you are approved for appointment to an FTE position and meet H-1B eligibility. 

You must also satisfy the 212(e) requirement before you are eligible for H-1B sponsorship. Most scientists satisfy this requirement by obtaining a waiver.  The most common waiver is the No-Objection Statement (NOS) waiver, which requires a No-Objection statement from the individual's home country government. In order to expedite processing, the NIH will not object to an NOS waiver for someone approved for an FTE position with a request for an H-1B visa. The scientist should initiate a waiver of the J-1 two-year home residence requirement at least 4-6 months prior to the date that the DIS must file the H-1B petition with the USCIS.

H-1B Transfers

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If you are currently inside the U.S., transferring your H-1B to come to NIH, please work very closely with your DIS Immigration Specialist to ensure a smooth transition to the NIH. Upon receiving a request from your upcoming NIH laboratory/branch, an Immigration Specialist will contact you to discuss these procedures. Please do *not* quit or leave your current position before discussing your case with this Specialist.

NOTE: If your arrival date to the NIH has changed or is delayed, please coordinate a new arrival date with your NIH Institute/Center (IC) sponsor and administrative Key Contact, as well as inform the DIS of these changes. Your IC Key Contact is responsible for assisting you with administrative matters and serves as a liaison with the DIS. A full listing of IC Key Contacts is available here.

After your arrival, you must report to the DIS no later than your first day of work in the laboratory/branch. You can, however, check-in with us before your first day. Failure to check-in can result in cancellation of your program at the NIH!

Information for those Currently OUTSIDE
the United States 

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  1. Getting Your Visa
  2. 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)


  3. Entry to the United States 
  4. 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."

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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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