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ARCHIVED - Foreign Grants - Visas

Investigators and other personnel who are not U.S. citizens may work on NIH-supported research projects.

Investigators need not be U.S. citizens to apply for research project grants, such as a standard research project grant (R01), small research grant (R03), or exploratory/developmental grant (R21). Other grant types have citizenship requirements that are stated in the funding opportunity announcement.

NIH requires the applicant to determine that individuals’ visas will allow them to remain in the United States long enough for them to be productive on the research project; however, NIH does not provide guidance on or assessment of the different types of visas. NIH expects grantee organizations to have policies, consistently applied regardless of the source of funds to address this matter. The institution retains the "interests and rights" to the grant. It is the responsibility of the institution to monitor the status of the individual's visa and ensure they have sufficient time to fulfill the obligations of the research they are being paid for on the grant. The sponsoring applicant institution is responsible for ensuring that the investigators and personnel have appropriate visas.

If a PD/PI decides to change institutions, the current institution can either relinquish the award to the PD/PI’s new institution, including to a foreign institution, or nominate a replacement PD/PI.

  • If you do not have a permanent visa, state in your application that your visa will allow you to remain in the U.S. long enough for you to finish your project.
  • If your visa doesn't cover the life of the grant and you cannot assure NIH that you will be getting one that does, your institution must nominate a replacement PD/PI, or NIH may not be able to issue an award.
  • If NIH issues a grant award and later discovers that your visa does not allow sufficient time for the project, NIH can take action which may include termination of the grant.

Visas as Allowable Costs

  • In general, visas and associated costs are considered consular fees and are not allowable unless part of a recruitment package.
  • H-1B visas are a type of non-immigrant visa employers can use to hire workers in specialty occupations requiring highly specialized knowledge and for which no workers can be found in the United States. Employers sponsor employees and pay a mandatory fee; the prospective employee is then issued a visa if certain conditions are met. OMB Circular A-21, Section J(42) specifically allows charging various costs for “Recruiting” and the “…relocation costs incident to recruitment of new employees…”.  As immigration is clearly a relocation cost these costs are allowable under the circular.  However, note that it only mentions recruitment of new employees; this implies that any renewal costs would not be allowable.
  • Expedited processing fees are generally unallowable costs unless and until they become part of "standard processing fees".
  • Fraud fees are allowable if they are required fees.
  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security SEVIS Form I-901 is a required fee and is an allowable cost. Note: The SEVIS fee does not apply to H-1B visa holders, but instead to various student visas also used by universities.

Patriot Act

Foreign nationals who seek to work on NIH-funded grants or contracts need to address visa considerations and requirements of the USA Patriot Act, a public law to deter and punish terrorism inside and outside the U.S. and provide investigatory and other tools, which include restricting access to select agents.

  • The Patriot Act applies to anyone on an NIH-funded research project. Violations can be punished with a $10,000 fine, 10 years imprisonment, or both.
  • The Act states that people defined as "restricted" cannot work with pathogens or toxins that are potential bioterrorism agents. To see lists of relevant pathogens, go to HHS and USDA Select Agents and Toxins.
  • NIH does not require assurances from individual PD/PIs; your institution is responsible for enforcing the law.
Patriot Act Definition of Restricted Persons
  • Nationals of Iran, Syria, Cuba, North Korea, and Sudan who are not U.S. permanent residents.
  • Persons who admit using or are convicted users of a controlled substance.
  • People under indictment or convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year.
  • Veterans dishonorably discharged from the U.S. armed services.
  • Fugitives from justice.
  • Persons illegally in the U.S.
  • Persons adjudicated as mentally defective or committed to a mental institution.

Related information:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding Training Opportunities for Foreign Scientists at the NIH:

NIH Division of International Services.
The Division of International Services (DIS) at NIH works with all prospective visiting scientists to meet or fulfill their visa requirements. (See and

Visas and Permanent Residency Requirements:

The Visa Classifications Chart (PDF - 67 KB) summarizes non-immigrant visa classifications by title, description and employment eligibility.

Foreign Workers on NIH Awards [(National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)] (See


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