Eligibility Requirements for Foreign Investigators and Institutions

Funding News Edition: January 09, 2019
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Applications from foreign institutions must include either expertise or resources that are not easily available in the U.S.—for example, access to a unique study population.

Credit: NIAID

Among the institutes at NIH, NIAID is a leader in funding grants with foreign involvement, in large part because many of the infectious diseases in our research portfolio impact public health abroad. Given our international reach, we present below funding eligibility requirements for investigators at foreign institutions.

Find an Opportunity

If you are new to the NIH funding process, start by reading Types of Funding Opportunities, which explains the difference between investigator-initiated and targeted research and gives advice for determining whether a particular opportunity fits your research.

Once you’ve chosen your approach, you’ll want to keep the following resources handy:

Verify Your Eligibility

Every funding opportunity announcement (FOA) includes Section III. Eligibility Information. In this section, you will see text that specifically states whether foreign institutions are eligible to apply to that FOA as the primary grantee. For example, Radiation Biodosimetry Assays and Devices (U01, Clinical Trial Not Allowed) does not allow foreign entities to apply as the primary grantee, while Characterization of Mycobacterial Induced Immunity in HIV-Infected and Uninfected Individuals (R21, Clinical Trial Not Allowed) does.

Although we sometimes refer to principal investigators (PIs) as grantees, your organization submits the grant application and is therefore technically the recipient of funding and the award’s grantee. As such, when considering your eligibility for funding, it is your institution that matters most.

You may have also noticed that Radiation Biodosimetry Assays and Devices (U01, Clinical Trial Not Allowed) allows foreign components. This means, a foreign institution can be a subcomponent on a different institution’s grant. Much of the NIH-funded research that takes place outside of the U.S. is completed through collaborations or subawards with a U.S. grantee.

Be aware that some FOAs allow neither foreign grantees nor foreign components.

The chart below shows the mechanisms for which an investigator at a foreign institution can and cannot submit an application as the primary grantee.

Foreign Institution Eligibility for Select FOAs Supported by NIAID

Foreign Institutions Are Eligible

Foreign Institutions Are Not Eligible

Parent Research Project Grants (R01R03R21)

Investigator-Initiated Clinical Trial Planning (R34) and Implementation (R01U01) Grants

Some National Research Service Award (NRSA) Fellowships (F31F32)—Note: The individual PI must be a U.S. citizen or noncitizen national or have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence.

Administrative Supplements (given the parent grant allows foreign grantees)

Global Infectious Disease Research Administration Development Award for Low- and Middle-Income Country Institutions (G11, Clinical Trial Not Allowed)

NIAID Investigator-Initiated Program Project Applications (P01)

Small Business Technology Transfer (R41, R42) and Small Business Innovation Research (R43, R44) Grants

NRSA Individual Predoctoral M.D./Ph.D. or Other Dual-Doctoral Degree Fellowship (F30)

Career Development Awards (K awards)—Note: Foreign PIs at U.S. institutions are eligible for the K99/R00 award.

Training Grants (T32T35)

Research Enhancement Award Program (R15)

NIH Support for Conferences and Scientific Meetings (R13/U13)

It’s important to remember that applications from foreign institutions must include either expertise or resources that are not easily available in the U.S.—for example, access to a unique study population.

Reviewers will assess whether comparable work is being done in the U.S., and if it is, the application will likely be less competitive in peer review. Those that score well in peer review are then put before NIAID’s Advisory Council, which gives special consideration to the merits of funding research at a foreign institution.

You should also check the subsection Eligible Individuals (Program Director/Principal Investigator) within Section III. Eligibility Information to ensure that you are personally eligible. Typically, anyone with the skills, knowledge, and resources necessary to carry out the proposed research is eligible, although some targeted opportunities list additional requirements.

Going Forward

Once you’ve found a funding opportunity to apply for and have verified that you are eligible, follow the same advice we give all potential applicants: start early, read the FOA thoroughly, adhere to the applicable page limits, and get in touch with the scientific/research contact listed at the bottom of the FOA.

You can also find resources at NIAID International Applications.

In the past, we’ve seen foreign investigators new to NIAID’s funding process find success by reaching out to their U.S. counterparts for help and advice. Such networking has often led to scientific collaboration through foreign components and subawards. Again, Radiation Biodosimetry Assays and Devices (U01, Clinical Trial Not Allowed) is an example of a FOA that does not allow foreign institutions to apply but does allow a U.S. organization to include a foreign component as part of a research proposal.

If your institution hasn’t applied for NIH funding before, it will need to register first at Grants.gov and then at eRA Commons. Read Grants.gov—Organization Registration to learn more. NIH recommends starting the organization registration process at least six weeks before your application deadline.

Finally, if you are pursuing or managing an international award and need assistance, know whom to contact for help. For general questions about NIAID policies for international awards, contact the Office of Research Training and Special Programs at niaidforeignawards@niaid.nih.gov or 1-240-669-7610. For questions about a specific funding opportunity, reach out to the program officer listed as the scientific/research contact within the FOA. After you're approved for an award, a grants management specialist can help you understand how NIAID disburses funds.

Contact Us

Email us at deaweb@niaid.nih.gov for help navigating NIAID’s grant and contract policies and procedures.

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