Foreign Workers on NIH Awards SOP

This standard operating procedure (SOP) includes the following sections: PurposeProcedureContacts, and Links.

Some links will work for NIAID staff only.


To allow principal investigators (PIs) and other personnel who are not U.S. citizens to work on NIH-supported research projects.


Investigators need not be U.S. citizens to apply for a research project grant, e.g., an R01, small grant (R03), or exploratory/developmental grant (R21). Other grant types do have a citizenship requirement (e.g., trainees appointed to training grants, recipients of fellowships and career development awards), which will be stated in the notice of funding opportunity.

Foreign nationals who seek to work on NIH-funded grants or contracts need to address visa considerations and requirements of the USA Patriot Act.

The institutional business official is responsible for ensuring that investigators and personnel have appropriate visas.

Foreign Investigators—Visa Issues—Grants

  • If you are working at a U.S. institution that is receiving the award, you have to remain there long enough to finish your project.
  • 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 be productive on the research project.
  • If your visa doesn't cover the life of the grant and you cannot assure us that you will be getting one that does, your institution—the grantee—will have to nominate a replacement PI now, or we may not be able to issue an award.
  • If NIAID issues a grant award and later finds out that your visa does not allow for a long enough stay to be productive on the project, NIH can take action which may include terminating the grant.
  • Visa costs are generally allowable as a direct cost when part of a recruitment package, provided the institution has an employee/employer relationship with you.
  • NIH does not provide guidance on or assess the different types of visas.

Patriot Act

  • The USA 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.
  • NIAID does not require assurances from PIs; your institution is responsible for enforcing the law. If the Patriot Act affects you, call your institutional business office for advice.

Patriot Act Definition of Restricted Persons

  • Aliens, other than a U.S. permanent resident, who are nationals of State Sponsors of Terrorism
  • Persons who admit using or are convicted users of a controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. 802)
  • 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
  • Aliens illegally in the United States
  • Persons adjudicated as mentally defective or committed to a mental institution


NIAID staff, see GMP Assignments by Geographic Region and Program Code for the appropriate grants management specialist.

Grantees with questions should contact the grants management specialist listed in the eRA Commons. For more information, see Contacting Program Officers and Grants Management Specialists.

Contractors with questions should ask the primary contact listed in the RFP. See the Extramural R&D Solicitations list or see the Office of Acquisitions staff listing.

Use the contacts listed above for questions about your specific situation. If you have a general question or a suggestion to improve this page, email the Office of Knowledge and Educational Resources at


Deviations and Waivers to Grant Policies SOP

Fellowships, Internships, and Training

Foreign and International Grants and Components SOP

NIH Grants Policy StatementTerms and Conditions of NIH Grant Awards16.2 Eligibility

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