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Visa Sponsorship Duration for Foreign National Postdoctoral Researchers and Fellows

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Recognizing the time and financial burden of the visa renewal process on many of the University’s foreign national postdocs, faculty mentors now have the option of offering the standard one-year appointment with a visa sponsorship duration that is multi-year. The visa sponsorship can be extended based on 1) the faculty member’s intention to reappoint a postdoc contingent upon satisfactory performance, 2) the years of available funding to support the postdoctoral position, and 3) compliance with the 5-year total postdoc appointment. This can be done upon initial appointment or reappointment per faculty mentor discretion.

If the faculty member chooses to offer a longer visa sponsorship duration to be reflected in the DS-2019, the appropriate language that is required for the appointment letter is offered below. This language must be included in the letter as documentation for the visa sponsorship application processed by ISSS. At least one specific funding source must be included with examples suggested in the paragraph below. Examples include “[mentor’s name] start-up funds”, “[funding program name] fellowship”, or “grant name”. The time requested for the visa sponsorship must not exceed the 5-year total appointment period per university policy. Please further note that H-1B sponsorship can only be extended in three-year increments. Postdocs that hold a visa other than a J-1 or H-1B should contact ISSS to determine their eligibility for longer visa sponsorship.

If a postdoc is in the biomedical sciences, Biomedical Postdoctoral Programs will provide additional guidance specific for the generation of appointment letters.

Consultation with ISSS

Requesting a multi-year visa sponsorship duration does not guarantee approval. ISSS will review the appointment letter and determine eligibility.

Termination of Employment and Visa Sponsorship

Please note that a visa sponsorship by the University ends upon the postdoc’s termination date. If a postdoc is terminated earlier than the end date of the visa sponsorship, the termination date will supersede the original end date for sponsorship and the department is responsible to notify ISSS. A multi-year visa sponsorship does not guarantee reappointment or continued employment.

Appointment Letter Language (example)

The mentor has sufficient funds in the “RO1 funds” (multiple funding sources can be listed) to sponsor you for the period of 10/01/2022 to 09/30/2027 and has the intention to extend the appointment during the funding period depending on your performance. This could be considered in the preparation of your visa documents by ISSS.

Related FAQs

I have an international postdoc. How long can I appoint them in a postdoc position?

Per the policy, postdoc appointments are made for one year. Postdocs can be reappointed for up to five years total. Faculty mentors who expect to reappoint an international postdoc can offer a multi-year visa sponsorship duration to mitigate the burden of visa renewals if funding is secured for the same period of visa sponsorship, there is an intention to reappoint the postdoc, and the postdoc meets the expectations of the position as documented in an Individual Development Plan. Departments need to include the appropriate language in the appointment or reappointment letter to offer a multi-year visa sponsorship duration and final approval must be secured by ISSS.

I’m would like to hire a foreign national as a postdoc. What is the visa process?

It can take up to 6 months for a postdoc to secure a visa, so the first step in hiring is to initiate the visa application process. Most postdocs come to Penn on J1 visas, so you should reach out to your department administrator and Penn ISSS for more information about visa options and to begin the application process.

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