Mathematical Sciences Research Institute

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Visa Information


(Updated Feb. 2015)

MSRI asks all visitors who are not U.S. citizens or U.S. legal permanent residents to fill out personal information and answer the visa questionnaire on our website at www.msri.org, as instructed in our invitation letter. If you have any questions, please contact us ahead of time at int-advisor@msri.org and we will review the situation and advise you on the type of visa to apply for.

 The criteria for assessing the type of visa you will apply for varies depending on:

  •  Membership type: Research Professor, Research Member, Post Doc or Program Associate;
  • The length of your visit at MSRI;
  • The type of payment you receive, whether it is expense reimbursement or, in rare cases, taxable income, and
  • Current immigration status of international scholars presently in the U.S.


Visa Flowchart - Visa Options

1.    The Visa Waiver Program

2.    B1/B2 Visa

3.    Canadian Citizens

4.    J-1 Visa

5.    F-1 Visa

6.    H1-B Visa

7.    Visitors already on a visa in another U.S. institution

1.    Visa Waiver Program (VWP) https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/visit/visa-waiver-program.html

 The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens of participating countries to travel to the United States without a visa when they meet all requirements explained below.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Total visit may not exceed 90 days.


  • No extension or change of immigration status is permitted.
  • No payment of taxable income or honorarium is permitted. However reimbursement for local expenses and travel is allowed if the
    "WB" notation appears on your passport (unless one is eligible for the '9 day rule'*). If you are to receive expense reimbursement, it is crucial that you receive the WB classification. Please make sure to contact us as we will prepare a letter for you to show at the port of entry in place of your original invitation letter.

 Port of Entry Process:

  • You will be required to show a passport valid for six months beyond the intended visit dates and a return trip ticket at the American port of entry or land border. The immigration official at the U.S. inspection point will place an entry stamp in your passport. It will be stamped with the entry date and bear the designation "WT"(waiver tourist) or "WB" (waiver business). 
  • If you are to receive local and/or travel expenses, it is critical that you inform the immigration official and show
    the letter we prepared to help you obtain the "WB" designation on your entry stamp.

Note: The Department of Homeland Security recommends that ESTA applications be submitted no less than 72 hours prior to travel, however we recommend applying far in advance in case one is not authorized online, in which case you need to apply for a visitor visa.
For more information see http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/temp_1305.html

2.    B1/B2 Visa

If you are not eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, you will need to apply for a visitor visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate. Check the U.S. Department of State website for detailed information at http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/visit/visitor.html, and the website of the embassy or consulate you will go to in order to get specific instructions prior to your appointment.

The Visitor Visa stamp is usually issued as a combined B-1/B-2, business/tourist stamp, sometimes issued for multiple entries (M), and valid for up to ten years.

The B-1 business classification allows for "usual academic activities" such as workshops and collaborations and for travel reimbursement and incidental expenses (no salary or honorarium), whereas the B-2 is strictly a tourist classification and does not allow for payment of any kind, including travel and expenses (unless the 9-day rule exception applies*).

If you are to receive expense reimbursement, it is crucial that you receive the B-1 classification. Please make sure to contact us as we will prepare a letter for you to show at the port of entry in place of your original invitation letter. This same letter should be used when applying for the visa stamp at the U.S. consulate or embassy.

The Immigration official at the port of entry will indicate either the B-1 or the B-2 designation on your passport entry stamp. Make sure to show your MSRI visa designation request letter and mention to the official that you will receive reimbursement which requires the B-1 designation.

If you already have a B visa and intend to use it, please email us (int-advisor@msri.org) and we will prepare a letter to ensure that you get the B1 designation.

*9-day rule

The '9-day rule' refers to a part of the 1998 Immigration and Nationality Act, which allows a visitor admitted with a B-1, B-2, WB or WT on the entry stamp to accept honorarium, travel reimbursement and incidental expenses associated with a visit for the purpose of ‘usual academic activities’ lasting not longer than 9 days at any single U.S. institution, if the visitor has not accepted such payment from more
than 5 U.S. institutions in the previous 6-month period.

3.    Canadian Citizens

Although a visa stamp is not required to enter the U.S., if you are to receive travel reimbursement and/or incidental expenses reimbursement, you must inform the immigration officer at entry and request that the B-1 or business classification be
written on the entry stamp.
If the B-2 visa or tourist classification is designated, then reimbursement is not allowed (unless the 9-day rule* applies). Please note that non-citizen Canadian residents require a visa to enter the U.S.

4.    J-1 VISA  

Please fill out the visa questionnaire online to help us to determine if you will be coming on a J-1 Visa. We will prepare the DS-2019 form/s for you to apply for the J-1 visa (and J-2 visas for accompanying family members) only once we have all needed information including:

  • your exact travels dates, and
  • other professional plans you might have in the U.S. just before or after your stay at MSRI.

We will send you the DS 2019 form/s via FedEx along with instructions regarding payment of the SEVIS fee online and needed
information to apply for a visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country.

Note: Please check-in in the administrative area upon arrival at MSRI and bring along all of your original travel and visa-related documents. Please make sure to schedule an appointment with the International Scholar Advisor at that time in order to go through mandatory orientation and activate your record in SEVIS.

Please check our information handouts:

5.    F-1 Visa

If you are on a F-1 visa at another institution, please contact your International Scholar Advisor at your home institution
to confirm that you are allowed to visit MSRI and be reimbursed if offered. 

6.    H1-B

Please be aware that there are severe restrictions on the H-1B employment visa, which is employer specific, job specific, and
location specific. 

If you are presently in the U.S. on an H-1B visa at another institution and will be attending MSRI for more than 30 days, please contact
your H1-B Advisor to confirm your legal ability to visit and/or be reimbursed.  MSRI can petition for an H-1B visa only in extremely rare instances.

7.    Visitors already on a visa in another U.S. institution

Visitors who are coming from another U.S. institution to participate in a program at MSRI should contact their International Advisor to
make sure they have permission to visit and/or to be reimbursed.

If you are in any other immigration status and have questions, do not hesitate to contact us at int-advisor@msri.org Please make sure to do so at least three months before your stay at MSRI.