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Visa Information


MSRI continues to monitor the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation and the associated travel advisories about suspended entry into the United States for those believed to present a risk of transmitting COVID-19 and for travelers from certain countries. Currently, the U.S. government has suspended the entry of foreign nationals from some countries due to the widespread sustained (ongoing) transmission of the virus. This continues to be a developing situation and it is likely that more travel advisories will be issued for additional countries. In the meantime, please follow these web links for the latest travel information:



The Department of State has compiled a list of embassy websites for country-specific information concerning COVID-19 . This page provides links to the COVID-19 dedicated page for each nation’s embassy which includes information concerning health services, recommendations, and in some cases, information concerning a reduction or temporary suspension of visa services.

Additionally, due to the suspension of many flights, mail and parcel delivery has been affected, and so the delivery of immigration documents could be delayed. Please consider this if you are waiting for paperwork from MSRI. Utilize the tracking information provided to determine when your paperwork is expected to be delivered. If you have any questions, please reach out to MSRI’s International Advisor at int-advisor@msri.org


(Updated August 2020)

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/visas/new, 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)



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.

All visa waiver program participants must have a machine-readable passport (MRP) or e-passport valid for 6 months beyond the intended visit. Please make sure to check detailed passport requirements at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/tourism-visit/visa-waiver-program.html


  • 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


  • 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:


2. B1/B2 Visa

If you are not eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, and are coming for less than 90 days, 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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/tourism-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 no longer than 9 working 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

Please note that MSRI is not a registered e-verify employer and therefore cannot make payments to anyone holding a F-1 STEM-OPT visa.

If you are on another type of 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. Once you have contacted the International Scholar Advisor at your home institution, please contact MSRI's International Advisor at int-advisor@msri.org.

6. H-1B

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 intend to apply for a Research Membership or have received an offer and are presently in the U.S. on an H-1B visa at another institution, you may be eligible to visit MSRI while for short visits of 30 days. Please contact MSRI's International Advisor at int-advisor@msri.org who will review your status and advise you on your options.

If you intend to apply for a Postdoctoral Fellowship or have received an offer and currently hold an H-1B visa or will hold one at the time of your participation in a program at MSRI, you are eligible to apply for a postdoctoral fellowship at MSRI only if you satisfy the following condition: * your employer agrees to file an amendment to the visitor's H1-B petition adding MSRI as a work location and can justify that the employee (you) will work for a period of 4.5 months at MSRI. If your institution agrees to do a change of employer and to port you to MSRI, please note that the H1-B processing and filing fees will be entirely the responsibility of the employing institution.

Please check with your institution prior to applying for a postdoctoral fellowship at MSRI. We suggest that you first speak with the chair of your department. Once that person agrees with your plan, you must consult the international office of your institution and get the proper paperwork.

If your institution denies your request, you can apply for a short-term research membership visit for 30 days, provided that your department agrees and writes a letter to this effect.

(MSRI does not accept visits of less than 30 days.)

If you do not know your future employer at the time of application, you are welcome to apply for a postdoctoral fellowship. Once you know your employer, please be aware that if you will hold an H1-B visa with that institution, you will be eligible for a PD Fellowship at MSRI only if the above condition is satisfied.*

Please note that most non-US Postdoctoral Fellows are J-1 visa holders.

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.