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FAQs Regarding Training: For NIH Staff and Administrative Officers

What's the most current information regarding the pandemic and NIH policies for trainees?

Policy Update for Trainees: December 17, 2021


Return to work for postbac IRTA/CRTAs and Visiting Fellows

  • All full-time non-FTE trainees (postbacs, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows) should be fully supported in returning to on-site work (full- or part-time) at this time, whether they work at or away from the bench. However, trainees who wish to continue working remotely full-time, and who have the support of their PI, may continue working remotely through April 1, 2022 with the possibility of further extension depending on the COVID situation. This will provide time for trainees appointed during the pandemic to relocate in preparation for their return to campus.
    • Trainees and PIs who disagree over the continuation of remote work through April 1 should seek guidance from their Office of the Scientific Director and IC training office for help in reconciling differences. Any trainee who feels that their concerns have not been appropriately addressed should reach out to the OITE for additional guidance. 
  • Trainees who wish to continue working remotely after April 1, 2022 may request a temporary extension of their remote work status; each approval will be granted for 90 days and can be renewed if needed. It is expected that most extensions of remote work status after April 1, 2022 will be granted for medical reasons.
    • Trainees should first discuss their plans to request an exemption with their PI who should seek input from the Scientific Director.  All trainees have the right to privacy and are not required to discuss specific medical reasons with their PI or other NIH staff.
    • Following discussion with their PI, trainees should submit a written request for an extension of their remote work status to the OITE Director.
    • Trainees will not be required to provide medical documentation or consult with OMS staff to be granted the initial 3-month extension; however, prolonged extension will require a more complete process to formally request reasonable accommodation, including providing medical documentation to NIH OMS if appropriate.

Long-term telework/remote work options for trainees 

  • While we are currently allowing maximal flexibility for trainees, no IRTAs/CRTAs or VFs should be appointed with the understanding that they will work exclusively remotely for the duration of their training experience. At the appropriate time the NIH IRP will release a new telework policy for trainees. This policy stresses the critical importance of in-person training and expressly limits the amount of telework appropriate for all levels of trainees. Therefore, it is critical that we not promise any trainee the possibility of full-time remote work. 
    • The new telework policy for non-FTE trainees will not be implemented until a full return to the physical workspace has happened. The policy will be disseminated to PIs, trainees, and staff at a later date. 

Vaccine requirement for trainees

  • The OITE previously requested that non-FTE trainees (IRTAs, CRTAs, Visiting Fellows) begin the process of verifying their vaccination status and will continue communicating with trainees about this process as more information becomes available. We hope to have guidance on the on-boarding of new trainees, accommodation requests for trainees, and how we will handle unvaccinated trainees in early 2022. We are awaiting guidance from HHS and will reach out to you as soon as possible.

Summer Internship Program (SIP) 2022

  • No decisions have been made regarding the status of the 2022 SIP. We hope to offer in person internships and have not decided regarding a hybrid program where some trainees report to campus and others work remotely. While we hope that we do not have to host a fully virtual SIP again in 2022, that is a possibility given current circumstances. 
  • When applicants visit the application portal there is an update at the top of the page: In 2022, we hope to welcome summer interns in-person to our NIH campuses; this is dependent on the course of the coronavirus pandemic. We will update this website as soon as we have definitive information. The safest course of action at this time is to tell applicants that you will have more information in early 2022 and that you will let them know about the availability of positions in at that time.

Current Ban on on-campus work for student IRTAs/CRTAs and Special Volunteers

  • Student IRTA/CRTAs and Special Volunteers (SVs) who are in high school or college must continue working remotely at this time. We hope to allow them on-site once postbacs, grad students, and postdocs have returned to campus “full-time” and depending on work density requirements. 
  • Student IRTA/CRTAs and SV who are in graduate or professional school are permitted to work on campus within density requirements and if approved by their Scientific Director. Approval for on-site work for student IRTAs/CRTAs and SVs at the graduate level also requires an email to the OITE Director confirming that a Covid safety plan is in place, that the trainee is fully vaccinated, and that they have been provided information on IC and OITE resources for trainees. The approval process takes less than 72 hours in most cases.
  • Note, this policy does not apply to trainees appointed into full-time fellowship appointments, including postbac IRTAs and CRTAs or predoc  and postdoc IRTAs, CRTAs and Visiting Fellows.

What about incoming trainees?
Our guidance depends on the type of trainee you wish to on-board.

  • We allow the remote onboarding of postbac, predoc, and postdoc IRTAs and CRTAs. Trainees have the same telework flexibilities as other trainees at this time.
  • High school and college students may be appointed as student IRTAs or Special Volunteers only if they can complete all of their work remotely. Student IRTA/CRTAs and Special volunteers who are in graduate or professional school may be considered for on-campus work if there is a clear safety plan in place and if approved by the OITE. No other appointment mechanisms (contractor, FTE) may be used to appoint students to work on IRP labs or offices until further notice. Specific details can be found at
  • For predoc or postdoc Visiting Fellows:
    • For prospective trainees (non-FTEs) in the Visiting Program who are currently overseas, the Division of International Services (DIS) will process these new case requests. Please refer to DIS Checklists for document requirements. It should be noted that prospective trainees abroad may experience delays in arriving to the U.S. due to limited visa services at the Department of State. The trainees should work with their Administrative Officer on completing the necessary steps for onboarding. Additional information may be found at the DIS Case Submission website. Remote on-boarding is NOT an option while new trainees in the Visiting Program are currently overseas.
    • For new trainees (non-FTEs) in the Visiting Program who are in the U.S. and able to onboard, DIS allows remote onboarding. However, we strongly recommend that all new trainees be offered a delayed start date before they move to this area. The trainees should work with their Administrative Officer on completing the necessary steps for onboarding. Additional information may be found at the DIS Case Submission website.

Many trainees have lost critical research time during the pandemic. What is NIH doing to support trainees during this time?
We have provided extensions and additional appointment flexibilities for all trainee groups, with the caveat that Visiting Fellows have strict visa requirements that must be met for the extension to be approved. Details of the extension and appointment flexibilities can be found at: The Division of International ServicesOffice of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) and Office of Intramural Research will continue to assess the extension policies to determine if further flexibilities are needed. Trainees should also reach out to the OITE to strategize career planning, stress-management and wellness.

Is there a good way to reach DIS?
Contact DIS via email: or by phone at 301-496-6166. From there they will assess which immigration specialist is most appropriate to respond. You can also visit the new DIS webpage.

How can my trainees access the NIH Library?
Your trainees can access NIH Library resources by going to and clicking on “Log In” located in the upper right of the webpage.  This will reroute them to They should then select “NIH – National Institutes of Health” under Agency PIV Card/Credentials (i.e., the user name and password associated with their NED entries) Log In and enter the latter to access NIH Library resources.