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Plan your move

Resources to prepare you for the transition to the area surrounding the NIH campus location of your new role.

Transitions are exciting and challenging, especially when you are relocating to a new state or new country. We hope the information provided here smooths your transition and minimizes the challenges you face.

Information to tend to in advance of your move

As you plan your move, focus on both personal and work needs. Pay careful attention to emails from NIH as there is a lot of paperwork to complete before you arrive.

You may receive requests from an Administrative Office (AO) in your research group, the NIH Division of Personnel Security and Access Control (DPSAC), the OITE, and the Division of International Services (DIS) (for international trainees, whom we also refer to as Visiting Fellows). Failure to respond to requests for information in a timely fashion can significantly delay your start at NIH.

Information about:

Check out our comprehensive moving guides to assist you during your transition. These guides include information on local necessities, daycare, transportation, and more.

If you are a trainee on another NIH campus, we encourage you to reach out directly to your PI (Principal Investigator, the leader of your NIH research group) and IC (Institute or Center) training director for information.

If your appointment is longer than 60 days and more than 30 hours per week, NIH offers all IRTAs (Intramural Research Training Awardees), CRTAs (Cancer Research Training Awardees), and Visiting Fellows health insurance with individual or family coverage. The premiums are paid by the NIH. You may decline coverage if you provide proof of adequate insurance coverage from another source. The insurance program for trainees and fellows is administered by the Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences; if you have specific health concerns you can learn about coverage, deductibles, benefits, pharmacy coverage, and in-network providers here.

If you are currently taking medications, we encourage you to bring a supply lasting at least 60-90 days. Also, reach out to healthcare providers for appointments prior to your arrival so that you do not find yourself without important medications.

All offers are contingent on your ability to successfully pass a federal background check which is required for access to the NIH and involves the completion of paperwork, a pre-screen, and a final decision.

The process for IRTAs (Intramural Research Training Awardees) and CRTAs (Cancer Research Training Awardees) differs from the process for Visiting Fellows who do not yet have a U.S. social security number. Please see the "Special considerations for international trainees section" below for additional information.

Once IRTAs and CRTAs are sponsored by their IC (Institute or Center) Administrative Officer to receive a badge, NIH Division of Personnel Security and Access Control (DPSAC) sends the trainee an email to begin the screening process. Respond promptly to all emails from DPSAC; the process takes ~30 days even without issues during prescreening.

Any trainee expected to be at NIH for greater than 60 days completes an in-depth background check involving detailed questions about their history and prior use of illegal drugs. It is critical to understand the difference between state and Federal laws as you complete your background check. While marijuana is legal or decriminalized in many state and local jurisdictions, it is illegal at the Federal level even when used in a state where it is legal. This may prevent you from obtaining the necessary clearances to participate in NIH research training programs, even if you were initially offered a position. We strongly advise you to NOT relocate if you have used, possessed, supplied, or manufactured marijuana (for recreational or medical purposes) within one year of your background check.

Reach out to us with questions about the Federal background check and if you receive a request for additional information after the prescreening process.

The NIH Division of International Services (DIS) provides comprehensive information to help international scientists thrive at NIH. DIS is the office responsible for visa paperwork. DIS will be in contact with you once the administrative officer (AO) of your research group submits a Visiting Fellow package (containing your job offer and a visa application) on your behalf. It is important to work with your AO on completing the necessary steps for onboarding quickly. Delays in responding to requests from your AO or from your DIS case manager will delay your on-boarding process. Additional information may be found at the DIS Case Submission website.

After arriving in the U.S., visiting fellows need to obtain a Social Security Number (SSN) before an NIH badge is issued. The SSN application process may take up to 4-6 weeks. The basic steps are:

  1. IC (Institute or Center) Administrative Officer sponsors the visiting fellow to receive an NIH badge 6-8 weeks before they are scheduled to start working.
  2. Upon arrival in U.S., the visiting fellow meets with Division of International Services (DIS) for a check-in to validate work status.
  3. Wait 5 days after the DIS check-in, then visit a local Social Security Administration office in-person to apply for a SSN. See the SSN guidance for additional information on the process.
  4. Once a SSN is received and provided to DPSAC (NIH Division of Personnel Security and Access Control), the screening and badging process will continue. Additional information about the DPSAC process can be found here.

Stipends for IRTAs (Intramural Research Training Awardees), CRTAs (Cancer Research Training Awardees), and Visiting Fellows are based on prior education and experience and adjusted annually. Consult the stipends, relocation expenses, and specialty allowance page and tables for information and ask your Administrative Officer to share your annual stipend with you.

Some NIH ICs (Institute or Center) provide a moving allowance of up to $3,000 for individuals relocating.  If you are relocating, ask your Administrative Officer and Principal Investigator (PI) to see if this applies to you.

Stipend increases in the form of specialty allowances may be offered to postdocs in the following fields: engineer (electrical, chemical, mechanical, biomedical), computer science, computational biology (informatics, information technology), physics, chemistry (analytical, physical, organic, and inorganic), biostatistics, epidemiology, and math. Specialty allowances may not exceed $10,000. Ask your PI if you are eligible for a specialty allowance.

Ask if there are papers you can read in advance of your arrival or anything else you can do now to be productive later. Prepare for a successful experience at NIH by reading our advice to trainees and fellows on the Build relationships with mentors page.

The reasonable accommodation process for trainees and fellows is handled by the NIH OITE in collaboration with the NIH Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. Contact OITE for information.


Reach out to us at with questions.

Next steps

Once you've figured out the details of your move, continue to the next stage:

Onboard and settle in