Visas and Immigration

NREL is home to leading scientific talent from more than 70 countries all working toward a common goal—to discover innovative scientific solutions to the world's energy challenges, every day.

An international scope is essential to our research at NREL, and we invite outstanding foreign national students, scholars, and professionals to become part of our organization.

From the time the candidate accepts the employment offer, NREL's Global Mobility team obtains appropriate visa status for work authorization for employees from other countries.

Exchange Visitor Program and Temporary Business Visitors

The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program is a temporary exchange of visiting scholars that links research and educational institutions around the world.

Participants enter the U.S. with a J-1 visa, identified as "exchange visitors," including J-1 Short-term or Research Scholars. Participants are exposed to U.S. techniques, methodologies, business practices, and expertise, which increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries via educational and cultural exchanges.

Insurance Coverage Requirements

U.S. federal regulations require every J-1 participant and their J-2 dependents to have medical insurance coverage with the following minimum benefits for the duration of their participation in the program:

  • Medical benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness
  • Repatriation of remains in the amount of $25,000
  • Expenses associated with the medical evacuation of the exchange visitor to their home country in the amount of $50,000
  • A deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness
  • A policy underwritten by an insurance carrier with an A.M. Best rating of "A-" or above.

NREL must have proof of insurance coverage before a Certificate of Eligibility is issued.

212(e) 2-Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement

The 2-year home country physical presence requirement is one of the most unique characteristics of exchange visitor status. This rule is tied to the J-1 exchange visitor's field of study and country of last permanent residence. Not all J-1 exchange visitors are subject to this rule. If an exchange visitor is subject to the 2-year home residency requirement, it is noted on the DS-2019 and on the visa stamp.

Waivers to J-1 Exchange Visitor's Visa

NREL does not support the pursuance of a waiver of the J-1 Exchange Visitor's Visa. NREL does not generally object to the waiver; however, if the U.S. Department of State grants the waiver, continued employment at NREL or change in status to another visa type is neither implied nor guaranteed. Fees associated with the waiver request are the responsibility of the requesting foreign national.

J-1 Professional Scholar

J-1 Professional Scholar appointments at NREL fall into one of the following categories:

  • Research Scholar: An individual conducting research, observing, or consulting in connection with a research project. A research scholar may also teach or lecture, unless disallowed by the sponsor
    • Minimum stay of 6 months required
    • Maximum stay of 5 years
  • Short-Term Scholar: An individual coming to the United States for a period of up to 6 months to lecture, observe, consult, and participate in seminars, workshops, conferences, study tours, professional meetings, or similar types of educational and professional activities
    • Once confirmed, the individual may not change to any other category of J-1 Scholar.
    • No minimum stay is required.
    • A maximum stay of 6 months is allowed. (NOTE: no extensions beyond 6 months under any circumstances)

The "temporary visitor" status is a nonimmigrant classification for persons desiring to enter the United States temporarily for business (B-1), for pleasure or medical treatment (B-2), or combination of both (B-1/B-2) purposes. United States Department of State and Department of Homeland Security officers have wide discretion in granting visas or entry to the United States.

Travelers coming to the United States for tourism or business for 90 days or less from qualified countries may be eligible to visit the United States without a visa if they meet the visa waiver program requirements.

The U.S. Department of State/Department of Homeland Security may not view B-1/WB or B-2/WT Visitor status as appropriate for someone coming to a university to study, conduct research, consult, or lecture. Another immigration category, such as a J-1 exchange visitor, may be appropriate for such purposes and could possibly refuse a B visa or entry to the United States in B visitor status.

It is the foreign national's responsibility to obtain a visa and to gain admission to the United States as a B-1/WB or B-2/WT visitor. See the U.S. Department of State's information on Visitor's Visas for requirements.

Visa Waiver Program

Visitors of countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) who wish to come under visa waiver may be granted permission to enter for 90 days only and may not extend their stay. VWP countries and requirements, including Electronic System for Travel Authorization, are on the U.S. Department of State visa waiver program.

Resources for Living in the United States

Wait at least 10 calendar days from the date of entry into the United States to apply for a driver's license or ID. Most states and territories use the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) Program to determine a non-citizen's eligibility for many public benefits, including the issuance of a driver's license.

Colorado residents who are not U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents ("green card" holders) will only be eligible to receive a restricted driver's license or identification card. Learn more about obtaining a Colorado driver's license and verify you have the correct documentation to apply for one.

Accompanying Dependent Requirements

An accompanying dependent who applies for a driver's license or state ID should present supporting personal status documentation as well as status documentation of the primary visa holder.

Sometimes Department of Motor Vehicles offices have difficulty when verifying dependents. The best way to alleviate this problem is for all nonimmigrants in this position to do the following:

  • Always go to the Department of Motor Vehicles office with the primary visa status holder
  • Bring the following paperwork:
    • The primary's and dependent's most current Form I-94
    • The primary's and dependent's valid passport with visa (when applicable)
    • Proof of identity
    • Proof of relationship (e.g., marriage certificate)
    • The primary's and dependent's most current Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 (This is critical when the primary F-1 or M-1 is on Optional Practical Training.)
    • Form I-797 or Form I-797A "Notice of Action," in cases of a change of status (e.g., H-1B).

Please apply for a Social Security card 10 days after entry into the United States. Please visit the Social Security Administration for information on required documentation and to locate the nearest Social Security Administration office.