Stanford University
Postdoctoral Scholars

Visas for Postdoctoral Scholars

At Stanford University, approximately 50% of the scholars are non-U.S. citizens. The Bechtel International Center is Stanford University’s office responsible for visas and compliance for postdocs at Stanford.   Bechtel offers services and guidance for and seminars for postdocs and administrators on visa and immigration issues pertinent to students and scholars.

International Postdoctoral Scholars at Stanford are sponsored on J-1 visas.  Prospective postdocs who are currently in the United States on student visas may be appointed as postdocs for the period of their EAD card validity dates during their post-completion F-1 OPT. The initial 12-month F-1 OPT period may be extended an additional 17 months for postdocs who hold a Stanford degree in certain Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM extension) fields.  Other visa statuses (including H-1B sponsorships) are rare or not allowed (see H-1B and J-1 visa comparison  and further information below).  Postdocs receive a J-1 Research Scholar sponsorship.

J-1 Visas

H-1B Visas


J-1 Visas for Palo Alto Veterans Institute for Research (PAVIR)

The J-1 Process: 

New Postdoctoral Appointments:  The sponsoring department originates a J-1 request online (also known at DS-2019 request).  The request is received by the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPA), and is approved in conjunction with the approval of the postdoctoral appointment.  When the appointment is approved, the approval of the DS-2019 follows and is forwarded to Bechtel for the processing of the DS-2019 document that the Scholar needs to obtain a visa to the United States or validate legal presence. 

OPA requires the complete appointment information submitted online to accompany an initial visa request for a new scholar.  The only exception to the complete packet requirement is proof of degree, where a letter issued by the scholar’s institution confirming the completion of the doctorate is accepted in lieu of the diploma, in order to facilitate the speed by which the Scholar may arrive in the US due to the delays in making appointments with the embassies and in making relocation arrangements.

In cases where all requirements for doctoral degree completion have been met, but the University has not confirmed award of degree and issued a letter of completion, the postdoctoral appointment cannot be approved. The DS-2019 web form request, on a case-by-case basis, may in some cases, be approved, with a letter issued by the University Registrar or an equivalent central office, and with the following condition: Approval of the appointment by the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs is subject to submission of acceptable proof of degree on or before the appointment start date, or will require a Visiting Student Researcher appointment.

Extensions of Existing Postdoctoral Appointments at Stanford: The DS-2019 extension web form is submitted online by the department administrator along with a Change Request web form noting the extension of the appointment. Both web forms are required to approve the extension.

Check the Application for the SEVIS Visa Certificate (DS-2019) for J-1 Exchange Visitors information website for instructions, processing times and to submit a request at

Department Staff Responsibilities regarding J-1 Sponsorhip:
Department administrators are responsible for implementing University policy and procedures in compliance with federal regulations. Responsibilities of Sponsoring Departments for J-1 Scholars are found on the Bechtel International Center website.

The H-1B Visa:

Stanford University's official representative for processing visa requests for postdoctoral scholars is the Bechtel International Center. H-1B visas are viewed as exception category of visas for postdoctoral scholars at Stanford.  Requests for H-1B status for postdoctoral scholars are reviewed by a university Review Board and in the absence of compelling circumstances that support an H-1B request or petition, the scholar will be expected to be in a J-1 status while in postdoctoral training at Stanford.

For more detailed information regarding university policy on visas for postdoctoral scholars, search for the H-1B memo clarifying the University’s policy and process on the Postdoc Administrator Blog.

For Postdoctoral Administrators:

J-1 Process for Palo Alto Veterans Institute for Research (PAVIR):

For those departments who appoint postdocs at PAVIR, when submitting an initial, transfer, or extension DS-2019 request for approval, please adhere to the following procedures:

  • All postdocs working at PAVIR need to have PAVIR added as a 2nd Site of Activity to their SEVIS records upon arrival to campus (this will need to be done through a J workflow request by the sponsoring Stanford department). A new DS-2019 form will be processed reflecting that this Site of Activity has been added.

  • PAVIR funding will no longer be added as a separate funding source on the DS-2019. All funding from PAVIR should appear under "Funding dispersed by Stanford".
  • It is recommended that PAVIR's name be mentioned in the "Description of Program" field on the DS-2019 Initial  (or Transfer) request.

Any questions related to the completion of the DS-2019 should be directed to Bechtel International Center.


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