International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) assists departments in bringing visiting international scholars and researchers to CU-Boulder. This page will explain the different categories in which scholars can be brought to the university, the processes involved, and the documentation needed.

All visiting international scholars, regardless of the immigration arrangements that are made for them, must have official university appointments to indicate that they have an academic relationship to the university. For those scholars who are not paid by the university, appointments such as visiting researcher without stipend are usually appropriate. Any scholar who is on the payroll of the university should consult with his or her department for an appropriate identity card. Scholars who are not on the university payroll can get “affiliate” identification cards from the Buff OneCard office.

The Different Visa Categories

Employing departments should be aware that there are different categories available in bringing over a visiting scholar. In brief, the most common categories used by foreign nationals at CU-Boulder are

J-1 Scholar

  • Nonimmigrant status
  • Appropriate for temporary employment (up to five years, depending on J category)

H-1b Scholar

  • Nonimmigrant status
  • Appropriate for temporary long-term employment (up to six years), or possibly permanent appointments


  • Nonimmigrant status
  • For nationals of Australia only
  • Appropriate for temporary employment

Green Card (Permanent Residency)

  • For permanent employment

Student Visas

It is not unusual for departments to also hire recently graduated students who are on student visas. There are two types of student visas: F-1 and J-1, and both types have mechanisms whereby the students can obtain work permission after their graduation.

F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT)

OPT allows students to work in their major field of study, for a period not to exceed 12 months. F-1 students must apply for the OPT with the Department of Homeland Security, and when approved, will have an Employment Authorization card in hand with validity dates.

F-1 OPT for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) students.

Students who graduate with a major in one of the STEM fields can apply for and obtain an additional 24 months of OPT from the Department of Homeland Security. However, the employer must be enrolled in the government’s E-Verify program. The University of Colorado is considered an E-Verify employer for purposes of hiring an F-1 student on the STEM OPT.

J-1 Academic Training

J-1 students who complete their program of study can apply for and obtain a period of 18 months of work permission in their field of study (or 36 months).

Other Visa Types

Please see our Visa Options Chart for a general overview of additional visa types.

Immigration law defines “nonimmigrants” as persons who have an intent to return to their home countries when they have completed their stated program. Departments and prospective visiting international scholars should keep these distinctions in mind in preparing documents dealing with nonimmigrant status and in all relationships with consular and immigration officers.

Visiting scholars should come to the United States on appropriate visas. The USCIS  will deny most applications for change of status for people who state one intention when they enter the United States and then immediately “develop” a different set of intentions.

Please contact our office for assistance regarding the best category in which to bring in an international scholar. You can call us at 303-492-8057.


U.S. immigration laws are very complex. The information contained in these pages is designed specifically for scholars and the departments at the University of Colorado Boulder; other individuals should seek assistance from immigration specialists. Immigration laws are constantly changing, and even though we will attempt to keep these files up to date, we cannot guarantee their completeness or accuracy. The information contained herein is not intended to create an attorney/client relationship, nor can it be construed as legal advice. Please meet with an advisor in International Student and Scholar Services before making applications or seeking benefits.