Visiting Scholars FAQ

I would like to be a visiting scholar in your department, how do I get started?

Every visiting scholar, postdoctoral scholars, and visiting student researcher needs a faculty host/sponsor. Address any initial requests to faculty members who share your research interests. The faculty will then contact staff directly to begin the appointment process.

How long may I apply to be at Berkeley?

Appointments should be no less than one month, although we encourage visitors to visit for a minimum of three months. The average appointment is ten months. Visiting students are allowed up to one year; visiting scholars can extend their stay up to two years.

I am a Fulbright scholar. Since they have provided me with a visa and funding, what must I do to be an official visitor to UC Berkeley?

All visitors must have an appointment, even if UC Berkeley does not host their visa. You must complete the VSPA application that applies to you, and provide the supporting documents. A copy of your Fulbright award letter will serve as your proof of funding.

May I take classes as a Visiting Student Researcher?

If the main purpose of your visit is to take classes as a visitor, rather than as an admitted student, you need to contact UC Extension that has programs for visiting students not covered by an exchange agreement. See our recommended links for contact information for UC Extension.

May I request a visa other than a J-1?

No. University policy allows for visiting scholar appointments to further the exchange of knowledge, and allow for collaborative efforts. The J-1 visa is appropriate in this case.

I won't be in Berkeley for long, and your process seems time consuming; can't I come on a B visa or visa waiver?

The International Office requires that all international visitors coming under the VSPA programs should have the appropriate visa. Without this, we cannot host a visiting scholar, visiting student researcher or postdoctoral scholar.

US immigration inspectors have wide discretion in granting visas or entry to the US and often do not see Visitor status (B-1/WB or B-2/WT) as appropriate for someone coming to a University to conduct any research, consultation, or even lectures.  They usually determine that only the J-1 exchange visitor is appropriate for such purposes. At the port of entry, in some cases, scholars coming to the University have been denied entry using the visa waiver or B status because the immigration officer determined that the appropriate status was J-1 exchange visitor. The scholars in these cases were required to return to their home country without being able to leave the airport. 

I am currently an F-1 student; can I use my Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

Yes. You must apply for your OPT through your current institution, following its guidelines. Make sure that you have communicated your intention to your host faculty and the department staff.

I have my J-1 visa, is there anything else I need to do before I arrive?

Consider purchasing insurance before your arrival. Check your welcome packet for the informational sheet, or see our recommended links for the Health Services Web site. It is usually cheaper and easier to obtain insurance in your home country.

What should I do about housing and transportation?

The San Francisco Bay Area has several networks of public transportation that come right to campus, or, depending on where you choose to live, riding a bicycle to campus might be the easiest method of transport. To find housing, we recommend the free listings such as Craigslist (see our recommended links) where you can search by neighborhood, price, etc. You might also check International House for availability.

Do I really need to have $1600 per month in income?

Yes, it is a requirement if you have a J-1 visa. In fact, we highly recommend that scholars plan on having more money available in their budget, due to the high cost of living in the Bay Area. We can provide you with a sample budget that is based on UC Berkeley's graduate student budget. For residents and citizens, we require proof that you can support yourself financially in the Bay Area.