Research Policy Handbook


Visiting Postdoctoral Scholars

Policy Authority

Office of Postdoctoral Affairs

Policy Contact

Now in Policy Details

This document sets forth policies and procedures related to the appointment, roles, requirements and responsibilities of Visiting Postdoctoral Scholars at Stanford.

1. Overview

Members of the Professoriate may invite individuals who are postdoctoral scholars appointed at another institution or organization to visit Stanford for an extended period for the purpose of advanced studies, research or training under the guidance of a Stanford faculty sponsor.  These individuals are appointed into academic units and classified as Visiting Postdoctoral Scholars.  The invitation must indicate the name of the faculty member hosting the visitor, and must be approved by the chair of the hosting Department, Program, Independent Laboratory, Institute or Center or other academic unit.

2. Eligibility and Requirements

The following are the minimum eligibility criteria for a Visiting Postdoctoral Scholar designation at Stanford University: (Schools may establish more restrictive eligibility criteria.)

  • the individual must be visiting from and hold postdoctoral status with an outside institution or organization
  • the individual must have a doctoral or MD degree
  • the individual must have a source of financial support from outside Stanford University (Schools and departments may establish minimum levels for the outside financial support).
  • the individual will receive no Stanford salary financial support or benefits.

3. Duration of Appointment

While the usual duration of the visit is expected to be shorter, Visiting Postdoctoral Scholar appointments can be made for up to one year.  An extension beyond one year must be approved by the School Dean’s office and will be granted only for extraordinary and compelling reasons.

4. Appointment Procedure

The procedures described here address university requirements.  Individual schools or programs may have their own appointment process, which may involve review and approval by their dean’s office.

The inviting department, program or Independent Laboratory, Institute or Center is responsible for ensuring that a Visiting Postdoctoral Scholar candidate meets the criteria above and for issuing the letter of invitation. The appointment letter must:

  • identify the faculty member issuing the invitation, and the academic organization in which the Visiting Postdoctoral Scholar will be hosted
  • specify the term of the Visiting Postdoctoral Scholar designation (that is, the dates of residency at Stanford University)
  • confirm that no salary or other financial compensation, including insurance or other health and welfare benefits, will be provided by Stanford University in conjunction with the appointment
  • provide that the Visiting Postdoctoral Scholar must satisfy all regulatory requirements and comply with Stanford policies that apply to his or her activities while at Stanford
  • explicitly state that the Visiting Postdoctoral Scholar designation reflects a visiting status and does not entitle the Visiting Postdoctoral Scholar to the benefits and privileges afforded a Stanford Postdoctoral Scholar, and
  • incorporate by reference the terms of this policy.

The appointment of a Visiting Postdoctoral Scholar must be appropriately recorded in Stanford’s database.

5. Responsibilities of Host Faculty and Departments, Programs and Independent Labs

The hosting faculty member and academic unit are responsible for providing space for the Visiting Postdoctoral Scholar, and for assuring that the individual can participate as intended without undue interference with the other academic responsibilities of the host faculty, the laboratory, department or Independent Lab/Center/Institute or other program. 

In addition, the department/host unit is responsible for assuring that the Visiting Postdoctoral Scholar:

  1. receives all required university training (e.g., health and safety or other mandatory training)
  2. understands that proprietary work for his or her home organization may not be carried out with more than incidental use of Stanford facilities during the visit. 
  3. signs the appropriate Patent and Copyright Agreement for Personnel at Stanford. (Note: If the visiting postdoctoral scholar already has an intellectual property agreement with his or her home organization, the visitor should sign an alternative version of the agreement, called the SU-18A.  If the visitor has not already assigned intellectual property, he or she signs the regular Stanford agreement (SU-18).  Both versions are filed electronically.)
  4. complies with all university policies and external requirements related to the performance of work at Stanford.

6. Intellectual Property Agreements

As described above, all Visiting Postdoctoral Scholars must sign a Stanford Patent and Copyright Agreement.  The SU-18A is an alternative to Stanford’s regular agreement in the event that the Visiting Postdoctoral Scholar has a prior obligation to another organization regarding the disclosure and assignment of intellectual property.

7. Visiting Postdoctoral Scholars from Other Countries

International Visiting Postdoctoral Scholars must have an appropriate form of visa sponsorship prior to their visit.  In the majority of cases, this will be J visa sponsorship from Stanford.  In some cases, the visiting postdoctoral scholar may have arranged for J sponsorship through an administering agency (e.g., Fulbright).  As a condition of the visa the Visiting Postdoctoral Scholar may be required to demonstrate proof of sufficient financial support and adequate health insurance coverage while in the U.S.  Contact the Bechtel International Center for further information at  

8. Privileges

Visiting Postdoctoral Scholar status is a privilege, not a right, and an individual holds this status at the pleasure of Stanford University.  The status may be revoked at any time (even during the term of the designated status) by the University in its discretion, without the necessity of a reason.  Similarly, there is no right to a renewal of the status at the end of the term.

Visiting Postdoctoral Scholars are not employees or students of the University, and therefore are not entitled to Stanford compensation or other benefits available to regular staff, faculty, postdocs or students (including health insurance). Departments or host units wishing to make a special payment to a Visiting Postdoctoral Scholar for participation in a seminar presentation or similar contribution may do so by means of non-salary honoraria.  A non-salary stipend for living expenses or supplemental research expenses for the Visiting Postdoctoral Scholar may be provided.  A change in financial support for a visitor under J visa sponsorship may require an update to be reported.  Contact Bechtel International Center for additional information.

A Visiting Postdoctoral Scholar Identification Card will be issued to Visiting Postdoctoral Scholars who are in residence for a minimum of three months.  Cards may be obtained by visiting the Stanford Card Office presenting the appropriate signed invitation for appointment as a Visiting Postdoctoral Scholar for a fixed period of at least three months, and showing a valid government-issued picture ID. 

Visiting Postdoctoral Scholars are eligible to use the following Stanford facilities and services:

  • Libraries:  Holders of Visiting Postdoctoral Scholar Cards will have access to certain Stanford University libraries in accordance with regulations and policies governing the use of its libraries. The possession of a Visiting Postdoctoral Scholar Card does not assure access to any particular library.  Visiting Postdoctoral Scholars without ID cards may apply for library privileges at the Privileges Desk in Green Library.  Privileges will be granted in accordance with library policy.
  • Department of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation (DAPER) facilities and events:  Holders of Visiting Postdoctoral Scholar Cards have access to certain facilities and events specified by DAPER, subject to payments of established amounts, if any, for tickets and use fees. 

9. Requests for Exceptions and Additional Guidance

Requests for exceptions to any of the requirements of this policy must be reviewed and approved by the school dean’s office and by the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs.  For additional guidance regarding this policy, please contact the relevant school.