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Exceptional Extensions of IRTA and Visiting Fellowships to a 6th Year

The following policy was discussed and recommended by the NIH Scientific Directors (SD) on December 15, 2004. For the official letter requesting this policy, please review the accompanying memo.

Although it is the policy of NIH to limit the post-doctoral training period so as to not unnecessarily extend training and delay employment, occasionally a 6th year is needed by an Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) fellow/Visiting Fellow (VF)* to complete training in progress and to complete application for jobs outside of the NIH. Until further notice, exceptional extensions allowing a 6th year as a postdoctoral IRTA fellow can be granted by the Scientific Director (and not further delegated; for VF, G7 Peer Review Committee approval is required) under the following circumstances:

  1. This exceptional extension is limited to select high-quality fellows based on well-articulated career plans [NOTE: These training plans are also required for fellows entering their 4th year, so that an additional extension is less likely to be needed.]
  2. The fellow is not being considered for a position at NIH and understands that the sixth IRTA/VF* year is a terminal extension. For instances in which application for a tenure-track position or staff scientist position is being considered, a research fellow appointment is the appropriate mechanism. [Note added on 1/20/2010 - Once an IRTA/VF* has been at the NIH for any portion into a 6th year, s/he may not remain in the Intramural Research Program in any capacity (although an IRTA fellow can move to a job in an extramural office at the NIH) and may only return after a two-year period has elapsed.]
  3. The supervisor and fellow must prepare a "Career Development Plan" which describes how the sixth year will be used to complete work in progress and to arrange for subsequent employment for the fellow; this must be approved by the Scientific Director.
  4. The fellow must show appropriate promise for a scientific career, including evidence of publications, or publications in preparation, and/or substantial evidence for preparation for a career in a science-related field. The 6th year extension for additional training is not intended as a means to provide stipend-support to someone who will subsequently choose a non-science career direction.

In addition, the "Career Development Plan" is now also required for IRTAs/VFs* before the end of their 4th year to reduce the need for 6th year extensions.

*Visiting Fellows (VF) qualify only if their visa allows. J1 visa extensions beyond five years is subject to review and approval by the G7 Peer Review Committee at OIR by filing a complete G7 package with NIH Division of International Services (DIS) at least six months in advance.


First Established:
Wednesday, February 9, 2005 - 9:00am

The page was last updated on Friday, August 4, 2017 - 5:04pm