Letters in Support of Visa Actions

In some situations, NIH staff members may write letters of reference/recommendation to (or for submission to) another federal agency in support of visa or Green Card applications. NIH has two policy memos in effect, from 2005 and 2007. The 2007 memo supersedes sections of the 2005 memo, but not the entire memo. Therefore, review both memos to determine which situation permits writing, submitting, or providing letters in support of visa actions, and which situations prohibit such letters.

Note that permitted letters are personal and NIH letterhead will not be used. In addition, writers may not use their NIH title and affiliation in the signature block. You may, however, mention your Government position in the body of the letter to give credibility to your recommendation.

Example: As a Federal Government research scientist, I have worked with numerous scientists. This individual ranks in the top two percent in terms of knowledge and skill, and she can be expected to make significant contributions.

NIH Policy Memo, March 25, 2005: This memo provides two examples of potential situations where a letter in support of a visa action could be requested, and explains what is allowed and why. The first example in this memo is superseded by the 2007 polilcy memo

NIH Policy Memo, June 15, 2007: (pdf, 1 page) The 2007 policy changes what is permitted regarding personal letters, and explains the issue of potential representation as prohibited in 18 USC 205. It discusses the requirement for writing your own letter, and not to use a draft prepared or offered by the requestor.

For letters of recommendation regarding employment and use of title and official stationery, see the Letters of Recommendation summary. Employees may write a recommendation on NIH letterhead for any individual who applies for federal employment

For additional information, contact your IC's Ethics Officials (see links below).

Updated: 11/5/14