For Special Visiting Students
Occasionally, students from other universities visit Vanderbilt to work with one of our faculty members in their laboratories for a short period of time (ranging from a few weeks to several months). There is no special application process to be a special student. Instead, special visiting students must make their own arrangements to visit with the faculty member at Vanderbilt. That faculty member must then communicate with the administrative staff and Director of Graduate Studies to approve the special student status. Arrangements to be a special student must be made with sufficient lead-time to take care of various administrative matters outlines below. Visiting international students need to have more lead-time to process immigration paperwork.
The following is a set of guidelines recently distributed to our faculty concerning special visiting (non-degree) students:
- Anyone doing research at Vanderbilt needs to have some kind of official status at Vanderbilt. Usually this is a visiting student when it comes to visiting graduate students. But there may also be visiting scholar categories that would apply to visiting postdoctoral fellows or others. Having an official status means that they can get a Vanderbilt ID card and make use of Vanderbilt facilities, whether or not they get paid (at least that’s true for visiting students). It also means that they won’t be arrested for trespassing if challenged by a Vanderbilt police officer. There are also a host of liability issues that would prevent someone from working in our labs who wasn’t officially part of Vanderbilt in some way.
- There are a variety of fees associated with being a special non-degree student. These must be paid by the student or by the host faculty member. There is an activity and recreation fee ($175 per semester, $70 summer) that cannot be waived. Students must register for 0 hours of research, at a cost of $200 per semester. Students must have student health insurance or must demonstrate that they already have health insurance coverage; insurance must be paid for the entire year even if the student only visits for part of the year, it cannot be prorated. There is also a nominal $30 transcript fee. Please make sure you tell the student about these fees or make arrangements to pay for them yourself
- If you plan to have a special student visit, please give departmental adminstrative staff sufficient lead-time. At least a couple months for US citizens. You will need something more like 4-6 months for international students because of the complexities of visa and immigration paperwork.
- Things are simpler if the special student begins within 30 days of the start of a semester or the start of summer. While students can begin mid-semester, the registrar’s office will need to know about well in advance. For example, a student can be registered for the fall semester yet start in November. That student should be registered at the start of the fall, with a notation about the late start date. It is difficult to go back and register the student from the start of the fall retroactively. Also, beginning mid-semester can apparently raise red flags when it comes to immigration status for international students.
- If an international student is visiting for less than six months and does not need an official Vanderbilt transcript, they may be eligible for something called a J-1 Short-Term Scholar. Apparently, this is as “easy” as a student visa, and allowed anyone with at least a bachelors degree to visit for research. Note that there is also a regular J-1 Research Scholar, that allows five years of research, but apparently this one imposes some restrictions on when that scholar can reenter the US on another visa (e.g., it might make the student ineligible for a postdoc in the US). One thing that is beneficial of the “J-1 Short-Term Scholar” visa is that whether or not the visit coincides with the start of a semester is immaterial. Please check with administrative staff and ISSS about the legalities and specifics of the various visa categories.
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