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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Smithsonian Fellowships and Internships


How do I apply for internships and fellowships?

You can apply to most internships and fellowships using our online application system – SOLAA.

Where do I start to find the best internship for me?

There are more than 60 Smithsonian internship opportunities, to find the best one for you visit this page and read more about them.

Can I apply to more than one internship and/or fellowship?

Yes! In fact, we encourage you to!

What is the minimum age for an internship or fellowship?

Smithsonian accepts applicants from the ages of fourteen and older. If an applicant is fourteen or older but less than eighteen he/she must attach the parental consent form to the application unless he/she is applying through SOLAA.

Can high school students apply?

Unless an internship opportunity explicitly says otherwise, high school students are welcome to apply.  If the applicant is fourteen years of age or older but less than eighteen, they must attach the parental consent form to the application unless they are applying through SOLAA.

Can community college students apply?

Yes!  Community college students are eligible to apply to any program that four year college students are eligible for.

How does the general internship pool work?

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis as opportunities become available. Please know that if an internship does not become available that fits your interests and timeframe, you will not be contacted. If you have a specific interest, you are encouraged to apply for a specific appointment as well.

What programs and dates should I specify in an application to the general internship pool?

For the general internship pool you may input the dates that are most ideal for you, and select the units or programs that appeal to you the most.

Can international students apply for internships or fellowships?

Some Internship and Fellowship programs do accept international students. It is up to the particular program. That information can be obtained by contacting the program coordinators listed on our website.

Can I get academic credit for my internship?

Yes, but it is your responsibility to arrange to receive credit with your university before arriving.

How competitive are Smithsonian internships and fellowships?

Smithsonian internships and fellowships are very competitive; the Smithsonian receives thousands of applications each year – but don’t let that discourage you from applying.

We work to make sure Smithsonian internships are prestigious, but not exclusive.

How do I know when my internship or fellowship application has been accepted?

If you are selected for an appointment you will receive an award letter in your email.

How long should it take to find out if I received an internship or fellowship?

How long until you receive a response depends on a lot of things: which internship you applied for, the time of year, as well as how many other applicants there are so it is hard to say how long it will take to receive a response.

After Applying

How does the ID process work?

All academic appointees in residence for 30 days or longer should have received paperwork from the museum unit for a background clearance to be sent or delivered to the Office of Protection Services (OPS) Personnel Security and ID Office.  The intern/fellow should make an appointment with OPS using the OPS appointment scheduler.

How do I find housing?

To find housing you can consult our housing guide here!

International Appointees

As an international visitor to the Smithsonian, there are some additional considerations regarding your participation in an internship or fellowship. This section provides useful information to help answer your questions about coming to the Smithsonian as an international visitor.

What is the Smithsonian Office of International Relations (OIR)?

The Office of International Relations (OIR)

The Office of International Relations (OIR) at the Smithsonian Institution serves as the central point for Smithsonian-wide coordination of international activities. As the main representative of international programs for the Institution, OIR maintains relationships with U.S. government and international organizations. Smithsonian staff currently work in more than 140 countries—across disciplines, in all corners of the world.  Each year, the Smithsonian hosts hundreds of international scholars, interns, fellows and official visitors. These international visitors engage in a variety of educational activities across the Institution. Learn more about our office at

OIR Work with International Visitors

The Office of International Relations hosts hundreds of international visitors each year. In coordination with the Office of Fellowships and Internships, OIR provides immigration advising and visa assistance for international interns and fellows.

To connect with the Office of International Relations, contact us at

Come Visit Us:

The Office of International Relations operates during regular business hours: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. If you plan to visit OIR, please make an appointment ahead of time, or contact us by email at

Physical Address:

The S. Dillon Ripley Center

International Center Suite 3123 (3rd level down)

1100 Jefferson Dr. SW

Washington, DC 20013-7012

Mailing Address:

Office of International Relations

Smithsonian Institution

1100 Jefferson Dr. SW

MRC 705 PO Box 37012

Washington DC 20013-7012

Check out our International Arrival Guide!

In the Smithsonian International Arrival Guide, you can learn about:

  • Navigating the D.C. area (getting a driver’s license, local transportation)
  • Information for families
  • Practical information (such as currency exchange, telephone and postal services)
  • Local entertainment
  • U.S. cultural basics

Click HERE to view the International Arrival Guide.

Do I Need a Visa?

As a non-U.S. citizen, you will need to present proof of legal authorization to participate in your internship or fellowship.

After you have received an offer of an internship or fellowship you should work with OFI and the Office of International Relations to determine whether or not you require and are eligible for visa sponsorship by the Smithsonian.

Some things to consider: you may already be in the U.S. in a particular immigration status, which may be eligible to use during your Smithsonian internship or fellowship (you should check with OFI). If you are coming from outside the U.S. and do not hold a current U.S. immigration status, the Smithsonian may be able to help you in securing a J-1 “Exchange Visitor” visa. 

What is the J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa?

The Office of International Relations (OIR) at Smithsonian is authorized by the Department of State to be a designated sponsor of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program:

The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program provides countless opportunities for international visitors to come to the U.S. to teach, conduct research, demonstrate special skills, study or receive on-the-job training for periods ranging from a few weeks to several years. The broader objectives of the program are to facilitate the exchange of ideas and scholarly research in a variety of fields between people of the United States and people of other countries and to promote increased mutual understanding.

As a designated sponsor of the Department of State, OIR is authorized to issue the Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status (“Form DS-2019”), the primary document used to support an application for a J-1 (Exchange Visitor) Visa.


J-1 Visa DS-2019 Form Example















Smithsonian J-1 Exchange Visitor Guide

Click HERE to view the Smithsonian J-1 Exchange Visitor Guide, which summarizes J-1 program information, including details such as: documents proving J-1 status, how to maintain J-1 status, travel during your U.S. program, and more.

J-1 exchange visitors should review these program details before beginning their U.S. stay.

How Do I Get a J-1 Visa and DS-2019 Form?

When you are completing your SOLAA application (SOLAA is the registration database for interns/fellows who have formally received an offer from the Smithsonian) you MUST indicate that you require visa sponsorship.  If you are eligible for a J-1 Visa, you will be asked to complete a J-1 Visitor Request Form.  If your application is time sensitive, your Smithsonian supervisor should work directly with the Office of International Relations at

1) Once you have completed the J-1 Visitor Request form, it will be submitted to the Office of International Relations.  If you have questions about filling out this form, you should contact the Office of International Relations at

**The J-1 Visitor Request Form should be submitted two months prior to your intended start date at the Smithsonian**

In addition to the J-1 Visitor Request Form, you will also need to provide the following documentation:

  • CV
  • proof of academic degrees,
  • passport bio page with personal information (and any passport bio pages for accompanying J-2 Dependents)
  • Proof of funding in the amount of $24,000/year for fellows and $15,000/year for interns, pro-rated to $2,000/month for fellows and $1,250/month for interns. J-2 Dependents require additional funding per dependent/ year.

Funding options:

  • Smithsonian funding
  • Personal funds in the form of a bank statement (bonds and investments are not acceptable)
  • Salary, grants or scholarships in the form of an award letter
  • U.S. or home country government funding in the form of an award letter

2) When OIR receives your completed J-1 Visitor Request Form, a DS-2019 Form will be issued. OIR will send you this form via courier (please be sure to provide a valid mailing address to receive shipments from a courier service).

3) Once you receive the DS2019 form you should:

  • Complete the DS-160 application form.
  • Note: Smithsonian is a U.S. Government sponsor, and therefore J-1 visitors coming to the Smithsonian are exempt from paying the SEVIS fee and the DS-160 Visa fee.
  • Review the DS-2019 form for accuracy.
  • Prepare for your visa interview using these helpful tips and information here.
  • Note: OIR estimates an average of one month for an individual to book a visa appointment, receive the visa, and make travel and housing arrangements for your stay in the U.S.

What Do I Do When I Arrive at the Smithsonian?

When you arrive at the Smithsonian, you should plan to check in with your hosting supervisor.

If you do not hold J-1 Exchange Visitor Status, you should confirm with your supervisor whether any additional proof of immigration status is needed. Your supervisor can also direct you to the next steps for securing a Smithsonian ID, setting up email and computer access, and any additional relevant paperwork.

**If you hold J-1 Exchange Visitor Status, you must complete the check in process within 30 days of your program start date as listed below**

J-1 Exchange Visitors are required to report directly to the Office of International Relations (OIR) for check-in with their immigration documents, including:

  • Passport
  • J-1 Visa
  • J-1 Entry Stamp or Proof of I-94 entry via
  • DS-2019 form (with consular signature)
  • Health Insurance (confirmation form)
  • If applicable, dependent’s passport, visa, proof of I-94 card and DS-2019 form

You must make an appointment to check in with the Office of International Relations by contacting your J-1 sponsor, or emailing, as indicated on the pre-arrival materials you received with your DS-2019 form.

The Office of International Relations is located at the following address:

The S. Dillon Ripley Center

International Center Suite 3123 (3rd level down)

1100 Jefferson Dr. SW

Washington, DC 20013-7012 

J-1 Exchange Visitor Information

While in J-1 Exchange Visitor status under sponsorship of the Smithsonian, there are a number of items to consider while you are participating in the program:

Maintaining Your J-1 Status:

  • Report address and name changes within 10 days of the change or move to a new location to
  • Engage only in the approved activities at the authorized location for which the DS-2019 was issued.
  • Maintain required documentation throughout the J-1 program to include: DS-2019, passport valid 6 months into the future, valid J-1 entry stamp/I-94 record.
  • Maintain the required level of health insurance coverage for yourself and your dependents (link to insurance information).
  • While traveling outside of the U.S., your absence must be brief (30 days or less) and must not constitute a break in activities. If your absence will be more than 30 days, discuss options with OFI and OIR.
  • 30-day grace period: Following the completion of your program (box 3 on DS-2019 form), you are allowed 30-day period of stay in the U.S. often referred to as “Grace Period.” During this 30-day grace period, you are no longer in J-visa status, and are under the jurisdiction of Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS). CIS grants this period to allow participants to settle their affairs and to prepare to return to their home countries. Program participants may no longer continue to work and/or complete exchange activities. Although participants may travel in the United States, it is recommended that they do not travel beyond the borders of the United States as they may not be permitted reentry in J-1 Status.
  • Your family’s immigration status depends solely on your J-1 status.

J-1 Program Change of Dates:


  • The J-1 Research Scholar Status can be extended up to a five year maximum
  • The J-1 Short Term Scholar Status can be extended up to a six month maximum

If you are planning to extend your J-1 program, your Smithsonian supervisor must submit notice of the intent to extend your program to both OFI and OIR. When OIR extends your DS-2019 form, the following information is required:

  • New Start and End Dates
  • Amount and source of funding for the extension period
  • Any changes to your original activities

The request for extension should be submitted at least 30 days prior to the end date listed on your DS-2019 form. If you have applied for a J-1 Waiver, you are not eligible for further extensions of your J-1 program.

Once your program has been extended, you will receive a new DS-2019 form with new program dates from OIR. You should keep both your original DS-2019 form and your new one.

Please note: Your new DS-2019 form extends your permission to remain in the United States as a J-1 Exchange Visitor, but it does not extend the J-1 visa stamp inside of your passport. Please remember that the J-1 visa is only needed to gain entry to the U.S. If you do not plan to leave the U.S. and re-enter during your J-1 program, it does not matter if your J-1 visa remains relevant or expires. However, if you plan to travel outside of the U.S. and return during your J-1 program, you must have both a valid DS-2019 and valid visa. You may only obtain a new J-1 visa from a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad (outside of the U.S.)

Early Terminations

If you will be departing the Smithsonian 30 days or more before the end date on your DS-2019 form, you should notify your supervisor, OFI and OIR. OIR will shorten your J-1 program dates on your DS-2019 form.

Transfer In/ Transfer Out:

As a J-1 Exchange Visitor, you are eligible to transfer your J-1 status to/from other institutions who host J-1 Exchange Visitors in the same J-1 category that you hold. (For example, if you are a J-1 Exchange Visitor in the Research Scholar Category, you can transfer to another sponsor that hosts J-1 Research Scholars.)

Currently, the Smithsonian hosts:

  • J-1 Research Scholar (Maximum 5 Years)
  • J-1 Short Term Scholar (Maximum 6 Months)
  • J-1 Specialist (Maximum 1 Year)
  • J-1 Government Visitor (Maximum 18 Months)

Transfer In

If you currently hold J-1 Exchange Visitor Status in any of the categories listed above, you are eligible to transfer your J-1 status to the Smithsonian you have been invited by a Smithsonian staff member/supervisor to engage in qualifying activities at the Smithsonian.  You should follow the steps below to transfer your J-1 sponsorship from your current sponsoring institution to the Smithsonian:


  1. Contact your J-1 Responsible Officer at your current sponsor and ask that they initiate a transfer to the Smithsonian.
  2. Provide all previous and current copies of your DS-2019 form to the Smithsonian Office of International Relations.
  3. Your current J-1 sponsor must approve your “release” in the SEVIS system to the Smithsonian before the Smithsonian can access your SEVIS record and issue you a DS-2019 form.
  4. After your transfer has been initiated, you should depart your current sponsor on or before your scheduled date of transfer.
  5. Upon your arrival to the Smithsonian, please report to the Office of International Relations to check in and receive your new DS-2019 form.

Transfer Out

If the Smithsonian is currently sponsoring you in J-1 Exchange Visitor Status and you have received an offer to engage in activities at another J-1 Sponsoring Institution, you should follow the steps below to begin the process of transferring your J-1 status to your new institution.


  1. Contact the Office of International Relations to discuss your plans to transfer out.
  2. Work with your supervisor to provide written notice to the Office of International Relations agreeing to your new program end date (in the case that it is different from your original end date).
  3. Contact the J-1 Responsible Officer at the new institution to request instructions on the procedure to transfer in to the new institution.
    • Obtain the program number of the institution
    • Confirm the contact information for J-1 Responsible Officer at the new Institution
    • Discuss a release date.
  4. With the information listed above, OIR will schedule your transfer on the agreed upon release date.

Incidental Employment

J-1 Exchange Visitors must engage only in the approved activities at the specific location for which the DS-2019 form was issued. To engage in any type of work or paid activity for any employer/institution other than the Smithsonian, you must first obtain approval in writing from your J-1 Responsible Officer. To do so, contact Note that the proposed employment:

  • Must be directly related to the objectives of your Exchange Visitor program;
  • Must be incidental to your primary program activities (short-term in nature)
  • Must not delay the completion of your Exchange Visitor program.

What is the 212(e) and Am I Subject?

All J-1 Exchange Visitors hosted by the Smithsonian Institution are subject to the Two Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement or 212(e). The Smithsonian is a U.S. Government sponsor (“G” program), which is why J-1 Exchange Visitors at the Smithsonian are subject to the 212(e) regardless of their country of origin and source of funding.

What does the 212(e) mean?

What Should I Know About Taxes?

Tax requirements for international interns and fellows vary based on duration and purpose of visit and your country of citizenship. The Office of Fellowships and Internships provides some guidance on this topic.

Do I Need a U.S. Bank Account?

Most stipend payments from the Smithsonian must be made via Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) to a U.S. bank account.

However, those who do not have a U.S. bank account and are non-U.S. Residents are permitted to complete the Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) Waiver form indicating “I am a foreign vendor” to receive a physical check. However, appointees with a tenure of three (3) months or longer must open a U.S. bank account after arrival. An EFT form with the appropriate banking information must be submitted to OFI once this is complete.

Do I Need a Social Security Card?

Social Security Numbers are issued for tax purposes only. They are used to identify you within the government tax and pension system. Accordingly, you do not need a Social Security number to:

  • open a bank account
  • rent an apartment
  • open a utility account (e.g. electricity, gas)
  • set up a cell phone account
  • register your children for school
  • conduct business with other financial institutions
  • receive a driver’s license

If a business representative or service provider asks you for a Social Security number, simply inform him/her that you are an international visitor and do not have a Social Security Card.

However, as a nonimmigrant in the U.S., you will need a Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) if you plan to engage in paid employment. Neither an SSN nor a ITIN are proof of work authorization.

Procedures for an SSN

To apply for an SSN go to the nearest Social Security Office (locations and addresses provided below) and bring the following:

  • Completed SSN Application:
  • Your Internship/Fellowship Offer letter from OFI
  • Your passport, original and copy. It must be at least one year old or you will need a second form of photo ID in English.
  • I-94 (print out from

**You may apply for a social security number 10 days after you have checked in with OIR.**

When you apply for an SSN, ask the service representative to give you a receipt for your application. After you turn in your application to a social security representative, your documents will be returned to you. You will receive your SSN card by mail several weeks later.

Social Security Office Locations:

The phone number for all offices is: 1-800-772-1213. Offices are open Monday-Friday from 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM.


Silver Spring Office Suite 304 10230 New Hampshire Ave. Silver Spring, MD 20903

Rockville Office 315 N Washington Street Rockville, MD 20850

Greenbelt Office Maryland Corporate Center 7401C Forbes Blvd. Seabrook, MD 20706

Washington, DC

DC Office 2100 M Street NW Washington, DC 20037


Alexandria Office Plaza 500 Suite 190 6295 Edsall Road Alexandria, VA 22312

Arlington Office Suite 200 1401 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA 22209

To learn more about getting an ITIN, visit the U.S. Internal Revenue Service website here.

Do I Need Health Insurance?

OFI provides comprehensive information regarding health insurance. However, it is important to note that the Department of State requires all J-1 Exchange Visitors to purchase insurance that meets the following levels of coverage:

  • The J-1 (as well as J-2 dependent) is required to maintain health insurance for the entire period of the program indicated on the DS-2019.
  • The health insurance must cover all accompanying dependents in J-2 status, with the same terms as below.

International Insurance

Rating: Any insurance policy, plan, or contract must, at a minimum, be underwritten by an insurance corporation having one of the following: an A.M. Best rating of ”A-” or above; a McGraw Hill Financial/Standard & Poor’s Claims-paying Ability rating of ”A-” or above; a Weiss Research, Inc. rating of ”B+” or above; a Fitch Ratings, Inc. rating of ”A-” or above; a Moody’s Investor Services rating of ”A3” or above; or such other rating as the Department of State may from time to time specify; or be backed by the full faith and credit of the government of the exchange visitor’s home country; or part of a health benefits program offered on a group basis to employees or enrolled students by a designated sponsor; or offered through or underwritten by a federally qualified Health Maintenance Organization or eligible Competitive Medical Plan as determined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

How do I Choose Insurance that’s right for me?

If you have specific questions regarding health insurance as it pertains to J-1 Exchange Visitors, contact the Office of International Relations at

What Are My Health Insurance Options as a J-1?

Smithsonian J-1 Exchange Visitors have different insurance options, based on the type of program they will be participating in. The majority of J-1 interns and some fellows must provide their own health insurance coverage while in the U.S. on a J-1 visa.

Certain Smithsonian Fellowship appointments MAY be eligible for Smithsonian health insurance benefits (you should inquire directly with your Smithsonian hosting unit, or with OFI),  and be aware that two of the J-1 health insurance requirements (medical evacuation and repatriation) are not provided in the Smithsonian health insurance plan because these two requirements are specific to international visitors. Thus, eligible J-1 visitors who take advantage of the Smithsonian health insurance benefits must purchase medical evacuation and repatriation coverage separately.

Below are EXAMPLES of insurance providers who offer plans that cover medical evacuation and repatriation benefits only. The Smithsonian does not endorse any specific provider and cannot recommend a specific insurance plan. As long as the insurance meets the minimum requirements, you can choose a plan that’s right for you.

INSUBUY (Atlas MedEvac):

International SOS (Visitor USA Medical Evacuation and Repatriation Program):


For  J-1 exchange visitors who will be covered by a non-Smithsonian Insurance plan:

You have many options you can choose for health insurance coverage. As long as the insurance meets the minimum requirements, you can choose a plan that’s right for you, whether that’s a plan provided by an insurer in your home country and includes international coverage, or a plan offered by a U.S. provider. The Smithsonian cannot make specific recommendations for an insurance plan, as every visitor’s health insurance needs are different. However, the following policies are some EXAMPLES of plans that meet all health insurance requirements, but vary greatly. We advise you to read any plan you are considering carefully and make the best decision based on your personal situation.

After Arrival

How do I get to my internship or fellowship on a daily basis?

You can use the WMATA to get to your internship or the Smithsonian shuttle service. More information about transportation is available in the Academic Appointment Handbook.

What do I wear to my internship/fellowship?

All offices have different dress codes so ask your intern/fellow coordinator before arriving.

What are the perks/discounts associated with my academic appointment?

  • 20% discount at all Smithsonian Museum Stores
  • 20% discount at the National Gallery of Art Museum Stores
  • Reduced rate at selected Smithsonian public food facilities
  • Reduced rate at the National Gallery of Art public food facilities
  • Use of Smithsonian staff food facilities (food served is already discounted)
  • One free IMAX, Planetarium or Butterfly Pavilion ticket/week, subject to availability (does not include
  • special feature-length commercial movies), and additional tickets at a reduced rate
  • Free weekday parking after 3p.m. and weekend parking at NASM and NMNH
  • Free parking at NASM’s Udvar-Hazy Center
  • Use of the physical fitness facility at NASM
  • Smithsonian Library card
  • Free membership in the Agricultural Federal Credit Union (visit the branch in the basement of the
  • Smithsonian Castle)
  • Scholarship applications to selected TSA courses, seminars and lectures
  • Free admission to other non-Smithsonian museum who have reciprocity with the Smithsonian

If I am awarded an internship or fellowship, will that guarantee me a job when the appointment is over?

No. You will gain excellent knowledge and experience by participating in the appointment. Information on employment at the Smithsonian Institution can be found online at here.

Should interns check in with OFI on arrival?

Check-ins for interns are optional, but all interns are strongly encourage to attend an OFI New Academic Appointee Orientation. Find out when the next one is happening here.

Should fellows check in with OFI on arrival?

Yes. All fellows should schedule an appointment with their OFI liaison. Not sure who that is? Call 202-633-7070.

An intern/fellow is a non-U.S. Citizen.  Does the intern/fellow need to check in with the Office of International Relations?

Foreign interns and fellows should check in with Office of International Relations after they arrive.

I am an incoming international intern/fellow, which visa type should I choose?

Visas are very case dependent. There are many variables that are taken into consideration. This includes previous entry into the US, paid vs. unpaid appointment, length of stay, and country of residence. Reach out to Office of International Relations (OIR) for further guidance. Their email is

How does the ID process work?

All academic appointees in residence for 30 days or longer should have received paperwork from the museum unit for a background clearance to be sent or delivered to the Office of Protection Services (OPS) Personnel Security and ID Office.  The intern/fellow should make an appointment with OPS using the OPS appointment scheduler.

Are Interns or Fellows eligible for Workers' Compensation for on-the-job injuries?

If a fellow is injured or becomes ill during the appointment, he/she is generally not eligible for workers’ comp. If an intern is injured or becomes ill during the internship, he/she may be eligible for workers’ comp, depending on the circumstances.

Do academic appointees hold intellectual property rights to their work at the Smithsonian?

Fellows and Research Associates hold the right of first publication of their works for at least 3 years after the end of their appointment, unless there is a written agreement that provides otherwise. Intellectual property rights related to an intern’s activities belongs to the Smithsonian. More information about how the Smithsonian’s Public Access plan affects interns, fellows, and research associates can be found here.

How can I request a reasonable accommodation for my Intern/Fellow with a disability?

Reasonable accommodations can be requested orally or in writing from:

  • Intern Coordinators
  • Sponsor or supervisor
  • Reasonable Accommodation Coordinator in OEEMA
  • Accessibility Program Managers

Contacts for reasonable accommodations are:

  • Carol Gover, OEEMA
  • Krista Flores, AP

Where can I get more information about SI policies related to equal opportunity in the workplace; where can I get more information about SI policies related to harassment in the workplace?

You can find out more about SI policies related to both by reading the SI Equal Opportunities Rights and Responsibilities Packet here.


Do all Internships or Fellowship have stipends?

Each internship and fellowship is different. To find out which programs provide a stipend go to our website  For more information you may contact the intern or fellow coordinator listed with each program.

Do interns/fellows receive IRS Form W-2’s or Form 1099’s?

Since interns/fellows are stipend recipients and not contractors or employees, they do not receive a W-2. They will, however, receive a Financial Statement if they are a U.S. Resident and a 1042S if they are a non-U.S. resident. Recipients will be notified by mail around February or March.

Do interns/fellows receive pay stubs?

Since the IRS does not consider interns, fellows, and other stipend recipients to be employees of the Smithsonian, we do not provide pay stubs.

Do interns and fellow have to report stipends to the IRS?

It is the responsibility of interns and fellows to report their stipend earnings to the IRS. OFI cannot offer any specific guidance on how to file taxes, since we are not tax experts. However, we recommend you refer to the IRS website for specific instruction. See here and for more, here.

If I’m receiving a stipend when will I get payments?

Stipend payments are released on the 10th and 25th of each month. The frequency of your payments will be explained in your award letter.

Why are there limits on SI stipend award amounts, especially compared to other agencies?

At the Smithsonian academic appointees are not considered employees and SI stipends are issued not as compensation but to defray living expenses during the tenure of the appointment. As such, SI stipend levels are set to be comparable with other organizations that issue stipends in a similar way. Some agencies outside SI offer fellowships as a form of salaried employment. Those that do are able to set their fellow payments with market wage rates, but are also obligated to pay full benefits, withhold taxes, etc…as with any other job. Because the Smithsonian handles stipends not as salary, but more as a grant or form of scholarship, or stipend levels cannot compete with market wages but can be offered to defray living expenses during the tenure of an internship or fellowship.

Can fellows use unit funds to purchase non-SI health insurance?

Yes, unit funds can be used to purchase non-SI health insurance, but the unit must include a note on the AAF indicating that funds are to be released to fellow for that purpose.

Our unit has received some additional funds, so we would like to provide our unpaid intern with a stipend. Can we do this?

Yes, as long as you allow six weeks for processing the stipend, and total payment does not exceed stipend cap levels. Please note that however that payments cannot be made retroactively.

The intern/fellow is a non-U.S. Citizen.  When will he/she receive their initial payment?

All non-U.S. Citizens should contact OFI to schedule an appointment to check-in, verify their visa status, and complete the necessary tax forms associated with their appointment. An electronic pre-check in is available to begin the process before arrival in DC. Initial payments generally received within four to six weeks after the date of their check-in appointment with OFI if all the required visa and tax forms are provided.

Health Insurance

Definition: Primary Care Provider (PCP)

A primary contact for the insured person. With some plans, a referral from your PCP will be needed to see a specialist.

Definition: Coinsurance

A form of medical cost sharing that requires the insured person to pay a stated percentage of medical expenses after the deductible amount.

Definition: Copay

Payment required at the time of service.

Definition: Deductible

A fixed dollar amount that the insured person will pay for health costs during a specific time period (usually one year) before the insurance company will begin to pay for covered expenses.

Definition: Premium

Fees paid on a monthly basis for coverage in a health insurance plan.

Definition: Maximum out of pocket

The maximum dollar amount an insured person is required to spend on medical costs during a year.

Definition: Workers' Compensation

When an employee is injured at work, workers’ compensation coverage has two main components: 1) wage replacement benefits and 2) medical treatment and rehabilitation (U.S. Department of Labor, n.d.).

Definition: Liability Insurance

An insurance policy that protects an individual from the risk that they may be sued and held legally liable for something such as malpractice, injury or negligence.

Who is eligible to enroll?

Fellows here for three months or longer are eligible to enroll in an SI offered health insurance plan.

Do I have to enroll in SI health insurance?

No, you are more than welcome to find a health insurance plan outside SI. Smithsonian fellows who choose to enroll in a non-Smithsonian health insurance plan – including via the Healthcare Marketplace – are doing so independent of the Smithsonian. Because fellows are not employees of the Smithsonian, the Smithsonian will not complete any forms for non-Smithsonian health insurance plans.

Where do I go to find outside insurance?

To find out more information about health insurance offered outside of SI, you can visit As these are non-SI health insurance plans, OFI cannot provide you with any assistance.

Why can’t OFI provide me with more information about outside health insurance?

We understand that the healthcare system can be quite confusing and difficult to maneuver. However, we can only provide guidance about the plans we are responsible for. We will try to provide as much general information about health insurance as possible, but we encourage our fellows to research policies and practices on their own.

Where can I find more information about the plans offered by SI?

An informational packet including monthly premiums and a summary of benefits and coverage for the plans offered can be found here.

Can I get insurance for my spouse and/or dependents?

Yes, you can choose to enroll in a Family plan.

How do I know specifically what is covered under each plan?

The informational packet (here) lists a Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) for each plan offered and what you will be required to pay. If you need additional information about a specific circumstance, please contact OFI and we will do our best to assist you.

How much will I pay for each plan?

Monthly premiums will be deducted each month from your stipend. The current premium amounts can be found here.

How long do I have to make a decision?

Fellows have 60 days from the start of their appointment to log in to Secova and enroll in an SI plan. However, since your decision affects how your stipend payments are scheduled, we recommend that you inform OFI of your decision as soon as possible.

What do I do when I decide?

Please email Dora Blair ( once you have made your decision. If you would like to enroll, you will need to provide OFI with your full name, local address, social security number (SSN), and full date of birth (mmddyyyy). If you do not have a SSN, OFI will provide you with a place holder number which can be used to log into Secova. After this information is provided to OFI, you will have access to Secova to make your plan election beginning on the first Wednesday after your start date.

How do I enroll?

Click the link for a walk through on how to enroll – Health Insurance Screenshots

SI is currently using an online self-enrollment portal named Secova. You can find instructions for logging in here. Please be aware: Secova was created for employees, and therefore contains information that does not apply to fellows. Secova will show a much lower premium amount than the information provided to you – unfortunately, there is nothing OFI can do to reflect the correct premiums for fellows in Secova.

If you do not have a social security number (SSN), you will be assigned a placeholder number which can be used to log into Secova. If you are not contacted with that number, please contact OFI.

I forgot my password, what do I do? I tried logging in, but an error message appears. What do I do?

Secova has a technical support call center for log in issues. You should call (877)698-9781 if you are locked out or cannot remember your password.

Why does it have a much lower price in the Secova system?

Secova was created for and is used by SI staff. Since fellows are not staff, much of the information will not apply. Fellows should only refer to the monthly premiums listed here. Unfortunately, OFI cannot manipulate Secova to reflect accurate information for fellows.

When will I get my health insurance card?

Health insurance enrollment cards are mailed to the U.S. address provided and will generally arrive in 2-3 weeks.

When is my insurance effective?

Regardless of when you enroll within your first 60 days, your health insurance will be effective on your start date. You will be covered retroactively and will be responsible for the premiums as of that date.

What if I need to go to the doctor before I receive my enrollment card?

Generally after a week the insurance company will have your information, and you can call them to get your ID number. If you need your ID number immediately, please contact OFI. You can also pay out of pocket and submit a claim once your information is in the system.

Will I be covered while I’m traveling?

The only plan offered that will cover you while traveling is the CareFirst PPO plan.

What is a PCP and how do I choose one?

Your Primary Care Physician is your main point of contact for health concerns. With many plans you must obtain a referral from your PCP before seeing a specialist. You can find a list of PCPs on the insurance carrier’s website.

Can I change or cancel my plan? If so, when and how?

There are three instances where you are eligible to enroll, cancel, or change plans:

  • Within 60 days of the start of the fellowship, but not before the first Wednesday after your fellowship begins because updates to Secova are only done on Tuesday of each week.  Please note that health insurance will be effective on the first day of the fellowship.
  • During open‐enrollment season which takes place mid‐Nov through mid‐Dec of each year.  Fellows may also change or cancel their coverage during this period. However, enrollments, cancellations, and changes made during open-enrollment season are not effective until January 1 of the following year.
  • Within 30 days of a Qualifying Life Event (QLE). Some of the most popular QLEs are purchasing non‐Smithsonian health insurance, recently married and now on spouse’s coverage, or lost prior coverage.  Fellows may enroll or terminate coverage due to a QLE, but must do so in Secova and must provide supporting documentation to support this claim. Please note that travel insurance is not health insurance so does not qualify for a QLE.

If you wish to change your enrollment during one of these times, please contact OFI for assistance.

Will my premiums ever increase?

Yes, premiums increase at the beginning of every calendar year. This increase will be reflected in your stipend payments.

How will the premium be deducted from my stipend?

The monthly premium will be subtracted from your gross stipend payment before being released to you. If you have questions about your specific situation, please contact OFI.

When will I get my health allowance?

If you were awarded a health allowance as part of your fellowship and you choose to enroll in an SI plan your allowance will be evenly divided and lumped into your regular gross payment.

Is my health allowance taxable?

Yes, if OFI determines that taxes will be withheld from your award then your health allowance will be taxed.

Sample Payment

Here is a sample payment with a health insurance premium deduction. The gross is your regular stipend payment, the deduction is the monthly premium for the plan you’ve chosen, and the net is the difference – this is what you should see in your bank account.

Gross:                   Deduction:            Net:                    Release Date:

$4,000.00             $482.87               $3,517.13           3/25/15

Who should I contact if I have more questions about SI health insurance or Secova?

If you have any questions or concerns during the decision making or enrollment process, please contact OFI at 202.633.7070. You can ask specifically for Dora Blair (

Are interns covered by workers' compensation?

Definition of workers’ compensation: When an employee is injured at work, workers’ compensation coverage has two main components: 1) wage replacement benefits and 2) medical treatment and rehabilitation (U.S. Department of Labor, n.d.).

Because interns do not receive wages, the first component is moot. However, because interns at the Smithsonian are guided during their learning experience, they are generally covered for medical expenses incurred as a result of injury sustained through activities associated with their internship.

Are fellows and research associates covered by workers' compensation?

Definition of workers’ compensation: When an employee is injured at work, workers’ compensation coverage has two main components: 1) wage replacement benefits and 2) medical treatment and rehabilitation (U.S. Department of Labor, n.d.).

Because, fellows or research associates (RAs) do not receive wages, the first component is moot. The determination about whether SI workers’ compensation covers medical expenses of a fellow or RA who is injured while engaged in their fellowship or research is often situational. This is based on the extent to which a fellow or RA is injured while being directed or working independently.

In cases where a fellow or RA is not covered by SI for medical expenses, because fellows or RAs are not SI employees, a fellow’s or RA’s personal insurance should apply. In such cases, OFI can provide fellows or RAs with a letter explaining that they are not covered by SI policy, such the personal coverage should apply.

Are interns, fellows, and research associates covered by travel/evacuation insurance?

The Smithsonian does maintain international Medevac insurance for employees conducting SI business abroad, especially for those operating in remote locations.

In the event that emergency evacuation is required, this policy provides emergency assistance for anyone associated with the Smithsonian who is in need.

Because they are guided, interns are covered for any expenses related to an evacuation event associated with their internship activities.

However, after the fact, the determination about whether fellows or research associates are covered for costs related to international evacuation is situational. One should speak to their advisor or the OFI office regarding specific scenarios.

Are interns, fellows, and research associates covered by liability insurance?

Definition of liability insurance: An insurance policy that protects an individual from the risk that they may be sued and held legally liable for something such as malpractice, injury or negligence.

Because interns at the Smithsonian are guided during their learning experience, they are generally covered by the Smithsonian against claims of liability during their academic appointment.

Fellows and research associates (RAs): Because of their independent status, SI fellows and RAs are generally not covered under SI’s institutional liability coverage.

However, SI has purchased a rider to the overall SI liability policy to insure SI fellows and RAs are protected against claims of liability incurred as a result of their academic appointment activities.

In essence, interns, fellows, and research associates are all covered by liability insurance as a result of their academic appointment activities.


Academic Appointment

At the Smithsonian there are three types of academic appointments: internships, fellowships, and research associate appointments.Academic appointments are distinct from other categories such as staff, contractors, and volunteers.


Smithsonian internships are learning experiences guided by a Smithsonian mentor. The aim of an internship is an educational training experience made for the benefit of the intern and required hands-on guidance.


Smithsonian fellowships are opportunities for independent study and research that make use of SI experts, facilities and collections under the advice of a Smithsonian adviser.

Research Associate

Smithsonian research associates are nominated by a SI sponsor and maintain a scholarly affiliation with the Institution. Research Associate appointments at the Smithsonian are authorized by Smithsonian Directive 205 (SD 205).

For SI Staff

How do I appoint an intern, fellow, or research associate?

At the Smithsonian, academic appointments can be made in two ways, through SOLAA (Smithsonian Oline Academic Appointment System) or SOFIAA  (The Smithsonian OFI Academic Appointment System). SOLAA is an electronic platform through which applicants enter and submit their own data for review and approval as an academic appointee.  The staff portal for SOLAA is here. To request a SOLAA account, ask your unit’s academic appointment coordinator to help you submit this form. SOFIAA (The Smithsonian Office of Fellowships and Internships Academic Appointment) form is an electronic webform through which SI staff enter and submit data on behalf of appointees for review and approval as an academic appointee. Staff use their network login credentials to access SOFIAA here. To request access to SOFIAA, ask your unit’s academic appointment coordinator for help.

How do I achieve diversity in my appointments without illegally discriminating?

There are many ways to appoint diverse interns or fellows in ways that are not discriminatory, by considering these race-neutral factors:

  • Socioeconomic status
  • First-generation college status
  • Geographic residency
  • Foreign language proficiency
  • Expertise in a specific culture
  • Experience overcoming hardships, such as frequent moves growing up or enrollment in a low-preforming high school or district