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Of Record
July 15, 2008, Volume 55, No. 1


Postdoctoral Stipend Levels for FY 2009

The Office of the Vice Provost for Research is responsible for setting minimum stipend levels for postdoctoral trainees across the University. Many postdoctoral trainees are supported by National Research Service Awards (NRSA), with stipend levels determined by the federal government. NRSA recently announced that the stipend levels for Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 awards for postdoctoral trainees and fellows will remain the same as in FY 2007 (http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-07-057.html). However, in view of the desirability of achieving equity across disciplines for all postdoctoral trainees across the campus, the University of Pennsylvania will increase minimum stipend levels by four percent.

It is important to remember that recommended stipend levels represent minimums. Departments may establish their own guidelines as long as stipend rates meet or exceed those established by the University. Penn investigators are also expected to comply with any postdoctoral stipend guidelines that are promulgated by their sponsors, if these sponsor-specified guidelines exceed the Penn minimum stipend levels. 

Recommended Minimum Stipend Levels for Penn FY 2009
(Penn FY: July 1, 2008 through June 30, 2009)

1. Beginning postdoctoral trainees, with no prior University of Pennsylvania experience, the minimum stipend is $36,996. This is consistent with stipend levels for NRSA postdoctoral trainees with no prior experience.

Levels for all years are:

Years of Experience

 Minimum Stipends FY 2009











2. Those current postdoctoral trainees who receive stipends in excess of the minimum should also receive an increase of at least three percent.

3. Stipends should be adjusted upwards during the course of the Penn fiscal year, either at the time of the annual postdoctoral reappointment, at the time of the annual grant renewal, or at the beginning of the NIH fiscal year.

4. Individual Schools can set their own stipend levels above those recommended in this revision.

—Steven J. Fluharty, Vice Provost for Research


The following policy is based on the recommendations of a Working Group convened and chaired by the Vice Provost for Research with membership from the Offices of General Counsel, Global Health Programs, Biomedical Postdoctoral Programs, International Programs, and the Schools of Medicine, Arts and Sciences, and Engineering and Applied Science. It is important that all Penn departments are aware of the important changes to University policy and procedures with regard to visas for postdoctoral trainees.
I would like to express thanks to everyone for their valuable input and contributions to this policy.

Steven J. Fluharty, Vice Provost for Research

 Policy for the Appointment of Foreign Nationals Under the Postdoctoral Trainee Program

Foreign national postdoctoral trainees make significant contributions to the teaching and research mission of the University of Pennsylvania. In view of increasingly complex immigration and labor laws, university-wide policies and procedures that directly impact the flow of foreign nationals to the University of Pennsylvania should be carefully defined and are outlined below.

Effective September 1, 2008, all foreign nationals holding a postdoctoral trainee position should come to the University of Pennsylvania in an exchange visitor (J-1) status.  

Only in compelling circumstances and only following a thorough review will the University sponsor a postdoctoral fellow for an H-1B visa (Temporary Specialty Worker) petition. Such circumstances requiring review for exemption from the new policy could include (though are not necessarily limited to):

• The foreign national is currently in valid H-1B status;

• The foreign national has pending United States permanent residence;

• Current marriage to a US citizen or a US permanent resident;

• Postdoctoral trainees who received their PhD or equivalent degree in the United States on an F-1 visa and have completed six months of post graduate practicum.

Petitioning for Exception to the J-1 Policy
A mechanism for an appeal and review is provided if a department has strong basis for offering a postdoctoral trainee the H-1B visa. The Vice Provost for Research (VPR) will appoint an advisory committee to review the petitions for exceptions to determine if an appeal meets the exemption criteria. Based on the advisory committee’s recommendation the VPR will make the final determination about each petition. The advisory committee and the VPR may also consult with the Office of the General Counsel and the Office of International Programs (OIP-ISSS) as necessary.

When a department feels that an H-1B visa is required in lieu of a J-1, the hiring department will prepare a formal written petition with documenting evidence for review. The Office of the Vice Provost for Research (OVPR) will review the merits of the case, make a final determination, and provide a written response to the department requesting the review. Once a final decision has been made, the department needs to be in full compliance and can proceed with bringing in the foreign national under the appropriate visa category. If the OVPR approves a request to offer H-1B sponsorship for the trainee, the hiring department will then submit the necessary paperwork to OIP-ISSS. The H-1B application submitted to OIP-ISSS must include the written exception approval granted by the OVPR. No action will be taken on an H-1B application without the written approval of the OVPR and the reason for the exemption.

Role of Departments
To avoid communication problems that could arise regarding the recruitment of foreign nationals for a postdoctoral trainee position, departments must clearly discuss the visa policy with the prospective postdoctoral trainee early in the process. In cases where exceptions are granted by the review board, departments must inform the candidate of the board’s decision before the application for J-1 or H-1B visa status is submitted to OIP-ISSS. Questions from the foreign national received by OIP-ISSS regarding the status of any cases currently under review by OVPR will be referred to the hiring department.

To ensure compliance with visa regulations, the department is responsible for initiating the application process on behalf of the beneficiary (whether it is an H or J process). The “Department Contact Person” (DCP) who is responsible for filing the application should serve as the primary contact for the J-1 or H-1B application in question. Once the visa status has been determined, all questions to OIP-ISSS should come from the department contact person. The DCP is the official point of communication for both OIP-ISSS and the candidate.


Revision to the Policy for Postdoctoral Trainees Regarding New Child Leave

Effective immediately the Policy for Postdoctoral Trainees at the University of Pennsylvania, (www.upenn.edu/almanac/volumes/v54/n17/policy.html) has been amended to be consistent with the recently revised NIH Parental Leave Policy for the Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA Awards, http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-08-064.html.

The New Child Leave section in the University policy for postdoctoral trainees now reads as follows:

“PDTs may continue to receive stipends for no more than 60 calendar days of leave per appointment year for adoption or birth of a child. Either parent is eligible. PDTs must discuss the use of new child leave in advance with the mentor. A mentor may not deny a request to use new child leave without the authorization of the appropriate administrative office. Unused sick leave or vacation may, with approval, be used to extend the period of new child leave. Additional new child leave may be approved at the discretion of the mentor.”

—Steven J. Fluharty, Vice Provost for Research


Almanac - July 15, 2008, Volume 55, No. 1