US REU programs sometimes accept "self-funded" international students. Such international candidates do not receive any financial assistance from the host university but participate in research.

  1. Would that classify as "independent research", under the B-1/B-2 visa category?

  2. For example, this University of Ohio page mentions:

    A visitor conducting independent research. Independent research means the use of University facilities without any affiliation or appointment. NOTE: a visitor with affiliation or appointment should consider coming on a J-1 visa, even if no payment is made to the visitor by the University.

    Per the US law, would an international REU candidate be considered affiliated with or appointed by the host university?

  • The U of Chicago does not make the laws. They are just giving you an overview of what the law is.
    – Putvi
    Nov 13 '19 at 21:23
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    – isakbob
    Nov 14 '19 at 18:47

If you are paid for the program, it would be considered employment and the visas you mentioned would not be for that. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/tourism-visit/visitor.html

There are other visas you can apply for though.


Self-funded participation in an REU program should be an acceptable use of a B-1 visa. The regulations do not define "independent research", but in §214.2(b)(7) prohibits using a B-1 visa to enroll in a course of study:

An alien who is admitted as, or changes status to, a B-1 or B-2 nonimmigrant on or after April 12, 2002, or who files a request to extend the period of authorized stay in B-1 or B-2 nonimmigrant status on or after such date, violates the conditions of his or her B-1 or B-2 status if the alien enrolls in a course of study.

"Independent research" in this law does not mean "research in a vacuum", it means "not in connection with employment" and "not enrolled in a course of study". The regulations also do not refer to "affiliation" or "appointment". A given university might impose stricter requirements on persons wishing to use university facilities.

  • 1
    Your answer seems to contradict this.
    – user25100
    Nov 14 '19 at 14:09
  • I'm relying on the law: that answer relies on a notion of "benefit" that isn't supported by the law.
    – user6726
    Nov 14 '19 at 14:55
  • The notion of benefit, however, is so uniformly reported by educational institutions that it must be derived from some litigation (which I cannot find) or at least from executive policy (which is reflected in travel.state.gov/content/dam/visas/…). A B visa applicant cannot in general challenge the executive's interpretation or implementation of the law in court.
    – phoog
    Dec 9 '21 at 15:36

Regardless of whether you are paid, conducting research for the benefit of a US institution constitutes enough of an affiliation that it is not "independent." Independent research is something like visiting the institution's library for your own research. Participating in a collegial research project organized by the institution is not "independent."

In its flyer concerning business visitors (PDF), the US Department of State says:

Researcher: Independent research, no salary/income from a U.S. based source, or benefit to U.S. institution.

(Emphasis added.)

As noted elsewhere, the requirement concerning benefit is not to be seen in the statute nor the regulations. I suspect that this interpretation is based on some litigation (or perhaps an administrative determination in the immigration court system), but I cannot find that at the moment. Regardless, an applicant for a B visa cannot generally challenge the consular officer's determination, so the State Department's interpretation of the law is effectively the last word as far as you're concerned.

  • Downvoter: why?
    – phoog
    Dec 9 '21 at 16:52

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