Visiting Scholars Program

Important Message: UC Berkeley offices will be closed on November 22nd and 23rd, as well as from December 24th through January 1st in observance of the upcoming holidays.  U.S. Consulates/Embassies are also closed for the holidays (including Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years) and J scholars may experience increased wait times for visa appointments.

Our Program

Berkeley Law’s Visiting Scholars Program (the “Program”) is proud to host scholars and researchers from around the world to engage in both independent and collaborative legal research.  UC Berkeley is recognized internationally as the epicenter of research.  Since it’s inception in 1990, the Program has promoted the exchange of ideas, education, and culture.  Our scholars and researchers at the law school currently represent about 15 countries.  Our mission is to provide an opportunity for scholars and researchers to experience a transformative immersion in law.

Prospective candidates may apply to participate in the Program either as a senior visiting scholar (formally known as a visiting scholar) or as a junior visiting scholar (formally known as a visiting student researcher). 

To qualify as a visiting scholar, an applicant must have received a Juris Doctor (JD) degree or a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in law at least five years a go at the time of his/her proposed appointment start date.  Those who do not meet this educational requirement are encouraged to apply, but, are only considered on a case-by-case basis with the proper documentation (see below for more information).

To qualify as a visiting student researcher, an applicant must be enrolled in a JD program or PhD program in law at the time of his/her proposed appointment start date.

Postdoctoral applicants are encouraged to apply, but, are only considered on a case-by-case basis with the proper documentation (see below for more information).  If admitted, postdoctoral participants are formally considered visiting scholars.

Privileges and Responsibilities

All applicants accepted to the Program are considered “in residence” and are expected to conduct their proposed research at UC Berkeley.  All visitors must reside in Berkeley or surrounding cities in the Bay Area during the duration of their appointment period.  In addition, all visitors are expected to carry out their proposed research for the entire duration of their appointment period.

Privileges include (but are not limited to):

  • Access to UC Berkeley’s libraries (including the law library and the law school’s Reading Room)
  • Access to electronic resources (via a CalNet account)
  • Issuance of a Berkeley e-mail account
  • Issuance of a Cal ID card
  • Access to shared work rooms exclusively for visiting scholars and visiting student researchers (due to space constraints, we are unable to provide private offices) and private lockers
  • Access to the LexisNexis, Westlaw, and Bloomberg Law U.S. legal databases
  • The ability to audit (for no credit) up to 2 courses at the law school per semester per the instructor’s approval (non-law school courses are not available to audit).  For instructions on how to audit a law course, see the Resources page.

These privileges are granted shortly after the required onboarding/registration meeting with the Director.

Visitors are encouraged to participate in the law school’s scholarly life and programs, which include a large number of talks, seminars, and conferences that are open to attend throughout the academic year.  To see the calendar of events at the law school, click here.  Visitors are also encouraged to participate in the programs and events sponsored by the VSPA and BIO offices.

Application Process

The application process is two-fold.

Berkeley Law Approval

To apply to the Berkeley Law Visiting Scholars Program, please e-mail the following materials combined in one PDF to visitingscholars@law.berkeley.edu:

  • A completed application form
  • A one-page proposal which describes your research agenda and an explanation of the importance of carrying out your research at Berkeley Law
  • Your curriculum vitae (CV)/resume, which includes a list of your scholarly publications
  • A confirmation letter (e-mail format is acceptable) from a Berkeley Law faculty member (tenure or tenure-track professor) who has agreed to be your faculty sponsor.  Please note that your faculty sponsor’s expertise must align with your area(s) of research.

If an applicant does not meet the educational requirements of a visiting scholar candidate, his/her faculty sponsor must be willing to write a letter requesting exceptional approval addressed to the VSPA office (see below for more information).

Postdoctoral candidates must include a signed letter from his/her current employer that states he/she will continue to receive his/her salary while visiting UC Berkeley.

Applicants who are currently (or will be) in J-1 status at another institution and would like to transfer his/her program to UC Berkeley must consult with the Berkeley International Office (jscholar@berkeley.edu) to confirm eligibility before applying.  Similarly, non-U.S. citizen applicants must consult with the Berkeley International Office if they wish to change their visa status (e.g., F-2 to J-1) before applying.

We accept applications for Fall arrivals (July 1-Decemeber 31) by March 1.  We accept applications for Spring arrivals (January 1-June 30) by August 1.  Please note that non-U.S. citizens on J-1 visas can not start their appointments in the month of December.

The minimum length of stay is one month.  Visitors typically stay several months to one full year.

Applications are screened by the Director.  During this time, a brief and informal phone interview will take place between the Director and the applicant.  After the screening process, applications are then reviewed by a faculty committee.  Decisions are typically made within 30 days of one’s application submission.  The number of applications we receive far exceeds the number of visiting scholars and visiting student researchers the law school can accommodate. 

VSPA Approval

Once admitted to Berkeley Law’s Visiting Scholars Program, all admittees must then be approved by UC Berkeley’s Visiting Scholar and Postdoc Affairs (VSPA) office.  Instructions to the online VSPA application will be e-mailed to admittees shortly after their acceptance is confirmed by the Director.  

J Visa for International Visitors

Most international (non-U.S. citizen) visitors will need to obtain a J-1 visa to pursue their research appointment at Berkeley Law.  J-1 and J-2 dependent visas are obtained by the issuance of a DS-2019 document.  J-2 visa holders can only be legally married spouses and dependents (unmarried children under the age of 21) of J-1 exchange visitors who will accompany or later join the J-1 holder in the U.S.  The DS-2019 document, or Certificate of Eligibility, is produced by the Berkeley International Office (BIO) once an admittee completes the online DS-2019 application.  Instructions to the DS-2019 application will be e-mailed to admittees shortly after their application is approved by the VSPA office.  Processing of the DS-2019 application by the Program and the BIO usually takes 4 weeks or longer if there are delays in funding and the submission of proper documentation.  Carefully review the requirements

All UC Berkeley J-1 visitors must attend the Scholar Information Meeting (SIM) within 2 weeks of his/her arrival in order to verify and authorize the DS-2019 document(s). 

According to U.S. government regulations, J visa holders may not arrive more than 30 days before the program start date shown on his/her DS-2019.  Upon completion of his/her exchange program, he/she has a grace period of 30 days to depart the U.S.

Fees

University Services Fee: Every visitor is required to pay a main campus fee to the VSPA office.  The fee for visiting scholars is $750 and the fee for visiting student researchers is $1,000.  This amount can not be pro-rated.

Berkeley Law Residence Fee: Every visitor is required to pay a fee to the law school.  The amount for visiting scholars is currently $2,500 per semester (up to 6 months) or $5,000 per year.  The amount for visiting student researchers is currently $600 per semester (up to 6 months) or $1,200 per year.  Effective January 1, 2019, the Berkeley Law Residence Fee will increase to the following amounts: $3,500 per semester (up to 6 months) or $7,000 per year for visiting scholars and $750 per semester (up to 6 months) or $1,500 per year for visiting student researchers.  The fee increase will apply to all admittees who apply on or after January 1, 2019.  

DS-2019 Fee: J visa applicants must pay a $600 fee.  To clarify, $500 is for the DS-2019 application processing and Certificate of Eligibility document(s) needed to secure a J visa and $100 is for the FedEx International Priority shipping costs and other Program incidental/administrative expenses.  The DS-2019 is produced by the Berkeley International Office within 10 business.  If needed, one may expedite the process by paying a $250 fee on top of the $600 fee.  The DS-2019 would then be produced within 5 business days.  J visa applicants are also responsible for the SEVIS fee.

Funding

All visiting scholars and visiting student researchers regardless of citizenship status must provide their own funding either through grants, sabbatical salaries, Fulbright awards, personal funds, or other organizational/governmental funds.  We are unable to provide financial assistance.  All J-1 and J-2 visa holders must must show sufficient funding to cover the duration of their J program. At UC Berkeley, the minimum monthly funding requirements are: $1,800 for the J-1, $500 for a J-2 spouse, and $300 for each J-2 child.

Health Insurance

All visiting scholars and visiting student researchers regardless of citizenship status are required to maintain the health insurance requirements outlined by the VSPA and BIO offices.  It is strongly advised that the insurance plan includes medical evacuation and repatriation benefits.

Questions

Please address all questions regarding the Visiting Scholars Program to visitingscholars@law.berkeley.edu.