Visiting Graduate Researcher FAQs

Q:  What is a Visiting Graduate Researcher (VGR)?
A:  A VGR is a graduate student at another institution who visits the University to pursue graduate-level research training without enrolling in a degree program or earning academic credit at UVA.  

Q: What is the difference between a Visiting Graduate Researcher and a Visiting Scholar? 
A: The primary difference is that VGRs are defined by their enrollment in a graduate program at another institution of higher education, whereas Visiting Scholars typically possess the appropriate degree or credentials that would be expected of a salaried faculty member. More information about Visiting Scholars is available in policy PROV-013.

Please note that departments should not enter prospective VGR information into the ISO Scholar Portal.  VGR applications for international VGRs will be routed to ISO as part of the application process.  

Q: Why has UVA developed the VGR policy?
A:  The VGR policy is designed to extend to VGRs some important benefits and safeguards that attach to membership in the University community. These include emergency and safety measures (such as emergency alert notifications and Safe Ride), as well as access to health services and to some IT services.

Q: Why does UVA have a VGR fee and what services are provided?
A: Payment of the VGR fee will enable VGRs to access many important University services for the duration of their visits. The fee covers some office visits and other services at Student Health and Wellness, allows VGRs to use the transit and Safe Ride systems, and provides access to the University’s digital infrastructure. A complete list of VGR fee components can be found here. In an effort to keep the VGR fee as low as possible, certain services were excluded, such as IM-Rec facilities and athletics. VGRs have the option of paying for IM-Rec facility access and athletics events on a use-case basis. Assessing a fee for visiting graduate researchers is consistent with UVA peer institution practice.

Q: What IT services are available to VGRs?
A: VGRs will have access to many essential University IT services, such as a computing ID, email, NetBadge, Microsoft products such as OneDrive and Teams, and UVA Box. Sponsoring faculty members and VGRs should check with their department or school to inquire about access and licensing for non-degree-seeking students for small titles (e.g. MatLab, Mathematica, and other tools that may have very specific licensing requirements). 

Q: I am sponsoring a VGR who already has health insurance. Do they still need to pay the Student Health and Wellness portion of the VGR fee?
A: Yes. Health insurance and access to Student Health and Wellness are two different things. Although an incoming VGR will already have health insurance, VGRs are likely to be out of network while in residence at the University and we cannot know the degree of access their insurance will provide to Charlottesville-area healthcare providers. While visiting the University, VGRs will have access to safe and affordable healthcare through UVA’s Student Health and Wellness, and the fee covers some office visits and other services there.  For information about charges and billing, please visit the Student Health & Wellness website. 

Q: Who is responsible for paying the VGR fee?
A: The VGR policy does not specify a single source for paying the VGR fee; the VGR and sponsoring faculty member should collectively reach a decision on this question. For instance, the VGR fee could be paid by the VGR or their home institution, or the sponsoring faculty member’s school or department. 

Q: Can I use sponsored accounts to pay the VGR fee? 
A: Typically, sponsored accounts cannot be used to pay the VGR fee. Central administrative & services costs are generally included in the Facilities & Administrative (F&A) cost pools, used in calculating federally negotiated F&A rates for Sponsored Programs. Since VGR fees are part of the central services costs, they are incorporated in the F&A cost pools and thus should not be charged directly to a sponsored project. Some non-federal sponsors, who do not use the federally negotiated F&A rates, may allow direct charging of the VGR fees. Therefore, while VGR fees cannot be directly charged to a sponsoring faculty member’s Sponsored Programs account, it may be possible to provide a stipend to a VGR for the purposes of paying the VGR fee. The Office of Sponsored Programs will be able to confirm if  VGR fees can be charged to sponsored projects. 

Q: Supporting a VGR is an allowable use of my funds. How can I provide them to the VGR?
A: VGRs may not receive wage payments for activities performed related to their status as a VGR; however, stipends may be provided to VGRs to support their cost of living. Before any stipend payments can be set up, the VGR must be active in SIS for the VGR term in which you intend to pay them. The additional steps needed to ensure timely payment are listed here.

Q: What reporting is required if a VGR will be working in my lab and is supported by a third party?
A: When a VGR is supported by a third party (e.g., a scholarship program run by their employer, home institution, or home country) and is involved in a faculty member’s research and development activities, the support must typically be reported by the faculty member as “current and pending research support” to Federal research sponsors. Faculty are advised to consult the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) with any questions regarding prior approval and/or notification requirements for specific sponsored programs or sponsors.

Q: I am sponsoring a VRG who will be in residence for a 90-day period that spans four months. How should that VGR be registered?
A: A VGR should be registered for each calendar month during which they are in residence at the University. For instance, if a VGR is at UVA from July 23-October 20, they should be registered for July, August, September, and October.

Q: Can a VGR I am sponsoring be paid wages?
A: VGRs cannot be paid wages for activities performed in their capacity as a VGR. Additionally, because VGRs are not enrolled students, they are not eligible for student wage employment.

Q: Can VGRs serve as graduate assistants? 
A: No, VGRs are ineligible to serve as Graduate Research or Teaching Assistants (GRAs or GTAs) at UVA. Please note that policy PROV-001 only provides exemptions for visiting graduate students; VGRs are not visiting graduate students. 

Q: VGRs must complete an application in the graduate admission system, but what is asked in the application? Can a VGR application be denied? What is “quick admitting”?
A: The VGR application is not intended to serve as an application for graduate admission, rather, it serves as an administrative entry point for creating a SIS account for incoming VGRs. The questions in the application are primarily biographical and ask the incoming VGR for information about their visit (such as dates and name of sponsoring faculty member). The application also asks incoming VGRs to commit to complying with University standards and policies. Finally, the application provides space for incoming VGRs to upload proof of graduate enrollment at another institution and proof of health insurance. 

There is no reason a VGR application would be denied for any reason other than failing to meet the criteria as established in the VGR policy. Departments and school graduate programs offices have the ability to “quick admit” incoming VGRs, which refers to the administrative process of registering the VGR in the non-degree career of SIS. 

The VGR application can be accessed here:

Faculty will be notified by the application system when a prospective VGR submits an application and lists them as the sponsoring faculty member. After receiving this notification, the sponsoring faculty member will need to approve the application. To do this:

  1. Click on the ‘queue’ tab on the left of your screen. You’ll see your VGR applicant there.
  2. Scroll through and make sure everything looks ok in the form. If all of the information in the application looks correct, click the ‘Review Form/Send to Bin’ button in the bottom right corner.
  3. Select ‘Yes’ to send the form to SIS and then click ‘send’ at the bottom, leaving the next bin as Non-Degree Complete.

Please note that departments should not enter prospective VGR information into the ISO Scholar Portal.  VGR applications for international VGRs will be routed to ISO as part of the application process.

Q: How are VGRs registered in SIS and do they receive a UVA transcript?
A: VGRs are enrolled in the non-credit career (track) in SIS. Within the non-credit career, there are “courses” created for each calendar month of the year. VGRs should be registered for each “course” that corresponds with the duration of their visit. Their activity will be credentialed on a UVA transcript. 

Q: What if I need to end a VGR’s visit before the initially anticipated term has expired? 
A: In the event that a VGR visit is no longer mutually beneficial, the sponsoring faculty member may arrange comparable accommodations with a new sponsoring faculty member. If the sponsoring faculty member is unable to do so, or if doing so would not be in the best interests of the University, the VGR shall be provided reasonable notice that VGR status is being terminated. Refunds of the VGR fee will be issued only when a VGR cancels their visit more than seven days in advance of the start of the month. Sponsoring faculty members should work with their department or graduate programs office to appropriately adjust the dates of the VGR’s visit in SIS. 

Q: How does my VGR obtain an academic ID?
A: VGRs are eligible to receive a University of Virginia Academic Identification (ID) Card. This card provides for library circulation privileges, building access, and University Transit access. VGRs should visit the academic ID office website for instructions on how to obtain their ID. Note, a VGR will only be eligible to possess an academic ID during the VGR terms in which they are registered in SIS; a VGR will not be able to obtain an academic ID before the start of their VGR term. Any amendments to a VGR term, such as extending the term, must be adjusted in SIS in order to avoid disruptions to the privileges associated with an academic ID.