twitter facebook youtube linkedin flickr webmail
  • specialized fields of study international the hague banner header

Visiting Scholars Program

Penn State Law welcomes serious scholars from around the world to engage in independent legal research projects during one semester or full academic year visits. Visiting scholars typically hold an academic appointment as a law faculty member at a university located outside the U.S. or have equivalent professional credentials in the field of law. To the extent resources permit, the law school may consider visits by international Ph.D. candidates who are preparing for an academic career in law. While in residence, visiting scholars are welcome to participate in the intellectual life of the school, collaborate with faculty, and conduct research in the H. Laddie Montague Jr. Law Library, and Penn State University Libraries.

Admissions Process

Interested persons should complete and e-mail the required application form and materials listed below to at least six months before the proposed period of residence.

Required Application Materials

  • Application form (online formpdf).
  • Cover letter or resume describing professional accomplishments, educational background, employment history, publications, and awards;
  • Detailed project proposal and timeline for project completion;
  • A letter of recommendation;
  • A letter demonstrating available funding.

Applicants will be selected based on academic and professional background and credentials, proposed plan of research, dates of proposed residence, assessment of English language proficiency by interview, and the capacity of the law school and library. There is no deadline for applications, however, the number of visiting scholars the law school can accommodate is limited and applications will be considered in the order they are received. The law school will notify accepted applicants by letter, and accepted candidates will be required to provide additional information concerning the application for a J-1 visa and, under Penn State policy, undergo a background check.

Requirements for J-1 visas

Funding: By federal regulations, Forms DS-2019 for foreign nationals and/or their families cannot be issued unless adequate funding for the full period is documented. The 2012-13 minimum living expenses are $1,700 per month for the visiting scholar, $800/month for a spouse, and $450/month per child (e.g., a J-1 Scholar coming for six months would need to demonstrate resources of at least $10,200, and a family of three (spouse + child) for twelve months would need to show at least $35,400).

Health insurance: J1-scholars and their dependents are required to have health insurance coverage for their entire stay in the U.S. that meets U.S. government and Penn State requirements. This may be accomplished by purchasing health insurance through Penn State. Alternatively, if visiting scholars and their dependents have health insurance through their home government or employer that meets these requirements, a waiver through Penn State University Health Services may be obtained (a copy of the policy coverage must be provided in English). Detailed information regarding health insurance requirements will be provided through the Penn State Office of International Scholar Advising as part of the visa process.

English Proficiency Interview: An English proficiency interview will be conducted by a Penn State representative to evaluate that the language skills of the applicant meet visa requirements.

Please note that fees for health insurance purchased through Penn State can be substantial, especially if visiting scholars are coming with dependents.


Penn State Law charges visiting scholars a fee of $1,000 US to defray its costs. The fee is due before arrival in residence.

Research and Professional Development Opportunities

Visiting scholars in good standing shall receive a Penn State University Access Account, e-mail address and photo ID. These credentials provide access to the law school building including the law library and to the resources and research training and assistance available through Penn State University Libraries (including academic access to Westlaw and LexisNexis, two of the most important legal research databases in the United States).

Visiting scholars are welcome to attend the wide range of programs, symposia and workshops for law faculty, students and the public throughout the academic year (Fall and Spring semesters). Visiting scholars may request to enroll in law school classes as auditors (tuition will be charged). Information about classes is available from the Office of Academic Affairs.

Visiting scholars are encouraged to contribute to the intellectual life of the law school by presenting a paper to the faculty. For more information about scholarly collaborative opportunities, and sharing research and ideas, visiting scholars accepted into the program should contact the Dean for Graduate and International Programs.

Visiting scholars interested in developing proficiency in English communication skills in law should consider enrolling in either of these Penn State Law courses: Legal English Communication Program, offered live each July, or Introduction to Common Law Analysis and Language, which is offered online throughout the year.

Other Services

  • Office space is normally not provided for visiting scholars.
  • Visitors are entitled to purchase a parking permit (orange) for the law school or surrounding parking lots. Fees are available here.
  • Local bus service is available.
  • University housing is not available for visiting scholars. Other Information about housing is available here:, Apartment Guide, Craigslist.
  • Information about obtaining a driver’s license in Pennsylvania is available here.