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VSEE policy information is contained in the NSF Personnel Manual, PER Chapter II-400 and the NSF Act (pages 9-10).

Employee Status

Individuals appointed to the VSEE program are on a non-paid leave of absence from their institution. NSF pays salary while benefits are maintained with the home institution. An appointee must be a U.S. citizen or citizen of a country which has a mutual security agreement with the U.S. The Division of Human Resource Management (HRM) will determine eligibility for non-citizens.

Length of Appointment

Appointments are usually made for up to one year and may be extended for an additional year by mutual agreement between NSF, the home institution, and the VSEE.


Salary is set within a range for "Administratively Determined (AD)" level positions, using pre-established criteria. HRM determines the initial salary after verification is received from the home institution. The NSF salary is comprised of the annualized academic salary, cost of living allowance (if applicable), lost consulting (if applicable), and a locality payment. VSEEs are not eligible to receive the annual government-wide comparability pay adjustments, however, when salary is increased at the home institution, the NSF salary will be adjusted accordingly.

Lost Consulting

NSF may provide compensation for lost consulting income. Payments, which are administered by NSF, are based on an average of the consulting income during the last two years (supported by tax records). No consulting may be conducted if payment is received for lost consulting activities. This income is included as part of the NSF base pay and will be reflected on W-2 forms. Any decision to continue consulting activities while at NSF MUST be discussed with an Ethics Counselor in the NSF's Office of the General Counsel.

Per Diem

A VSEE may be entitled to receive a per diem allowance or a round-trip movement of household goods. The annual per diem rate is established and paid by NSF based on Federal Travel Regulations. The maximum period for receiving per diem is two years. Per diem will typically be paid each pay period in an amount prorated over the term of the appointment, however per diem may be paid in a yearly lump sum instead, if requested by the VSEE. Since all per diem payments are reported to the IRS on W2 forms, VSEEs are encouraged to consult a tax advisor and carefully consider the tax implications before requesting lump sum payments.

Household Move

A VSEE may be entitled to receive a round-trip movement of household goods in lieu of a per diem allowance.

Supplemental Pay

If the basic salary calculation is below the minimum rate of pay for the Federal position, the salary is raised to the minimum Federal rate of pay for that position. This income is included as part of the NSF base pay which will be reflected on W-2 forms.


VSEEs are not eligible for Federal benefits. Current legislation authorizes NSF to reimburse the home institution for the employer's share of retirement, life insurance, and health benefits. Some state laws may not allow for this arrangement. We recommend that candidates meet with a benefits counselor at the home institution to discuss the effect of being in a non-paid leave status. NSF cannot withhold the employee's contributions to benefits, therefore, tax-sheltered savings plans cannot continue while at NSF. Social Security deductions are withheld from the NSF salary.


VSEEs are responsible for adhering to the policies and procedures governing the administration of leave for Federal employees as described in the NSF Personnel Manual, Chapter VIII-300, Absence and Leave.

Legal Advisory

The IRS has ruled that appointments away from the VSEE's permanent home for more than one year are considered to be indefinite and living expenses are no longer deductible. NSF recommends that tax implications be discussed with a CPA or other tax advisor. For information on travel expenses, see Tax Treatment of Travel Expenses Incurred by NSF Rotators.

Independent Research/Development (IR/D) Program

The Independent Research/Development (IR/D) Program permits individuals with approved IR/D plans, serving on VSEE appointments, to maintain their involvement with their professional research.

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