News and Resources

Information for Current NPP Fellows

ORAU was awarded the operation contract of NPP-2, which began January 30, 2022. ORAU completed a 90-day phase-in period to transfer operations from the previous contractor (USRA) to ORAU program operation. Full operation of the NPP has now transferred to ORAU, and all Fellows should work with ORAU for any support requests, etc. You can access your current Fellowship information in your NPP Gateway/Fellow portal account via ORAU’s Zintellect system, or contact us directly at

Frequently Asked Questions

ORAU is committed to ensuring minimal interruptions to you during this time of transition. The following outlines some of the more frequently asked questions that have been received. If you have other questions or would like additional information or clarification, please directly. For questions regarding healthcare coverage please email

When can we expect more info on benefits?
The benefits ORAU will offer to NPP Fellows can be reviewed online now at and transferring Fellows can make specific inquiries regarding ORAU insurance by emailing your questions to Continuing Fellows will receive information on how to sign up for our insurance in mid to late January. Fellows who elect insurance coverage with ORAU will begin coverage on the day that ORAU assumes operation of the NPP (which was January 30, 2022), regardless of receipt of physical proof of insurance.
New Do I have to use this insurance?
Fellows are required to carry medical insurance, and have the option of 1) electing the ORAU Blue Cross Blue Shield plan, or 2) providing proof of insurance under another policy. Dental and vision insurance is optional for Fellows. However, use of the ORAU medical plan is required in order to access the listed dental and vision insurance.
New Where can I learn more about the details of the health insurance plan?
You can go to the website for ORAU Blue Cross Blue Shield plan ( You can make specific inquiries regarding ORAU insurance by emailing your questions to
New My Fellowship started in September 2021 and I enrolled in USRA’s health insurance. Do I need to “withdraw” enrollment with USRA and re-enroll in ORAU’s benefits?
Our understanding is that USRA insurance coverage will end on January 31, 2022 and will not require you to withdraw. If you choose to utilize the ORAU insurance benefits you WILL need to enroll in our system and that insurance will be effective January 30, 2022. We will provide multiple time options for training on how to enroll next week.
New Can we enroll in just medical and dental, but not vision?
New Are the dental and vision cost combined? Do you have to get both if you only need one of them?
Yes. To receive the best options and coverage, we have packaged the insurance benefits as shown above in the FAQ. You can elect just medical and RX, but if you choose dental it is packaged with vision at one price. You cannot elect just one of those two.
New I have been using Aetna for health insurance with USRA so far, so do you have an option to continue with Aetna?
ORAU offers medical insurance through Blue Cross Blue Shield only.
New Will NASA’s contribution to insurance continue to be “added” to our stipends as taxable income? Is it going to increase substantially?
Yes, the NASA contribution is part of your award so it will be taxed. It is our understanding that the costs are close to the same as what you previously had, so you should not see a substantial increase, if any.
What are you doing to ensure there will not be any gaps in coverage?
ORAU will begin the enrollment period for insurance before we begin managing the NPP contract, which means you will begin ORAU insurance elections while you are still covered by your USRA provided insurance. By opening this registration period early, this will allow you to select your insurance coverage and receive your proof of insurance card before your coverage moves from USRA to ORAU.
The open enrollment for health insurance was just completed through USRA. Does that go through this next year, or will that end prematurely with the transition to ORAU?
Your coverage with USRA will likely end with the end of January, unless USRA gives you an option to extend that coverage. However, ORAU will have a process in place for you to sign up for our insurance in January so that your insurance coverage will not have any gap due to moving from USRA insurance to ORAU insurance.
I am starting my NPP in mid-January so how will that work with signing up for USRA health insurance vs. ORAU health insurance?
We recommend that you elect USRA’s insurance since ORAU cannot provide you coverage until our contract begins on January 30. You will then need to enroll in ORAU’s insurance when that opens so you will move to ORAU’s coverage once we begin operating the NPP contract.
What would be the best place to look so I can see what local health providers are in-network/out-network for the ORAU provided insurance.
Our insurance provider is Blue Cross Blue Shield. You can find information about providers in your area at Find a Provider on the ORAU Participant Health Insurance page.
What happens with health insurance if I am ending my postdoc less than a month after the transition date (toward the mid-end of February)?
Our insurance ends on the last day of the month you leave the program. If your appointment ends in February, your coverage will go through February 28, 2022.
I know that there will not be a lapse in coverage, but it is my understanding that there will be an undetermined amount of time where we will not have proof of that medical coverage.
As we are bringing you into the system, we will provide proof of coverage that you can use to ensure you have no lapse in coverage.
Will dental and vision coverage be provided along with medical coverage?
Dental and vision elections are available for Fellows who also elect ORAU medical insurance.
Will the insurance provider be the same? (Currently Aetna)
ORAU insurance is provided through Blue Cross Blue Shield, so we do not have an option to provide Aetna insurance.

For international travel next March, should I get an EA from USRA or ORAU?
If you need to get an authorization before January 30, you should secure it from USRA. We will coordinate with USRA to make sure your approvals and reimbursements are handled appropriately.
For travel that just occurred, should I submit expense report now to USRA or wait until the transition is over to ORAU?
Any travel that occurs during the current contract period with USRA should be sent to them for reimbursement. ORAU will handle expense reports for travel that occurs beginning January 30, 2022.
For those of us who will be traveling during the transition date, how should we handle that in terms of reimbursement? Also, what about for those with travel starting immediately after the transition date?
For these instances, ORAU will work closely with USRA and NASA to plan and ensure these expenses are reimbursed to the Fellow. If you will begin your travel prior to January 30, please be sure to coordinate requests through USRA. If you will need to travel on or shortly after January 30, please be sure to let ORAU know by emailing us at
Will the same restrictions/rules be in place for how travel funds can be used (i.e., what they can be spent towards)?
Many requirements for travel fund expenditures are set by either the Federal travel regulations OR the NPP policies and procedures. ORAU is working with NASA to assess these policies, and will provide any new guidance when it becomes available.
This transition is occurring close to LPSC, so assuming that travel requests need to be made before LPSC (March 7-11), will ORAU be prepared to process a larger number of travel requests in a short time frame?
Yes. We use an electronic booking system that makes the processing of travel requests fairly automatic. We will share more information about this system and how to use it as we get closer to the time when we assume operations of the NPP program.
Will the $10K yearly travel fund be honored?
Yes, we anticipate no change in the annual travel allowance of $10K.
Will available NPP travel funds roll over with the transition?
Yes, your travel funds balance will transition to ORAU.

Will foreign nationals be issued a new DS-2019 form?
Yes, all foreign nationals will be issued a new DS-2019 after you are transferred under our sponsorship in SEVIS.
New My visa has USRA printed on it. Does this mean I need a new visa with ORAU on it?
You will get a new DS-2019 as soon as we get your sponsorship transferred and will send you a new DS. If you are a FN that requires ORAU sponsorship make sure ORAU has you on our list. Regarding your badges, the centers obtain badges and process the DS-2019s. They will ensure that your badge is processed and ready for you on the day of the transition.
New My current badge is expiring on January 31, would the badging office require a new DS-2019 to renew the badge?
NASA manages badging but we will monitor that if that is not the case.
Will there be any change on who-is/who-is-not subject to the J-1 two-year home rule once the program sponsor changes on the DS-2019?
This is at the sole discretion of USCIS. If you are subject to this rule, it will remain in place.
I’m ending my NPP appointment on February 28, 2022. I’m a foreign national, will I get a DS-2019 for 28 days? Do I need to get a new J1 visa for 28 days?
Yes, you will get a DS-2019 for the remaining period of your appointment.
As a FN Fellow, can I re-enter the US with my current visa in January?
A visa is needed to get into the U.S. point of entry. That has to be valid or you will not be allowed to board the plane. The DS-2019 has to be valid to prove that you have a legitimate reason to be in the U.S. Your DS-2019 with USRA should still be in effect until at least January 30, but you will need to confirm and coordinate this with USRA.
Do I need to apply for a new J-1 visa using the new DS-2019 from ORAU in my own country or could I apply from the U.S. territory?
A visa is only needed if you wants to travel outside of the U.S. It does not matter which organization is printed on it. Your assigned immigration specialist will provide more details on your specific case.
For international Fellows who are in transit on international travel during the transition date, will there be a new DS-2019 in their hand that is active that will be accepted at the point of entry?
We cannot issue a DS-2019 until after the Fellows are transferred to us in SEVIS on January 30. We generally FedEx the DS-2019 overnight. Our immigration specialist team will work with the specific Fellow and ensure he/she has what is needed. A specialist will be assigned to each foreign national Fellow and will work directly with them.

Should I expect tax information from ORAU or USRA?
For 2021, tax information will be from USRA. For 2022 you can expect tax information from both USRA (month of January) and ORAU (February to remainder of year).
Will ORAU handle basic tax deductions, or will that burden still fall directly on the postdocs?
Tax withholdings are described in the NPP policies and procedures, but in brief – ORAU will not withhold taxes for U.S. citizens and will follow the appropriate tax treaty withholding requirements for non-U.S. citizens.
New For tax purposes, are we considered self-employed?
No. We will make resources available to help you work through this as much as possible.
New Will ORAU withdraw the federal/state tax portion from the stipend for resident aliens?
Yes, but only as it is required by any tax treaties.

Will our stipends stay the same?
For NPP-2, the base stipend for the program is being raised from $60K to $63K, and will include locality adjustments. This escalation will apply for existing Fellows. ORAU will calculate new annual stipends for all current Fellows to reflect this change, and will include new annual stipend rates in the ORAU appointment letter each Fellow will receive in January (escalated stipends will be effective for February 2022).
New What does the base salary change mean with different salaries regionally? Is the raise higher for more expensive locations?
The $3,000 base stipend increase is prior to any locality adjustment for higher cost areas.
New What about the stipend for senior Fellows? Will that remain the same?
Senior Fellows will receive the adjustment to base stipends as well.
If our center has additional available funds, can the Fellow's stipends be increased? Or is the amount set by the contract?
For consistency across the program, stipends are set by location and tenure and are not able to be augmented above those levels.
I have money remaining for moving back to my country. Should I settle this with ORAU or USRA?
You should communicate with your Center representative to coordinate and ensure appropriate funding is transferred to the new contract. ORAU will work with the center representatives to coordinate these efforts.

New Will the personal leave policy and holiday schedule stay the same with the transition to ORAU?
Yes, leave policies and holiday schedules should be coordinate with your advisor. For extended leave, please coordinate with ORAU.
New What is the parental leave under ORAU?
Parental (maternity & paternity) remain the same. Because these policies are NASA NPP policies, they will not change unless NASA opts to make a change.

How can we submit vaccine verification or medical/religious exemptions?
ORAU is working with NASA to determine the appropriate mechanism for submitting this information in the event it is required. We will provide guidance to Fellows when that mechanism is finalized.