Background: I hold citizenship of a country included in the Exchange Visitor Skill list for J1 visa holders (my research area, biological sciences, is on the list as well). My postdoc project is funded by NIH/NSF grants to the lab (not in a university). I completed a Ph.D. in a major US university last year, and my work authorization is under the F1 OPT. In light of diminishing faculty openings, I do not have a strong preference for staying in academia long term.

Details: I started my current (and first) postdoc position a few months back, and this position is funded for the next few years. My advisor has been great, and she is supportive. I am also satisfied with the progress being made in the project.

Due to the increased visa denials, I was advised to wait for the next visa and not leave the US during the OPT period. The HR informed me that J1 is the only option as per the organization policy, and my advisor is powerless even if she wants to help. I did not know that non-University entities could sponsor J1 and thought H1B was the only choice (a significant reason for choosing this position; my bad.)

If I take J1, I will be subject to the two year home residency rule (which is the worst; the economy in my home country (a banana republic) is in shambles). Being on OPT would make it extremely risky to leave the US, and the status of the OPT STEM extension is uncertain. These factors make me want to look for new opportunities with H1B sponsorship. However, the fact that my advisor has been supportive and having to leave after a few months without any publication makes me feel incredibly guilty. I would appreciate perspectives on this issue.

  • 9
    Regardless of anything else, of course you shouldn't feel guilty. Keep a job as long as it fits your personal and professional goals, leave when it doesn't. Commented Feb 1, 2020 at 15:08
  • 1
    Reminded of this: If there is something to desire, // there will be something to regret. // If there is something to regret, // there will be something to recall. // If there is something to recall, // there was nothing to regret. // If there was nothing to regret, // there was nothing to desire. (Vera Pavlova)
    – Buffy
    Commented Feb 1, 2020 at 16:35
  • 9
    By the way, it also seems like it would be a good idea to consult your own immigration attorney, rather than relying on HR or university officials. Commented Feb 1, 2020 at 16:42

2 Answers 2


Being a postdoc is a job. You are not a slave for academia, nor is your reasearch so important (no offense) that you have to continue it no matter what happens to your life. (Nobody's research is.)*

You are a professional and should act as such. There is nothing to be guilty about. Any reasonable person knows and understands that there are reasons which end one's participation in a project even if there is no "outcome" of the project. Probably your supervisor would feel more guilty if you feel the need to stay just because of them.

I do not mean to be harsh -- it is only human to feel guilty about such things. What would you do if your were the supervisor? Talk about your feelings with your friends -- emotional questions like this are better discussed with trusted people than on the Internet.

*Just for completeness, given the recent situation: If you were an absolute key person in the research of coronavirus and countermeasures, maybe it could be argued that you should stay until you transferred all your knowledge.


Talk about it frankly, with your supervisor. A supportive supervisor is able to understand your situation, and due to his experience in the field may even help you out.

You say you have no publications, but you probably already some preliminary results or findings: these will probably be assigned to the care of another postdoc if you quit. In my opinion good ethics would suggest that you then spend a small amount of your time helping them getting up to speed on your results. If you abide by this, I think there is no need to feel any guilt.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .