Arriving in the U.S., HIO Registration, & Orientations

Welcome to Harvard!  This section details important information you need to know to enter the U.S. to start your academic appointment.

When to Arrive

The U.S. immigration regulations allow J-1 Scholars to enter the U.S. no more than 30 days prior to the program start date listed on Item 3 of your Form DS-2019. If you hold an H-1B visa, you may enter the U.S. no more than 10 days before the start date listed on your H petition approval notice.

U.S. Immigration Inspection

Upon entering the U.S., all scholars must present the following documents to the Customs and Border Protection official at the airport or U.S. Port of Entry:

  • Valid passport
  • Visa document (Form DS-2019, or I-797)
  • Valid visa in passport (not applicable to Canadian citizens)
  • Appointment offer letter
  • I-901 SEVIS Fee Receipt (for J-1 Scholars only)

Dependents cannot enter the U.S. before the scholar.

You may not enter the U.S. in tourist visa status unless you are coming to the U.S. for tourism only. The HIO recommends you do not use NEXUS or Global Entry, or an automated passport kiosk, to enter the U.S. You should always speak with a Customs and Border Protection Officer and present the above documents in order to be admitted to the U.S. in the proper scholar status.

Arriving in the U.S.

Each time you enter the U.S., the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) creates an on-line, electronic entry record to record your entry to the U.S. This is called your I-94 record.  Note that many U.S. airports will no longer stamp your passport when you enter the U.S. Instead, the I-94 will be your only official record of entry to the U.S. 

You should check and save a screenshot of your I-94  record each time you enter the U.S. as you may need it for other purposes. If the I-94 record ever displays incorrect information, or cannot be found, please contact your HIO Advisor.

HIO Registration

You must register your arrival with the HIO as soon as possible after your arrival in the U.S. so that we may activate your SEVIS record. Your SEVIS record will become invalid if not activated within 30 days of the start date on your visa document (Form DS-2019).

After arriving in the U.S., you must complete the HIO Registration Form and email it to to fulfill your required immigration registration. Please note, in order to complete this form, you will need to access your I-94 record online. If you have difficulty locating your I-94 record, or your I-94 record has incorrect information, please contact your HIO Advisor.

You will receive an email from the HIO confirming when your registration has been processed. 

After arriving, please review our Welcome and Travel informational handout, as well as our New Scholar Welcome Guide, for more information about your immigration status and your time in the U.S. 

Travel Signatures

After arriving in the U.S., J-1 scholars will need to obtain a travel signature on their DS-2019, which permits scholars to travel internationally during their academic appointment.

HIO Orientations

The HIO offers optional orientation sessions for all incoming scholars and their family members. Please see HIO Orientations for more information.