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. After your arrival, you will need to bring your travel documents to register your immigration record with the HIO

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. Do not use NEXUS or Global Entry, or an automated passport kiosk, to enter the U.S. You must 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.

COVID-19 Arrival Requirements

All air passengers entering the U.S. will be required to comply with the following COVID-19 safety measures in order to board a flight to the U.S.:

  • show proof of COVID-19 vaccination. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has confirmed that for purposes of travel to the U.S., vaccines approved or authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or on the World Health Organization (WHO) emergency use listed (EUL) vaccines will be accepted. Please refer to the CDC website for the list of accepted COVID-19 vaccines and how to confirm you are fully vaccinated for travel.

Please review the CDC website for guidance on COVID-19 vaccine requirements for entry to the U.S.

Proof of COVID-19 vaccination is also required for individuals entering the U.S. via a land border from Canada or Mexico. 

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 I-20 or DS-2019).

After arriving in the U.S., you must complete the HIO Registration Form and email it to internationaloffice@harvard.edu 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 signaure on their DS-2019, which permits scholars to travel internationally during their academic appointment.

  • J-1 scholars and their dependents will need to visit the HIO during our walk in travel signature and document pick up hour, which takes place Monday-Friday from 12pm - 1pm on the 8th floor of the Smith Center to obtain a travel signature. DS-2019s cannot be sent electronically and must contain an original signature from the HIO.

Harvard's COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement

To reach the high levels of vaccination needed to protect our community, Harvard requires COVID vaccination for all students, faculty, and staff, including fellows, scholars, and student interns, who will be on campus at Harvard. You can read more about the requirement and how to submit documentation on the Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) website. Scholars and Student Interns at affiliated hospitals should check with their departments for information regarding COVID-19 vaccine requirements and protocol.

HIO Orientations

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