Step 1: Academic Appointments and Funding

Visa sponsorship is generally available for international scholars who hold temporary academic appointments, and who engage in scholarly activities including teaching and/or research at the University or its affiliated hospitals. By use of the term scholar, the HIO is referring to individuals with academic appointments, such as research fellows, visiting scholars, postdoctoral fellows, instructors, faculty, and student interns.  

Academic Appointments vs. Staff Hires

The University generally provides visa sponsorship only for researchers and faculty members. University visa sponsorship is generally not available for non-academic staff positions. 

It is the University policy that only in exceptional circumstances will visa sponsorship be provided for high level administrative and staff positions. If a department is uncertain whether an individual’s appointment would be eligible for visa sponsorship at Harvard, please reach out to your HIO advisor before offering the position to the individual.

Department Responsibilities Prior to Requesting Visa Sponsorship from the HIO

The University generally brings international scholars to campus on temporary non-immigrant visas. There are certain responsibilities that the University bears when bringing international scholars to the U.S. The majority of international scholars are brought to the U.S. on a J-1 Exchange Visitor visa, which is governed by the U.S. Department of State. The purpose of the J-1 visa is to promote the exchange of ideas, research, mutual enrichment and linkages between research and academic institutions in the U.S. and foreign countries. Professors, research scholars and other individuals with similar education or accomplishments travel to the United States to lecture, observe, consult, train or demonstrate special skills at research institutions, museums, libraries, post-secondary accredited academic institutions or similar types of institutions. 

Before requesting visa sponsorship from the HIO, the hiring department must ensure the following: 

Academic Appointments

Before contacting the HIO for visa sponsorship, a sponsoring department must ensure that an individual has a confirmed academic appointment with the school/department at Harvard and that the individual has the credentials to qualify for that appointment. The HIO also provides visa sponsorship for researchers and faculty with joint appointments between the Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Cambridge Health Alliance, Joslin Diabetes Center, Brockton and West Roxbury VA Hospitals, and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute. 

The sponsoring department must make the appropriate arrangements for an academic appointment. Questions about which academic appointment title may be most appropriate for a scholar should be directed to the respective Offices of Faculty Affairs. To better manage expectations and to avoid possible misunderstandings, the sponsoring department must clarify to scholars what facilities will or will not be available to them while at Harvard, e.g., prearranged housing, health coverage, office space, computer/email access, Harvard ID card eligibility, any fees that will be charged, and the time and attention of departmental colleagues. 


For the visa application process, scholars must demonstrate that they will have sufficient funding to support themselves in the U.S. Funding minimums can vary based on the type of academic appointment and/or your school’s policies. For clarification, please contact the school’s Office of Faculty Affairs. 

If the academic appointment is an unpaid one, the department must confirm that sufficient funding is available for the scholar (and family members, if applicable) for the full duration of their appointment. This can be proven through third party fellowships or sponsorship, funding from a home institution, or, in some cases, a scholar’s personal funding. A scholar’s ability to use personal funding depends on the policies of the school or unit; personal funds may also be restricted in certain types of academic appointments. Before making a formal offer of a position to a scholar, the department must work out the amount and source(s) of the funding to make sure that it complies with the policy of the school.  

Appointment Dates and Details

The department must confirm the dates of the appointment with the scholar before requesting visa sponsorship. The visa sponsorship documents that the HIO creates need to match the dates that the scholar intends to be in the U.S., at Harvard. 

The department must also confirm that the scholar will have an on-campus presence. J-1 visa regulations require international scholars on the J-1 visa to have either a fully in person or hybrid schedule. Scholars cannot be fully remote on the J-1 visa. If a department is considering a remote position for an international scholar, contact the HIO before proceeding with the visa sponsorship request.  

For J-1 Scholars and J-1 Student Interns, the department must submit the request for visa sponsorship to the HIO at least 3 months prior to an individual’s start date in the U.S. 

For H-1B, O-1, and other visa categories, the requested start date must be at least 6 months from the date that the requested paperwork is sent to the HIO.  

Scholar's Current Presence

Departments should determine whether the scholar is currently in the U.S before making an offer, and if yes, under what visa status. This will be important information to include in the individual’s ISD record, as it could change the determination of the scholar’s necessary visa type. Once this is confirmed, departments may begin the visa sponsorship request with the HIO via ISD. The pages below will walk departments step by step through the full process. 


Proceed to Step 2: Initiate Visa Sponsorship Request to learn how to initiate the visa sponsorship request with the HIO.