Your Immigration Responsibilities (J-1 Scholars)

Harvard sponsored J-1 scholars must comply with the U.S. federal regulations governing their specific J-1 categories such as Short-Term Scholar, Research Scholar/Professor, and Specialist. A scholar's J-1 category is indicated in section 4 of their Form DS-2019. The following is a summary of the responsibilities that Harvard sponsored J-1 scholars should have in order to maintain lawful status in the United States. Scholars sponsored by another institution (Fulbright, for example) should contact their scholar advisors for additional information. J-1 Trainees sponsored by an alternate J-1 sponsor should abide by terms and conditions of their training programs.

Initial Registration Requirements

All new J-1 scholars must register with the Harvard International Office (HIO) within 30 days of the start date on Forms DS-2019. A returning scholar with a new Form DS-2019 must also re-register with the HIO.

Restrictions on Employment

Employment at the Location(s) listed on Form DS-2019

J-1 scholars (Short-Term Scholar, Research Scholar/Professor, and Specialist) are required to be employed and conduct their exchange activities at the location(s) listed on their Forms DS-2019. Paid employment for J-1 scholars is permitted only if it is an integral part of the exchange program. In most cases, it is not possible for a J-1 visa holder to accept paid employment outside of Harvard without prior authorization. However, there are some exceptions.

Occasional Lectures or Consultations

J-1 exchange visitors in Short-Term Scholar and Research Scholar/Professor categories may participate in occasional lectures and short-term consultations at off-campus locations. Scholars must obtain prior written authorization from their HIO advisor. Such lectures and consultations should not interfere with the activities of the exchange visitor's program. The term occasional is generally understood to refer to single events rather than an ongoing activity. If a scholar will receive wages or other remuneration for lectures or consultations, the J-1 regulations require that the scholar act as an independent contractor. Click here to apply for occasional employment authorization from the HIO.

Residency Requirement

U.S. Department of State 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 scholar will be conducting field research outside of the U.S., or away from campus, for a significant period of time (in most cases more than 30 days), you must reach out to your HIO Advisor in advance of the travel

Maintaining Required Health Insurance

J-1 scholars and their J-2 dependents must maintain required health insurance including basic Medical Health Insurance, Medical Evacuation and Repatriation insurance throughout their stay in the United States.

Change of Residential Address

Immigration regulations require that all non-citizens report their residential addresses within 10 days of their entries to the United States and subsequently report any changes of addresses within 10 days to the Immigration authorities. Harvard sponsored J-1 scholars may report their address changes online. Scholars and trainees sponsored by other institutions should contact their program sponsors directly regarding change of address.

Program Extension

J-1 scholars must apply for a program extension within the overall time limit for a specific category before their current Forms DS-2019 expire. The dates on the Form DS-2019 reflect the dates given to the HIO by a host academic department at Harvard. If scholars wish to have their J-1 visa status extended within the permitted time limit, please have their department administrators notify the HIO.

Leave of Absence

Scholars may travel abroad throughout their stay at Harvard. An extended leave of absence must be in accordance with their Harvard academic appointment agreement and their original exchange program objectives. Scholars should contact their departments regarding more detailed information on leave of absence.

Required Travel Documents

Please review the travel information page before making plans to travel abroad. 

Program Completion

J-1 scholars and their J-2 dependents must depart the United States within 30 days of their Form DS-2019 expiration date or program completion date, whichever is earlier. Scholars completing their programs at Harvard and leaving the United States earlier than the expiration dates on their Forms DS-2019 should have their department administrators notify the HIO.

Restrictions on Public Assistance

Under certain U.S. federal, state, county, and local laws, J-1 visa holders and their dependents may qualify for “public assistance,” such as health insurance, subsidized housing, food assistance, or unemployment benefits. Accepting such benefits as a J-1 or J-2 visa holder can lead to inadmissibility to the United States due to reliance on “public assistance” under the Immigration and Nationality Act, this could ultimately result in denial of re-entry into the United States in the future. The J-1 visa holder is responsible for understanding that certain types of benefits could qualify for “public assistance” and knowing the risks associated with enrolling and/or receiving such benefits.

General Immigration Responsibilities

It is your responsibility to maintain your J status. The HIO is here to help you understand often complex immigration regulations and provide resources to keep you up to date with immigration regulations. In order to maintain your immigration status you must:

  • Report a new residential address to the HIO within ten days of moving to a new address
  • Maintain your health insurance as required by the Exchange Visitor Program
  • Obtain authorization from the HIO for any additional employment opportunities outside your original objective at Harvard or its affiliated hospital prior to the start date of employment
  • Apply for an extension of your status before your current DS-2019 expires
  • Depart the U.S., transfer to another J program, or change to another visa status within the 30-day grace period at the end of your J program
  • Check your I-94 record each time you enter and reenter the U.S.
  • Never accept any public benefits or assistance from the federal, state or local government such as MassHealth, free school lunches, food stamps, etc.

 We do not want anything to interfere with your purpose for coming to Harvard – whether it be studying, teaching, or doing research. Please read all emails from the HIO and contact your HIO advisor if you have any questions.

Federal regulations change frequently. Please be sure to check our website on a regular basis for the most up-to-date immigration related information.