Travel Outside the U.S.

COVID-19 Travel Updates

Students and scholars currently outside of the U.S. should be aware of various travel restrictions that may make returning to the U.S. difficult at this time. Travel restrictions or new travel bans may emerge at any time without notice, making travel very unpredictable. In general, any students or scholars looking to travel abroad or reenter the U.S. are advised to reach out to their HIO Advisor before making plans.

All official University-related travel, both international and domestic, is prohibited until further notice and should not be planned or scheduled at this time. Harvard University is also strongly discouraging personal travel, both international and domestic.

Updated COVID-19 Travel Information

Presidential Proclamations Suspending Travel

There are several Presidential Proclamations suspending the entry of individuals from various countries and regions throughout the world. You may read more about these proclamations, including who is subject to the suspension, here.

A recent Department of State announcement has stated that students with a valid F-1 visa may enter the U.S. from the EU Schengen area, UK, or Ireland, despite the travel ban. If you are coming from the Schengen area, the UK or Ireland and hold a valid F-1 visa, you should also print out the most recent Customs and Border Protection (CBP) guidance regarding the travel ban.  If you are questioned, you should be ready to show the guidance to a CBP officer at a port of entry.   J-1 students, scholars, and student interns in these countries must contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their home country to apply for a National Interest Exception (NIE) to the travel ban.

There is no formal waiver process or exception yet for students located in China, Brazil, or Iran.

Routine Visa Issuance Resuming on a Country by Country Basis

As of July 15, some U.S. Embassies and Consulates have started to resume routine visa services depending on the in-country situation. Please note that different embassies and consulates have different policies and procedures in place about reopening, and they are facing severe backlogs of applications that have accrued during their closures. If you are traveling and in need of renewing your visa stamp, please go to the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country for more information.

Travel from Canada and Mexico

Currently the land borders between the United States and Canada, and the United States and Mexico are closed for nonessential travel. Students and scholars with valid F-1 orJ-1 status are still eligible to enter the U.S. from Canada and Mexico. The Canadian/Mexican/US travel ban only applies to non-essential travelers via land borders. If you plan to re-enter the U.S. from Canada or Mexico, the HIO recommends you plan to enter the U.S. by booking a flight rather than driving.  Even in the best of times, admission to the U.S. is always at the discretion of the border official. If you intend to enter the US from Canada or Mexico, you should ensure that you have all the required documents to enter the U.S. Information about what documents are required for re-entry to the U.S. are available are listed below.

Massachusetts Quarantine Requirements

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts (MA) has released updated travel guidance for out-of-state visitors.  As this guidance is likely to change as circumstances evolve, you should continue to monitor the requirements until you arrive.

  • Visitors, including residents, must complete the Massachusetts Travel Form prior to arrival, unless you are visiting from a lower-risk state designated by the Department of Public Health.
  • Visitors, including residents, must quarantine for 14 days or produce a negative COVID-19 test result that has been administered up to 72-hours prior to your arrival in MA.
  • Visitors into MA are exempt from the quarantine requirement if they have received a negative result from a COVID-19 test based on a sample obtained not longer than 72 hours before their arrival.
  • Failure to comply may result in a $500 fine per day.

Travel Documents Needed to Return to the U.S.

You must plan for international travel by first reviewing your visa documents for reentry to the U.S.  In addition, if traveling to a country that is not your own, you need to confirm that you have the required entry visa documents for that country. Please contact the embassy or consulate of the particular country you plan to visit for detailed information on what you need to do to apply for an entry visa should you need one.  Note that it is also recommended that you take with you all related immigration documents for travel inside the U.S. but outside the Boston metropolitan area.

1. Unexpired passport

All international students, scholars and their family members are required to have valid passports. The passports must be valid at least six months beyond the date of the expiration of the initial period of the alien's admission into the United States or contemplated initial period of stay. Passports of some countries will be recognized as valid for the return of the bearer for a period of six months beyond the expiration date specified in the passport, thereby effectively extending the validity period of the foreign passport an additional six months beyond its expiration date. Find out if your country is among them.

2. Unexpired U.S. visa (except for Canadian citizens)

It is not possible to apply for or renew non-immigrant visas inside the U.S. Citizens of all countries except Canada are required to have unexpired U.S. visas in their passports to enter and reenter the U.S. If you need to apply for a visa, please contact the U.S. embassy or consulate at which you plan to apply for the visa in advance to confirm its hours of operation, application procedures, and to see if any changes have been implemented. For a list of U.S. embassies and consulates abroad, visit the U.S. Department of State web site. A U.S. non-immigrant visa is issued in an individual's passport by a U.S. consul in a U.S. embassy or consulate outside theU.S. A visa is used solely for the purpose of entry and reentry to the U.S. The visa does not determine how long an individual may remain in the U.S. Therefore, an individual may stay beyond the expiration date of a visa as long as the visa document (Form I-20, Form DS-2019, or Form I-797) is valid.

3. Unexpired immigration document (Form DS-2019, I-20, I-797)

Please check your documents prior to making international travel plans. Visa documents include the Form I-20, Form DS-2019, and Form I-797. For specific information review the immigration section and click on your visa type. A visa document certifies the length of stay for international students, scholars and their family members and it indicates an individual's visa status. A visa document must be unexpired at all times.

If you leave the U.S. and forget to take your visa document (Form I-20 or DS-2019), please click here for instructions or contact your HIO advisor.

If you leave the U.S. and lose your visa document (Form I-20 or DS-2019) or it is stolen while you are travelling, please click here for instructions or contact your HIO advisor.

4. Unexpired travel signature on Form I-20 or DS-2019 (in most cases no older than 12 months)

Students and scholars on F-1 and J-1 visas (as well as their dependents on F-2 and J-2 visas) need a travel signature on Form I-20 or DS-2019, in most cases, no older than 12 months.  If you will need a travel signature, please check the HIO web site for regular office hours in Harvard Square, the Medical Area and Harvard Business School. You do not need an appointment to get a travel signature from the HIO.

If you leave the U.S. with a visa document (Form I-20 or DS-2019) that has an expired travel signature, i.e. one that will be more than 12 months old at the time of your reentry to the U.S., the immigration officials at the U.S. port of entry have the discretion to readmit you for up to 30 days. You will be given the Form I-515A and an I-94 card that has a 30-day admission period. It is very important that you report to the HIO immediately after you are back at Harvard. You will be given instructions at the HIO on correcting the I-515A to extend your permission to remain in the U.S. 

5. SEVIS fee payment receipt

If you do not have the receipt and have paid the SEVIS fee before, please click here to print one out. If you have not paid the SEVIS fee, you may pay now via the same web site and print out the receipt.


Form I-94

Each time you enter the U.S., the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) creates an on-line, electronic I-94 to record your entry.  The traditional paper form I-94 may only be issued at Canadian land ports-of-entry. You need to do two things when you enter the U.S.:

  • Check your passport to make sure that the CBP officer has put an entry stamp indicating that you entered on a certain date, in a certain visa status, e.g. F-1, and can stay until a certain date or D/S (duration of status) in the case of F and J visa holders.
  • Print out your I-94  each time you enter the U.S. as you may need it for other purposes.

Transit through a Third Country

Please be aware that many countries (including the United States) do not allow visitors to transit through their countries unless they have an entry visa, a transit visa, or meet specific requirements. Before arranging travel that would require transit through a country that is not your home country, review that country's visa policies and/or ask your travel agent.

Register Global Travel

Harvard students and scholars who are traveling for school-related or personal reasons may register their travel with Harvard Global Support Services. If any incidents occur abroad while you are traveling, Global Support Servies proactively contacts registered Harvard affiliates in the area to confirm your wellbeing and offer medical or security assistance through International SOS.

Change of Visa Status within the U.S.

Those who have obtained an approval of a change of visa status in the U.S. through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will still be required to apply for a visa for the new visa status at a U.S. embassy or consulate when traveling outside the U.S. prior to returning to the U.S. in the new visa status.

Family Members Traveling Separately

Family members in dependent visa status such as F-2, J-2, H-4, or O-3 will need their own dependent visa documents (Forms I-20, DS-2019, I-797) when traveling without their principal visa holders.

Export Control

The U.S. Government has strict export control laws. If you are traveling abroad, you should check with the head of your department or laboratory before sending or taking with you materials related to your work. The U.S. Government may require a license to export such items. For more information, please see the University's policy statement.