Travel Outside the U.S.

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. Passports must be valid at least six months beyond your date of entry to the United States. 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 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. An individual may remain in the U.S. beyond the expiration date of a visa as long as the immigration 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 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 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 attempt to re-enter the U.S. with a visa document (Form I-20 or DS-2019) that has an expired travel signature, the immigration officials at the U.S. port of entry have the discretion to readmit you for up to 30 days. You may be given the Form I-515A granting you a 30-day admission period. If you are given an I-515A upon entry, it is very important that you contact your HIO advisor immediately. The HIO will provide you with instructions on correcting the I-515A to extend your permission to remain in the U.S. 

Form I-94

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

The HIO Recommends You Do Not Use Global Entry or NEXUS

The HIO recommends you not use Global Entry or NEXUS, or an automated passport kiosk, to enter the U.S. You should  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 student status.

It is very likely you will be inspected into the U.S. as a tourist when using Global Entry or NEXUS, which does not permit you to study or work in the U.S. We understand that using Global Entry may result in spending less time in line at the port of entry, but the consequences of being inspected into the U.S. on an incorrect visa status can cause great difficulties for you and can prevent you from beginning your studies or appointment at Harvard University. In extreme cases you may be required to fly home and reenter the U.S. again to be considered in the proper status. 

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 in Dependent Visa Status

Family members in dependent visa status such as F-2, J-2, H-4, or O-3 must have their own dependent visa documents (Forms I-20, DS-2019, I-797) when traveling with or 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.