Inviting Friends and Family Members to the U.S.
For family, relatives, and friends to visit you temporarily in the U.S., including coming to Commencement, they will most likely need to apply for a tourist visa (B1/B2 visa). There are no specific visa documents, e.g. Form I-20 or DS-2019, with which to apply for a B1/B2 visa. However, there are some guidelines on what a consular official expects of applicants. Applicants should be prepared to explain the following points:
- The visit to the United States will be temporary.
- There are adequate funds to cover the cost of transportation and cost of expenses (accomodation, food, etc.) in the United States.
- The visitors have residences outside the United States to which they intend to return.
For the first item listed above, both an invitation letter from you and a certificate of attendance letter from your school may be helpful. A certificate of attendance letter is usually provided by the registrar's office at your school. Some schools provide letters of invitation to Commencement. Please inquire with your school.
For the second item, your family or friends may provide evidence of sufficient funds to cover their expenses while in the United States in the form of a bank statement. Alternatively, you may provide your current bank statement as evidence of adequate financial support to cover their temporary stay in the United States.
For the last item, proving the intent to return home can be documented by evidence of a job, family, property or other strong ties to their home country. The applicants should be prepared to answer questions about their intent. Please refer to the guidance from the U.S. Department of State on what constitutes as strong ties.
Two Step Process for Family and Friends
- Applying for a visa
For many individuals a B1/B2 visa from a U.S. embassy or consulate outside the United States is needed to enter the United States. Guidance on visa application is available on the web site of the U.S. Department of State. Please note that Canadian citizens and citizens of Visa Waiver countries do not need to obtain visas for this purpose. Please note that visitors traveling under the Visa Waiver Program will need pre-clearance authorization called ESTA prior to traveling. They must present evidence of ESTA approval at the port of entry to the United States. Please be sure to print out the approval when applying for ESTA.
- Entering the United States
The length of stay that the U.S. government official grants to the visitor is discretionary, normally no longer than 6 months. B visa holders are advised to print out their I-94 . The I-94 indicates how long a B visa holder may remain in the United States. Extensions may be requested with USCIS at a later date.
What can Harvard do for me to get a B1/B2 visa for my family member?
Since the purpose of a tourist visa does not directly involve Harvard's visa sponsorship, the statements you need should not come from the HIO. Please inquire with your school for a certificate of attendance letter. If your school is willing to write a letter of invitation on your behalf to invite your family or friends for Commencement, here is a sample letter that can be used.