Arriving in the U.S., HIO Registration, & Orientations
Welcome to Harvard! This section details important information you need to know to enter the U.S. to start your academic program. After your arrival, you will need to bring your travel documents to register your immigration record with the HIO.
When to Arrive
The U.S. immigration regulations allow F-1 and J-1 students and their dependents to enter the U.S. no more than 30 days prior to the program start date listed on page 1 of your Form I-20 or Item 3 of your Form DS-2019.
U.S. Immigration Inspection
Upon entering the U.S., all F-1 and J-1 students must present the following documents to the Customs and Border Protection official at the airport or U.S. Port of Entry:
- Valid passport
- Original Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 (no photocopies)
- Valid F-1 or J-1 visa in passport (not applicable to Canadian citizens)
- I-901 SEVIS Fee Receipt
F-2 and J-2 Dependents cannot enter the U.S. before the F-1 or J-1 Student.
You may not enter the U.S. in tourist visa status unless you are coming to the U.S. for tourism only. Individuals in tourist visa status are not permitted to enroll in full-time study in U.S. educational institutions.
Do not use NEXUS or Global Entry, or an automated passport kiosk, to enter the U.S. You must always 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.
Arriving in the U.S.
Once you enter the U.S., the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) creates an on-line, electronic I-94 record that details your entry into the U.S. 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. J-1, and can stay until a certain date or D/S (duration of status) in the case of F and J visa holders.
- Print your I-94 or keep an electronic copy of the I-94 on your phone as you will need it for other purposes.
COVID-19 Arrival 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.
You must register your arrival with the HIO within 30 days of the start date on your visa document (Form I-20 or DS-2019), otherwise your SEVIS record will become invalid.
Please note, in order to complete this form, you will need to access your I-94 record online. If you have difficulty locating your I-94 record, or your I-94 record has incorrect information, please contact your HIO Advisor.
The staff at the HIO will confirm with you once your registration has been processed.
HIO Orientations and Walking Tours
The HIO offers optional orientation sessions and walking tours of Cambridge and Harvard Square for all incoming students and their family members. Please see HIO Orientations for more information.