Step 2: Initiate Visa Sponsorship Request

Once an academic appointment is confirmed for an individual, a departmental administrator must submit a record to the HIO to request visa sponsorship. A departmental administrator (the HIO departmental contact) must be an individual who has the authority to act and accept certain responsibility on behalf of the department for university compliance with U.S. Government regulations. Visa sponsorship from the HIO requires close cooperation and collaboration from the departmental contact; the HIO relies on information from the departmental contact to assess visa options and provide advising while the scholar is maintaining Harvard work and affiliation.  

Overview of Visa Sponsorship Process

Below you will find an illustration of the full visa sponsorship request process between the hiring department, scholar, and HIO. For more details on each step, please review the tabs below.


Submitting Visa Sponsorship Requests to the HIO via ISD

For any new, incoming scholars or student interns to the University, department administrators must create a record for the individual in the HIO’s intake database ISD. For instructions, please review the ISD Manual, which will walk department administrators step by step through the request process. 

Submitting required information via ISD is required for all non-U.S. citizens or U.S. lawful permanent residents who will have academic appointments at Harvard, even if a scholar is currently in the U.S. with a non-immigrant visa status. Department administrators must submit a record to the HIO at least three months before a scholar’s anticipated arrival date. Keep in mind that in some cases the visa application process may take longer based on the individual’s country of origin or the visa action required. 

Repeat Scholars

ISD should be used for first time scholars and student interns only. If scholars or student interns were at Harvard at some point before and are already in the HIO system, i.e., they are changing departments and/or are already in the HIO system from previous a visit(s), please use the eForm instead of ISD. Do not create new ISD records for these individuals. 

Scholars Already in the U.S.

Hiring departments must use ISD to notify the HIO of anyone appointed in their department whose visa will be sponsored by a third-party organization (i.e., Fulbright, AMIDEAST, etc.) or who will be sponsored by another institution on F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT), F-1 STEM OPT, or J-1 Academic Training (AT).

If a scholar is already in the U.S. at another institution on a nonimmigrant visa status (i.e., J-1 Research Scholar, H-1B, O-1, TN, etc.) it is highly likely that the individual will need to transfer their status to Harvard prior to starting their appointment. In this case, it is very important to submit the record via ISD with copies of the individual’s current visa documents so that the HIO can determine whether a transfer is possible. 

Required Documents To Be Attached to an ISD Record

J-1 Scholar Requests

The following documents must be uploaded into the ISD record before submission to the HIO:

Documents to be uploaded by the Department Administrator:

Documents to be uploaded by the Scholar:

  • Biographical page of passport showing name, date of birth, and barcode; 
  • Biographical page of dependents’ passports (if applicable);
  • Proof of lawful permanent residence (LPR) if the country of LPR is different from the country of citizenship;
  • All previous DS-2019s and J-1 visa stamps (of scholar and dependents), if scholar has been in J status before with any employer in the U.S.;
  • If scholar is transferring from another institution, please also include the following: 
    • Harvard Transfer-in Form for Scholars must be completed by the scholar and an international scholar advisor at their current institution;
    • Copies of DS-2019(s) from current institution

J-1 Student Intern Requests

Please refer to the J-1 Student Intern Checklist

F-1 OPT/STEM OPT or J-1 Academic Training Scholars

The following documents must be uploaded into the ISD record before submission to the HIO:

Documents to be uploaded by the Department Administrator:

  • Offer/appointment letter from Harvard.

Documents to be uploaded by the Scholar:

  • Biographical page of passport;
  • For F-1 Students on OPT or STEM OPT, a copy of the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) or I-797 EAD receipt if the EAD has not yet been approved;
  • Current F-1 I-20(s) or J-1 DS-2019;
  • I-94 record, which can be retrieved here;
  • F-1 or J-1 Visa Stamp.

Third-Party Sponsored Scholars (e.g., Fulbright Scholars)

Documents to be uploaded by the Department Administrator:

  • Offer/appointment letter from Harvard.

Documents to be uploaded by the Scholar:

  • Biographical page of passport;
  • J-1 Visa Stamp;
  • Current DS-2019.

After Submission of the ISD Record – HIO Issuance of Visa Documents

After a department submits a record for an individual in ISD, the HIO will process and create the visa sponsorship documents necessary for the individual to arrive to the U.S. to begin their appointment. For J-1 Scholars, the document created by the HIO is the DS-2019 Form. J-1 Student Interns receive both the DS-2019 Form and the DS-7002 Training Plan.

The HIO will email the visa sponsorship document(s) to the scholar. The scholar will need to print and sign a hard copy of the Form DS-2019 to initiate the visa application process with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their country.

The Scholar’s Visa Application

After incoming scholars receive the visa sponsorship documents from the HIO, they must apply for a visa stamp at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their country (except Canadian citizens, who may travel to the U.S. using the visa sponsorship documents from the HIO only). For more information on the visa application process that scholars must follow, please see Applying for your Visa. These instructions are sent to scholars along with their visa sponsorship documents from the HIO. 

Please note that the visa application process can vary from several weeks to several months, depending on the scholar’s country of origin, the processing and visa appointment wait times at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate they visit, and any potential security clearances or administrative processing that the U.S. Embassy or Consulate conducts. Please note that Harvard and the HIO cannot expedite a visa application or visa processing on behalf of an international scholar. In some cases, departments may need to delay the start date of an international scholar if the visa is not approved and issued before the intended start date. For this reason, the HIO encourages departments to initiate the visa sponsorship process with the HIO as early as possible.


Proceed to Step 3: Informing the HIO to learn more about what information needs to be reported to the HIO prior to a scholar’s arrival and during a scholar’s time at Harvard.