Transfer to Harvard and Change of Level

Congratulations on your admission to Harvard University. The following guide is intended to help students currently in the United States on a student visa status to transfer their F-1 or J-1 student immigration records to Harvard.

If you are in the United States on any other visa status (i.e. H-1B, J-2, etc.) please contact the HIO for further guidance

Transferring to Harvard from Another Institution

F-1 or J-1 students who have been admitted to Harvard and are coming from another institution are considered F-1 or J-1 program transfers, which is not necessarily the same as an academic transfer. To initiate the F-1 or J-1 transfer process, please follow the steps below:

Step 1: Admissions and Financial Certification

Once you accept an offer of admission into a Harvard program, the admissions or financial aid office at the school requests documentation from you regarding your financial ability to study in the U.S. The financial certification process can be time consuming since you need to compile evidence of guaranteed funding, often from several different sources. The HIO is not directly involved in the admissions and financial certification process.

Step 2: Complete the Transfer-In Form

To initiate the transfer of your F-1 or J-1 immigration record, you must complete the Transfer In to Harvard form  with your international student advisor at your current school. You must request that your SEVIS record be electronically released from your current school to Harvard. You will submit the completed and signed Transfer-In Form to your Harvard admissions office along with your financial certification.

Step 3: Issuing Form I-20 or DS-2019

Once the financial certification is complete, the school's admissions or financial aid office enters your information into a database shared with the HIO. Until this point the HIO does not have records of new students coming to Harvard. The HIO has been designated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of State to issue F and J student visa documents, i.e. Form I-20 and DS-2019.

The HIO cannot issue a Form I-20 or DS-2019 until the financial certification process with your school is complete, AND the SEVIS release date passes. Once the SEVIS record is released and all other admissions materials have been submitted, the new Form I-20 or DS-2019 from Harvard will be processed and sent to you by the admissions office.

Step 4: Visa Application

You are not required to pay the SEVIS fee again if you are transferring your F-1 or J-1 record to Harvard.

For F-1 students, if your current F-1 visa in your passport has not expired, you may continue to use it for international travel until the visa expiration date. If, however, your F-1 visa has expired, and you have plans to travel internationally, you must apply for a new F-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country.

For J-1 students, you must apply for a new J-1 visa in your passport in order to travel internationally and reenter the U.S., even if your current J-1 visa has not expired.

See Travel and Re-entry below for more information.

Changing Academic Programs at Harvard

If you are currently on F-1 or J-1 visa sponsored by Harvard University (either graduating students or students on Post-Completion OPT) and are admitted to a new program at Harvard, for example, if you are graduating from Harvard College, and will begin a Master’s program at Harvard in the upcoming fall semester, please follow the instructions below.

  1.  You will first need to complete your new school’s financial certification process. During the process, you should indicate that you are currently in the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status at Harvard.
  2. Once your financial certification is submitted and approved, the HIO will be able to issue a new Form I-20 or DS-2019 to cover your upcoming program.
  3. Your SEVIS number will remain the same, meaning you do not need to pay the SEVIS fee again. If your current F-1 visa has not expired, you do not need to apply for a new visa. You will need to apply for a new J-1 visa even if your current J-1 visa has not expired. See Travel and Re-entry below for more information.

Travel and Re-entry

As a transfer or a change of level student, you may travel outside the U.S. during the transfer or change of level process under the following circumstances:

  • You will need your newly-issued Harvard Form I-20 or DS-2019 to re-enter the U.S., if the transfer has already been processed. Please ensure that your admissions office will send the Form I-20 or DS-2019 to you abroad if you will not be in the U.S. at the time of the transfer or change of level.
  • You do not need to pay the SEVIS fee again.
  • If your current F-1 visa has not expired, you do not need to apply for a new visa. You may continue using your current F-1 visa until your program ends or the visa expires, whichever is sooner.
  • You will need to apply for a new J-1 visa even if your current J-1 visa has not expired.
  • If your current F-1 or J-1 visa stamp has expired, please review our instructions for renewing a visa.
  • You may enter the U.S. with your immigration documents at any time prior to the start date of your program.
  • Once you have been issued your new Harvard Form I-20 or DS-2019, you may begin working on campus at Harvard if you are expected to.

Arrival at Harvard

You must register your arrival with the HIO as soon as you arrive or no later than 30 days from the start date on your Form I-20 or DS-2019, otherwise your SEVIS record will become invalid. No appointment is needed for the HIO registration.

Please bring your passport and Form I-20 or DS-2019 for the HIO registration. If you have F-2 or J-2 dependents who have accompanied you to the U.S., please bring their form(s) I-20 or DS-2019 and passport(s) to the HIO as well.

The staff at the HIO will provide important immigration-related information and will answer any questions you may have. As a student you will not be permitted to register for classes at your school without first registering at the HIO.

You may complete and print the HIO Registration Form to take with you to the HIO, or complete the form when you are at the HIO.