What's New

February 3, 2022

If you are an F-1 student completing your degree in May 2022, now is the time for you to start the F-1 Post-Completion OPT application process.

Applying for OPT is a two step process. First, you must submit an OPT request to the HIO in order to obtain an OPT recommendation I-20. The HIO will start accepting OPT applications as of Monday, February 7, 2022. The HIO will begin emailing OPT I-20s to students as of Monday, February 28, 2022, along with instructions for the second step of the process: filing your OPT application with USCIS.

You are not required to have a job offer to apply for OPT and you are encouraged to apply for OPT as early as possible.  OPT applications may take 3-5 months to process by USCIS. Please note that you are still permitted to travel in and out of the U.S. while your OPT application is pending with USCIS until the completion date listed on your I-20. 

To apply for OPT, please review this information and take the following steps:    

January 31, 2022

How does culture influence the ways you communicate and interact with others? Learn more about your own style of communication and about different communication styles around the globe. Practice intercultural communication strategies to build connections with others. Join us for a “Navigating Intercultural Communication” Workshop!

On Wednesday, March 16 from 12 – 1:30 p.m. the HIO will host a workshop on intercultural communication for international postdocs led by Sarah Emory, Assistant Director for International Teachers and Scholars at the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning at Harvard University. You will have the opportunity to engage and connect with other international postdocs across the university around the important topic of intercultural communication.

The workshop will take place via Zoom; please register here. Upon registering you will receive an email with the Zoom meeting link and password.

Please contact Renee Burke with any questions.

December 31, 2021

Effective January 1, 2022, President Biden rescinded the presidential proclamation restricting entry to the U.S. for non-U.S. citizens who were physically present in the following countries in the 14 days prior to their entry to the U.S.: the Republic of Botswana, the Kingdom of Eswatini, the Kingdom of Lesotho, the Republic of Malawi, the Republic of Mozambique, the Republic of Namibia, the Republic of South Africa, and the Republic of Zimbabwe.

Students and scholars located in the above mentioned countries will be allowed to travel directly to the U.S. as of January 1, 2022. Please ensure that you have the required documents for travel.

November 19, 2021

On October 25, 2021, President Biden issued Presidential Proclamation 10294 rescinding the geographic COVID-19 travel bans and adopting COVID-19 vaccination requirements for all international air travelers to the U.S., with limited exceptions. The proclamation will go into effect on November 8, 2021.

National Interest Exemptions (NIEs) will no longer be needed for noncitizens who were physically present in any of the 33 countries (identified in earlier travel restriction proclamations) during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the U.S.

With limited exceptions, travelers will be required to be fully vaccinated and provide proof of their vaccination before boarding a plane to the U.S, in addition to proof of a negative COVID-19 test. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has confirmed that for purposes of travel to the U.S., vaccines approved or authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or on the World Health Organization (WHO) emergency use listed (EUL) vaccines will be accepted. Please refer to the CDC website for the list of accepted COVID-19 vaccines and how to confirm you are fully vaccinated to travel to the U.S.

Please refer to the CDC website to confirm you have the required COVID-19 vaccination and testing documentation to travel to the U.S., on or after November 8th. Please also see the FAQs and list of exemptions to the requirement on the CDC website.

November 18, 2021

We are thrilled that members of the classes of 2020 and 2021 are welcome back to campus for an unforgettable and joyous Commencement on May 29, 2022.

Any graduates from the classes of 2020 and 2021 who are not currently located in the U.S. on F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT), STEM OPT, J-1 Academic Training, or any other visa status, will need to travel to the U.S. on a B-1/B-2 visitor visa or visa waiver program (ESTA) for the purpose of attending the Commencement. Please see the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country for more information if you need to apply for a B-1/B-2 visa stamp.

If you are no longer an enrolled student at Harvard you are not eligible for University visa sponsorship for an F-1 or J-1 student visa. There are no specific visa documents, e.g. an F-1 Form I-20 or J-1 Form DS-2019, with which to apply for a B-1/B-2 visa. The B-1/B-2 visa is a personal application that does not require documentation from the Harvard International Office.

October 14, 2021

The HIO has received multiple reports of international students and scholars receiving scam phone calls from individuals representing themselves as employees with “U.S. Immigration” or other government entities. They alter caller ID systems to make it appear that the call is coming from a governmental number. The scammers obtain or verify personally identifiable information from their victims through various tactics, including by telling individuals that they are the victims of identity theft. The scammers also pose as law enforcement or immigration officials and threaten victims with arrest unless they make payments to the scammers using a variety of methods.

Students and scholars who have received scam phone calls have reported that their caller ID said the IRS or an immigration office (e.g. SEVP, USCIS) were calling. Scam phone calls have also been received where the caller ID stated that the Massachusetts State Police, Cambridge Police, or other local police were calling. If you do not know who is on the line, do not simply assume it is someone from the office identified on your caller ID. Scammers are able to “spoof” these numbers so it appears the call is coming from a government office.

Government officials would never ask you for money or to meet them with gift cards. The IRS would never call individuals regarding their taxes and USCIS or SEVP would never call you to threaten you with arrest or deportation. If you receive any calls like those described above, simply hang up!  You should also never email your social security number or give it to someone you do not know over the phone. Please refer to the links below for resources and more information:

September 7, 2021

F-1 students graduating in December 2021 can start applying for Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) up to 90 days before their program completion date (Form I-20 end date) in order to be eligible to work in the U.S. following graduation. 

To help accommodate the large number of OPT requests, the HIO will begin accepting OPT requests via a new web form starting Wednesday, September 8, 2021 for students graduating this December. The HIO will start releasing new OPT I-20s via email on Friday, September 17, 2021. 

To receive your OPT I-20 on the earliest release date, you must submit your OPT request to the HIO no later than Wednesday, September 15, 2021. Any OPT requests submitted after September 15, 2021, will be processed by the HIO in 5-7 business days. 

Please visit the OPT section of our website for a detailed overview of the OPT process. If you have any questions on the process, please log in to speak with the Advisor on Call.

August 30, 2021

Monday through Friday from 12pm – 1pm (excluding holidays), an HIO staff member will be available on the ground floor of the Smith Campus Center for walk-in travel signature and document pickup services only. You must enter the Smith Campus Center through the side entrance at 11 Holyoke Street, Cambridge. You do not need to make an appointment for this walk-in service. 

Please note, the HIO offices will continue to be closed to walk-in advising and in-person appointments until further notice.

Newly arriving students, scholars, and student interns should not come to the HIO to register during the travel signature and pick up hours. Instead, you must register online after entering the U.S. 

 All HIO staff and advisors will be available via telephone and email, or for appointments via Zoom. For quick immigration assistance and questions, you may connect with an HIO Advisor through daily virtual advisor on call sessions. You may also contact your HIO advisor directly, or email internationaloffice@harvard.edu.

If you need a new travel signature, and have available space on your Form I-20 or DS-2019 for a new travel signature, you do not need an appointment to come to the Smith Campus Center for walk-in travel signature hours.  

If you do not have available space on your Form I-20 or DS-2019 for a new travel signature, or need a new document for any reason, such as a funding update, extension, or replacing a lost document, you must contact your HIO Advisor directly first to request a new form to be printed. You must wait for confirmation that your document is available before coming to the walk-in pick up hours.  


August 18, 2021

With the beginning of the new school year approaching, the HIO would like to welcome new and returning international students, scholars, and their families to Cambridge/Boston area! For many of you, this may be your first time arriving on campus at Harvard. We hope the start of your orientation and fall semester goes smoothly.

New and returning international students and scholars should always contact the HIO directly for any immigration-related questions or concerns during your time at Harvard. While our offices remain closed for walk in advising until further notice, HIO advisors are available via phone, email, for virtual appointments, and virtual drop in advising hours.

Newly arriving international students and scholars may find information to help ease their transition into life in the U.S. in our virtual New Student Welcome Guide and New Scholar Welcome Guide.

We also want to remind incoming students and scholars that, while Boston and Cambridge are relatively safe, it is important for you to use caution when dealing with both physical safety and other safety issues such as identity theft. We encourage you to visit the Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) should you have any questions regarding safety issues, and to familiarize yourself with the safety resources that Harvard offers. You should also protect your personal information from scams by not responding to unsolicited phone calls and emails. We hear of a number of scams each year (a dishonest way of soliciting money by deceiving people) targeting non-immigrants and U.S. citizens alike, including calls from individuals claiming to be immigration and tax officials requesting personal information such as social security numbers and credit card information. Government officials do not call or email requesting such personal information. If you receive any calls like those described above, simply hang up!  You may find more information on the Safety, Scams, and Identity Protection page of the HIO website.

July 27, 2021

As we approach Harvard’s return to campus, and look forward to welcoming thousands of incoming international students, scholars, faculty, and their families to Harvard’s campus, we are happy to share that the U.S. Department of State and Department of Education recently released a Joint Statement of Principles in Support of International Education.

The message reaffirms the U.S. government’s commitment to fostering international education, including “study in the United States by international students, researchers, and scholars.” The message states that these key federal agencies intend to “welcome international students, researchers, scholars, and educators to the United States in a safe and secure manner and encourage a diversity of participants, disciplines, and types of authorized schools and higher education institutions where they can choose to study, teach, or contribute to research” and “recognize the significant benefits that international students, researchers, scholars, and exchange alumni contribute to research, innovation, economic development, and job opportunities in many fields and sectors throughout the United States.”

This has been a particularly challenging year for us all in many ways. The impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic have had on international education, and our international community, are immeasurable. However, we feel hopeful for the future, and encouraged that the U.S. government is reaffirming its commitment to international education.

July 8, 2021

On July 6, 2021, the Department of State announced that National Interest Exceptions (NIE) to all COVID-19 travel bans will now be valid for 12-months from the date of approval and may be used to travel to the U.S. multiple times for the purpose indicated in the approved NIE. This extension applies to travelers subject to the presidential proclamations due to their presence in China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and India who currently have approved NIEs or who were granted NIEs in conjunction with a visa application. As a reminder, F-1 students and their dependents are not subject to the travel ban and do not require an NIE. 

If you were previously approved for an NIE to travel to the U.S., your NIE will now be valid for 12 months from the date of approval and can be used for multiple entries to the U.S., as long as the NIE is used for the purpose under which it was granted. Previously, NIEs were only valid for 30-days from the date of issuance and could only be used for a single entry to the U.S. This new State Department policy expanding the validity of an NIE is effective immediately. 

For more information regarding the NIE and your visa type, please review the HIO COVID FAQ under “U.S. Embassy Visa Issuance and Travel Updates”.

July 8, 2021

To reach the high levels of vaccination needed to protect our community, Harvard will require COVID vaccination for all students, scholars, staff, and faculty who will be on campus this fall. All vaccines authorized for emergency use by the World Health Organization will meet the University’s vaccine requirement. You can read more about the requirement and how to submit documentation on the Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) website.

For those international students and scholars with Harvard IDs who are not able to receive an authorized vaccine prior to arrival on campus, HUHS will provide opportunities for vaccination.

International students and scholars who arrive on campus not fully vaccinated will NOT be barred from move-in or classroom activity, and will NOT need a 14-day quarantine, assuming they have no COVID symptoms and no known recent exposure to a person who tested positive. Testing is required prior to international departure and upon arrival to campus. Instructions and protocols for international students who will arrive not fully vaccinated are available on the For International Students and Scholars page.

May 3, 2021

UPDATE: Effective Tuesday, May 4, 2021, India will be added to the list of countries with a travel ban to the U.S. The U.S. Department of State has already confirmed that the below National Interest Exception to the travel ban will be extended to certain travelers from India, in addition to certain travelers from Brazil, China, Iran, and South Africa.

On April 27, 2021, the U.S. Department of State extended National Interest Exceptions for certain travelers from Brazil, China, Iran, and South Africa. Previously, the National Interest Exceptions (NIEs) were only available for certain travelers from the EU Schengen area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. These existing NIEs remain in effect.

The new NIEs allow incoming students with valid F-1 visas to travel directly from Brazil, China, Iran, and South Africa to the U.S. to begin an academic program of study that commences August 1, 2021 or later. According to the Department of State, “Students with valid F-1 and M-1 visas intending to begin or continue an academic program commencing August 1, 2021 or later do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual NIE to travel. They may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days before the start of their academic studies. Students seeking to apply for new F-1 or M-1 visas should check the status of visa services at the nearest embassy or consulate; those applicants who are found to be otherwise qualified for an F-1 or M-1 visa will automatically be considered for an NIE to travel.”

J-1 Students, Scholars, and Student Interns located in these countries must request an NIE from the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in order to qualify for direct travel to the U.S. from Brazil, China, Iran, or South Africa.

April 30, 2021

If you are an incoming student or scholar who is applying for a visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, please make sure to update any visa appointment booking, visa appointment cancellations, and visa approvals with the HIO using our online reporting form. You may submit this form multiple times to update previously-reported information. We will use your reporting anonymously to help your fellow students at the University as they navigate the visa application process.

As a reminder, some U.S. Embassies and Consulates have started to resume routine visa services depending on the in-country situation, while others may be closing again due to new in-country lockdowns. U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide have different policies and procedures in place about re-opening, and they are facing severe application backlog that have accrued during their closures. You may view the current operating status of a given U.S. Embassy or Consulate on the U.S. State Department website.

If your visa appointment is cancelled, please take the steps necessary to rebook your appointment with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate directly. You may find more detailed instructions in the Student visa application, Scholar visa application, and Student Intern visa application pages of the HIO website.

April 20, 2021

This season, Sprintax will be hosting a series of free open tax webinars to provide helpful information around nonresident tax filing obligations. You can find the details and registration links below. Each webinar will cover the same topics listed below:

  • Tuesday, May 4, 2021; 09:30-10:30AM EST - Register here
  • Thursday, May 6, 2021; 5:00-6:00PM EST - Register here

The informational webinars will cover:

  • An overview of tax for Non Resident students and scholars
  • Who must file a 2020 US tax return
  • What income forms students/scholars may receive
  • Forms that need to be completed and sent to the IRS
  • Terms like FICA, ITIN and Form 1098-T
  • What happens if students don’t file, or misfile
  • State tax returns
  • IRS stimulus payments
  • Sprintax overview
April 1, 2021

Presidential Proclamation 10052, which temporarily suspended the entry of certain H-1B, H-2B, J (for certain categories within the Exchange Visitor Program), and L nonimmigrants, expired on March 31, 2021. The Biden Administration and U.S. Department of State have confirmed that the Proclamation will not be renewed. Scholars who have been previously impacted by Presidential Proclamation 10052 should reach out to their HIO Advisor for guidance. 

March 15, 2021

On March 8, 2021, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas designated Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months, until September 2022. 

Additionally, on March 12, 2021, Secretary Mayorkas also designated Burma (Myanmar) for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months. 

This new designation enables Venezuelan and Burmese nationals (and individuals without nationality who last habitually resided in Burma (Myanmar) or Venezuela) currently residing in the United States to file initial applications for TPS, so long as they meet eligibility requirements.

Individuals desiring TPS must file an application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services within the 180-day registration period. They may also apply for Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) and for travel authorization. All individuals applying for TPS undergo security and background checks as part of determining eligibility. More details about the eligibility criteria to submit an initial TPS application and apply for an EAD can be found in the Federal Register Notice (FRN).

February 2, 2021

In President Biden’s first months in office, he has made the COVID-19 pandemic and immigration among his top priorities. President Biden has signed multiple immigration and COVID-19 related executive orders and proclamations that we wanted to bring to your attention. 

As this is an evolving situation, and additional executive orders and proclamations are likely to be signed, we are providing the link to NAFSA’s Biden Administration Immigration Portal. This website will continue to be updated with links to significant immigration-related changes and initiatives instituted by the Biden administration.

The Harvard International Office (HIO) is working closely with the University’s federal relations office in Washington D.C. and will update you with any new information. The most pertinent information will be updated on the HIO homepage and in the HIO COVID FAQ.

February 1, 2021

F-1 students graduating in May 2021 can start applying for Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) up to 90 days before their program completion date (Form I-20 end date) in order to be eligible to work in the U.S. following graduation. 

To help accommodate the large number of OPT requests, the HIO will begin accepting OPT requests via a new web form starting Monday, February 8, 2021 for students graduating this May.  The HIO will start releasing new OPT I-20s via email on Friday, February 26, 2021. 

To receive your OPT I-20 on the earliest release date, you must submit your OPT request to the HIO no later than Wednesday, February 17, 2021. Any OPT requests submitted after February 17, 2021, will be processed by the HIO in 5-7 business days. 

Please visit the OPT section of our website for a detailed overview of the OPT process. If you have any questions on the process, the HIO will begin virtual drop-in OPT advising hours starting Friday, February 5, 2021.

February 1, 2021

The Harvard Language Center is excited to announce that they have launched The Language Exchange Program, an informal language practicing program for Harvard affiliates. This program provides members of the Harvard community the possibility of practicing informal conversation with a partner who speaks their target language. The purpose of the language exchange, or "tandem," is to allow partners equal time to practice their desired languages. All Harvard community members, including spouses and partners of faculty, staff, students, and visiting scholars, as well as alumni and retired faculty and staff, are eligible to participate in the exchange.