What's New

January 27, 2021

COVID-19 Travel Bans Still in Effect

President Biden has issued a Presidential Proclamation to extend the travel bans from the EU Schengen area, United Kingdom, Ireland, and Brazil, and added a travel ban from South Africa, effective as of January 30, 2021. The travel bans from China and Iran also remain in effect. These proclamations prohibit entry to the U.S. for certain individuals who were present in a travel ban country in the 14 days preceding their travel to the U.S., unless they have been granted an exception. You may read more about the impact of the travel bans on the HIO's COVID FAQ.

Ending a Discriminatory Entry Ban

The HIO is pleased to share that President Biden has issued a proclamation ending discriminatory bans put in place by the Trump administration that prevented certain individuals from entering the U.S., such as those from primarily Muslim countries and from largely African countries. While this travel ban has been overturned, there is likely going to continue to be administrative processing for visa applicants and a backlog for visa appointments in these regions.

January 12, 2021

As of January 26, 2021, all air passengers entering the U.S. will be required to comply with the following COVID-19 safety measures in order to board a flight to the U.S.:

  • show proof of a negative viral COVID-19 test within the 3 days before their flight to the U.S. departs;
  • complete a seven-day quarantine when a passenger arrives in the U.S.;
  • and take another COVID-19 test 3-5 days after arriving.

Full details may be found on the CDC website. This order is backed by President Biden, who signed an executive order on January 21, 2021, requiring all air travelers to comply with these CDC measures. 

Until January 26, 2021, only travelers from the UK are required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test to board a flight to the U.S. You may read more on the CDC website for “Testing Requirements for Arriving UK Air Travelers”.  

In addition to these requirements, please keep in mind that all travelers arriving in Massachusetts must also complete the MA COVID Travel Form prior to arrival in the state. Students and scholars should also make sure they have the required documents to enter the U.S. with. 

January 8, 2021

If you were present in the United States (U.S.) during any part of 2020 calendar year in any immigration status other than B or WT/WB (ESTA), there is at least one tax form (IRS Form 8843) you must file with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) this spring. We recommend reviewing the information below in preparation for the coming tax filing season. If you were not in the U.S. at all during 2020, you do not need to complete any tax forms this year.

  • Review the HIO's introduction to tax filing in the U.S. and HIO Tax FAQ  to familiarize yourself with the process, including tax filing deadlines for 2020.
  • All current students, scholars, and student interns at Harvard will receive an email from the HIO in mid-late February providing additional information, instructions, and discounted access to use the Sprintax tax preparation software.
  • If you are no longer an active student, scholar, or student intern at Harvard and need to file taxes for 2020, please email the HIO (internationaloffice@harvard.edu) in late February to request a unique discount code to use Sprintax.
December 14, 2020

Harvard's President Lawrence Bacow has written a letter to U.S. President-elect Joseph Biden to advocate for policies that will benefit Harvard's international community. The letter advocates in favor of U.S. Embassies prioritizing visa issuance for international students and scholars, preserving immigration programs such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and overturning executive orders and presidential proclamations put into place by President Trump, including the Muslim travel ban. 

You may view the letter in its entirely on the Harvard Gazette

November 17, 2020

As winter break approaches, we want to remind students and scholars that the University strongly discourages personal travel, both international and domestic. Travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. For the foreseeable future, the global pandemic will continue to affect the safety and feasibility of travel. In addition to lowering the risk of coronavirus transmission on campus and helping ensure the health and safety of the Harvard community, the University also seeks to slow the worldwide spread of COVID-19.

If you have personal reasons that require you to travel, you must speak to your HIO Advisor before making any travel arrangements. 

If you do make the decision to travel, you must confirm that you have the required documents for your specific visa type to travel and reenter the United States (U.S.). You must also consider the travel disruptions that may be caused by pandemic, including travel bans and quarantine requirements. For more information on how travel is currently impacted by the pandemic, please review the HIO’s COVID-19 FAQ.

COVID-19 is a fluid situation worldwide and travel guidance and travel bans can change quickly as a result of the pandemic. Please consider all the risks and uncertainties when discussing your proposed travel plans with your HIO Advisor.

November 13, 2020

Harvard University recently issued guidance for individuals preparing for the upcoming 2020 tax season. Of note, international students and scholars who are receiving income from the University should be aware of certain deadlines and requirements to prepare for tax season:

  • Tax Treaty Renewal Deadline for 2021. Per IRS regulations, certain tax treaties must be renewed annually. To meet these requirements, and claim a tax treaty exemption in the calendar year 2021 (if previously determined eligible in 2020), foreign individuals must complete the treaty renewal process before Friday, December 18th, 2020.
  • Deadline to Declare new tax treaty benefits for 2020. If GLACIER determines a foreign individual is possibly eligible to claim a new tax treaty exemption for 2020, the completed GLACIER submission must be received by the Nonresident Alien Tax Compliance Office no later than Sunday, November 29th, 2020.
  • Update Your Addresses for 2020 Tax Forms. In order to make sure there are no delays in receiving 2020 tax forms, make sure your address is up-to-date or better yet, sign up for electronic delivery if available!
  • Report Your Government-Issued Social Security Number (SSN). It is important that government-issued SSNs are submitted to Payroll/Student Services as soon as they are received, if you are earning income from Harvard. If you have not yet applied for an SSN, you should review the HIO instructions to do so now.  
October 19, 2020

The Harvard International Office provides informational sessions regarding future visa options and green cards each year.  This session provides general information regarding sponsorship possibilities outside of Harvard.  Given the current pandemic, we have asked the attorney scheduled to present this semester to record her presentation.  You may access the presentation on YouTube

Please note that the university does not endorse any attorney or firm nor is this presentation intended to be legal advice.   If you have questions for the presenter, please feel free to leave them in comments on the link and she may respond.

October 2, 2020

USCIS fee increases, which were set to go into effect on October 2, 2020, have been temporarily suspended by a court order. If you are an F-1 student applying for OPT or STEM OPT, or a J-2 applying for work permission, please note that until further notice you may continue to pay the existing I-765 fee of $410.

Department administrations working on H-1B, O-1, TN, E-3, or green card petitions should be in touch with their HIO Advisors for more information.

September 25, 2020

As many of you may have heard, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a proposed rule today to eliminate duration of status (D/S) for F-1 students and their F-2 dependents, and J-1 exchange visitors (including students, researchers/professors, and short-term scholars) and their J-2 dependents.  The proposed rule would eliminate D/S, and individuals entering the U.S. in F or J status would be admitted for a specified length of time with options and procedures for extensions.

Please note that NOTHING has changed yet.  This is a proposed rule.  The public has 30 days to comment on this proposal.  DHS will then consider the comments and publish a final rule with an effective date.  A number of offices around the University are working on analyzing this proposal and will work with colleagues at our peer institutions and professional associations to advocate on behalf of all our international students and scholars.  We will share updated information as soon as possible.

September 11, 2020

If you are finishing your coursework this fall, and have an I-20 or DS-2019 with an end date in December 2020, it is time to start thinking about U.S. work permission. After your I-20 or DS-2019 completion date, you will need Optional Practical Training/OPT (for F-1 students) or Academic Training/AT (for J-1 students) to remain in the U.S. to work.

If you are an F-1 student, please review our instructions to apply for OPT (under How to Apply). Students should take note that the USCIS OPT fee will increase from $410 to $550 for applications received on or after October 2, 2020. If you will be applying for OPT this fall, please submit your application to the HIO as soon as possible. An HIO Advisor-on-Call will be available via Zoom on Thursdays from 12:00pm -1:00pm Eastern Standard Time for students with Fall OPT application questions. You may find details on this service here

If you are a J-1 student, please review our instructions to apply for Academic Training (AT).

July 28, 2020

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.
July 16, 2020

Starting Wednesday, July 8, an HIO Advisor-on-Call will be available via Zoom Monday – Friday from 9:00 -10:00am and 4:00 - 5:00pm Eastern Standard Time. This service is offered via Zoom on a first-come, first-serve basis, and is intended for international students and scholars with quick questions.  For details on accessing the Advisor-on-Call waiting room during these times, please click here.

If you would like to set up a regular 30-minute appointment to speak with the HIO Advisor for your School or Department, you may make an appointment online or contact your HIO Advisor directly.

July 15, 2020

The Department of State has confirmed that routine visa processing will start resuming at certain US consular offices around the world, depending on the local conditions. Please monitor the embassy/consulate website for the status of their services, as well as the HIO website for updates. If you are currently located in the US, we still do not advise that you travel abroad at this time, especially if you are in need of a renewed visa, as we anticipate there will be backlogs and delays in appointments once consular offices do reopen.

Keep in mind that travel bans still exist from many countries, and do impact students and scholars with valid visas traveling from or transiting through one of the affected countries. For more information on the current travel bans, please see the CDC website

July 15, 2020

Dear Members of the Harvard Community,

I am delighted to report that today the United States government withdrew the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) directive that, among other things, would have prevented international students from staying in the country if they attend institutions that are holding their courses online this fall. This withdrawal has nationwide effect.

This is a significant victory. The directive had disrupted all of American higher education. I have heard from countless international students who said that the July 6 directive had put them at serious risk. These students—our students—can now rest easier and focus on their education, which is all they ever wanted to do. While the government may attempt to issue a new directive, our legal arguments remain strong and the Court has retained jurisdiction, which would allow us to seek judicial relief immediately to protect our international students should the government again act unlawfully. This means we expect that the 2020–2021 academic year will proceed as we have carefully planned, in our effort both to protect the health and safety of our students and others and to ensure that learning can go on in the best possible way under the current unprecedented circumstances.

We are immensely grateful for the widespread support that we and our students have received over the course of the past week. Hundreds of colleges and universities, cities, labor unions, companies, civic organizations, and higher education associations filed amicus briefs in support of the complaint that we filed jointly with MIT. We also received support from Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who joined 17 attorneys general from across the United States in filing a similar complaint.

This show of support is heartening. We all recognize the value that international students bring to our campuses, to this nation, and to the world. We recognize, too, that colleges and universities must pursue their educational missions while carefully protecting the health and safety of their students, faculty, and staff. At a time when this pandemic continues to rage, we must continue to act with vigilance, informed by the best available science and with a commitment both to carrying forward the vital enterprise of learning and to safeguarding public health. The ICE directive sought to force each of us to choose between the health of our communities and the education of our international students—a false and dangerous choice which we rejected. In the end, the public overwhelmingly agreed with us, and the government, in response, withdrew its order.

Higher education in the United States seeks and attracts the best and the brightest students from around the world. They strengthen our universities immeasurably, and we aim to provide them with the best education possible—in a virtuous cycle that benefits all of us. Some will seek to stay in this country, thanks to the freedoms and opportunities that they find here. And those who return home will do so enriched by the values we hold dear.

I am grateful to my colleagues across the University who have tirelessly fought to achieve today’s important result. Many worked literally through the night to ensure that justice prevailed. We owe all of them our thanks. I look forward to the day when we can welcome our entire community back to campus. In the meantime, we remain dedicated to our academic mission, and to enabling the best possible education for our students while affirming our deep commitment to the health of people in our own community and beyond.


July 8, 2020

Dear Members of the Harvard Community,

On Monday, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that international students will not be allowed to stay in the country if they attend institutions, like Harvard, that are holding courses online this fall. Their choices are either to transfer to another institution that provides in-person or hybrid (both in-person and online) instruction—or to depart the country and risk not being able to return. Those students who fail to comply with this guidance may face deportation.

The order came down without notice—its cruelty surpassed only by its recklessness. It appears that it was designed purposefully to place pressure on colleges and universities to open their on-campus classrooms for in-person instruction this fall, without regard to concerns for the health and safety of students, instructors, and others. This comes at a time when the United States has been setting daily records for the number of new infections, with more than 300,000 new cases reported since July 1. Moreover, if an institution pursues in-person or hybrid instruction this fall and a serious outbreak of COVID-19 occurs, the institution would face strong pressure not to switch to online instruction, as Harvard and others necessarily did this past March, because to do so would immediately place its international students in jeopardy.

In making plans for the fall, Harvard, like many other institutions, has sought to balance addressing concerns for public health with preserving our academic mission of teaching and scholarship, and we have undertaken careful planning to address the unique circumstances of our community and to enable students to make educational progress safely. We have done so recognizing that the nation is in the grip of a pandemic that poses risks to the health of millions and that threatens to overwhelm our capacity to manage it. We believe that the ICE order is bad public policy, and we believe that it is illegal.

Within the last hour, we filed pleadings together with MIT in the US District Court in Boston seeking a temporary restraining order prohibiting enforcement of the order. We will pursue this case vigorously so that our international students—and international students at institutions across the country—can continue their studies without the threat of deportation.

For many of our international students, studying in the United States and studying at Harvard is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. These students are our students, and they enrich the learning environment for all. We fervently hope that, before long, the circumstances that necessitate online learning will pass. As a university with a profound commitment to residential education, we hope and intend to resume full in-person instruction as soon as it is safe and responsible to do so. But, until that time comes, we will not stand by to see our international students’ dreams extinguished by a deeply misguided order. We owe it to them to stand up and to fight—and we will.


UPDATE: You may follow updates on the lawsuit here

July 6, 2020

In recent weeks, like many of our colleague institutions across the country, Harvard has announced plans for the fall semester. Our schools have taken into account the most up-to-date public health and safety guidance, the specific educational requirements of their programs, and their unique student populations. The wellbeing of the University community has been our highest priority in making these difficult decisions.

We are deeply concerned that the guidance issued today by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement imposes a blunt, one-size-fits-all approach to a complex problem, giving international students, particularly those in online programs, few options beyond leaving the country or transferring schools. This guidance undermines the thoughtful approach taken on behalf of students by so many institutions, including Harvard, to plan for continuing academic programs while balancing the health and safety challenges of the global pandemic.

We will work closely with other colleges and universities around the country to chart a path forward. We must do all that we can to ensure that our students can continue their studies without fear of being forced to leave the country mid-way through the year, disrupting their academic progress and undermining the commitments—and sacrifices—that many of them have made to advance their education.

June 23, 2020

The long-anticipated expansion of the President’s Proclamation 10014, issued on April 22, 2020 was published on June 22, 2020. It is effective June 24, 2020 at 12:01 AM EDT through December 31, 2020 and may be continued.  The full text of the Proclamation can be found here.

Suspension of visa issuance:

The new proclamation temporarily suspends the issuance of certain nonimmigrant visas and renewals including H-1B, H-4, L-1, H-2A/B, and certain categories of  J-1 (as listed below) through December 31, 2020.  It may be continued or modified as necessary beyond December 31.

The new proclamation bars entry into the U.S. for:

  • H-1B and H-2B visa holders and their H-4 dependents who do not have a valid visa stamp
  • The specific J visa categories include interns and trainees (commonly used by business), teachers (commonly used by K-12 schools), camp counselors, au pairs, and summer work travel program participants

The new proclamation does not apply to:

  • Those visa holders who are already in the U.S.
  • J visa holders outside the U.S. in the various student categories (student intern, student bachelor’s, student master’s, student doctorate), short-term scholars, research scholars (which is most often used by Harvard for postdocs and visiting scholars) professors and specialists
  • H-1B and H-2B visa holders and their H-4 dependents outside the U.S. who do have a valid visa stamp
  • Nothing in the Proclamation applies to F1 visas holders, including F-2 dependents and those on OPT/STEM OPT.

The new proclamation does not limit or otherwise restrict other nonimmigrant visa categories and work authorizations, including F-1 student visas, O-1 extraordinary ability visas, or B visitor visas.

Given the importance of international students and scholars to the life of the University – and to Harvard’s core principles of openness and inclusivity – we also want to update you on the work that has occurred in anticipation of the Executive Order.  In addition to the sustained immigration advocacy of Harvard’s federal relations office and national higher education associations, on June 2 President Bacow wrote to Secretary of State Pompeo and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Wolf, urging them to advocate within the Administration against any restrictions or reforms to nonimmigrant visas and work authorizations that would threaten the free flow of students and scholars, on which Harvard and American higher education generally depend. That letter can be found here. Please rest assured that these efforts will continue over the coming months.

We are still waiting for additional information regarding waivers of the proclamation and other details.  We will update our website as we learn more.  We continue to strongly recommend that visa holders in the U.S. avoid all non-emergency international travel.  Please reach out to your HIO advisor with any questions.

June 11, 2020

As you well know, immigration reform has long been on the Trump Administration’s policy agenda, with multiple efforts to bar or restrict legal and illegal immigration alike. Most recently, and as part of the April Presidential Proclamation barring entry of certain immigrants to the U.S., the secretaries of homeland security, labor, and state were directed to review all nonimmigrant programs and recommend “measures appropriate to stimulate the economy and ensure the prioritization, hiring, and employment of U.S. workers.” Pursuant to that order, the Trump Administration is expected in the coming days to issue an Executive Order to bar – on a temporary basis - entry to the U.S. for certain nonimmigrant categories and, in the longer term, significantly reform federal policies governing work authorization for students, scholars, and H-1B visa holders. As soon as the Executive Order is released, my office, working with the Office of the General Counsel and the Office of Federal Relations, will review it and share with you information and advice.

Given the importance of international students and scholars to the life of the University – and to Harvard’s core principles of openness and inclusivity – I also want update you on the work that has occurred in anticipation of the Executive Order. In addition to the sustained immigration advocacy of Harvard’s federal relations office and its national higher education associations, on June 2 President Bacow wrote to Secretary of State Pompeo and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Wolf, urging them to advocate within the Administration against any restrictions or reforms to nonimmigrant visas and work authorizations that would threaten the free flow of students and scholars, on which all colleges and universities depend. That letter can be found here.

I appreciate and share your concerns and your sense of vulnerability, perhaps heightened by the COVID 19 pandemic and the larger societal issues our times. And I know that the entire academic community joins me in support of your place at and many contributions to Harvard.

May 19, 2020

Students and scholars currently outside of the U.S. should be aware of various travel restrictions that make returning to the U.S. difficult at this time. In general, any students or scholars looking to reenter the U.S. over the summer are advised to reach out to their HIO Advisor before making plans.

Presidential Proclamations Suspending Travel
There are several Presidential Proclamations suspending the entry of individuals from various countries and regions throughout the world. You may read more about these proclamations, including who is subject to the suspension, here.

Travel from Canada and Mexico
Currently the land borders between the United States and Canada, and the United States and Mexico are closed for nonessential travel.  Students and scholars planning to enter the U.S. from Canada or Mexico are encouraged to speak directly with their HIO advisor regarding their travel plans and best practices for returning to the U.S. before finalizing arrangements.

April 21, 2020

On April 22, 2020 President Trump issued a new proclamation related to immigration.  It does not appear that this order will affect our international students and scholars on non-immigrant visas at this time.

You may find a summary of some of the key points here.

The HIO will continue to monitor the situation and as always, will work with Harvard’s Office of Federal Relations to advocate for all international students and scholars.  Stay safe.