Administrator Guide

Welcome to the Harvard Administrators Web Site.

The Harvard International Office (HIO) has prepared the following information related to sponsorship of visas for international scholars, and their family members. The information is intended for administrators responsible for processing visa document requests to the HIO. Please note that this information is not intended to be legal advice. For questions or concerns about the information on this web site, please contact the HIO.

HIO Programs

Throughout the academic year the HIO offers information sessions for international scholars, students and their families called Getting Started and Spouse/Partner Orientation. Getting Started covers immigration-related information, as well as topics useful for those settling into the local area, such as banking, transportation, telephones, Harvard resources, health care, insurance, taxes, cultural adjustment. The Spouse/Partner Orientation covers adjustment issues, shopping, J-2 Work Permission and more. During the summer group sessions are held and walking tours are added otherwise the orientations are made by appointment or on an availability basis. All sessions are held in Smith Campus Center (formerly Holyoke Center), Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Upon arrival, the student and scholars are provided with the HIO's Welcome brochure and flyers that covers many subjects such as Massachusetts driver's licenses, phones, social security number and English classes in the area and more.

Responsibilities of Hiring Department

A departmental administrator (the HIO departmental contact) must be an individual who has the authority to speak for the department and who accepts certain responsibility on behalf of the department for University compliance with U.S. Government regulations. The HIO cannot assume overall responsibility without close cooperation from the departmental contact. These responsibilities include:

  • Being responsible for verifying the validity of funding of incoming scholars if they are bringing their own funding whether it is personal or a fellowship. For personal funding, you could request a bank statement in U.S dollars.
  • Submitting required information via ISD, to the HIO for all non-U.S. citizens or permanent residents who will have academic appointments at Harvard. Please allow at least a two-month lead-time before a scholar arrives. In some cases it may take longer based on the country of origin or the visa action required.
  • Monitoring scholars' arrival dates and informing the HIO of possible delays. Scholars must enter the United States within 30 days of the start date on the Form DS-2019, the certificate of eligibility of the J-1 visa. Otherwise the HIO must issue a new Form DS-2019.
  • Notifying the HIO if the scholar decides not to come at all.
  • Sending scholars to report to the HIO as soon as they arrive in the United States. If a scholar has entered the United States, the HIO must register the scholar in SEVIS, the Government's database, within 30 days of the start date of the Form DS-2019, or the scholar will be considered a "no show" and therefore may face negative consequences with his/her visa status.
  • Returning the NED (Notification of Extension/Departure) to the HIO in a timely fashion so the HIO can take appropriate steps to extend the scholar's permission to remain in the United States. The NED is sent out 6 months before the individual's permission to stay in the United States expires.
  • Notifying the HIO if a scholar leaves Harvard before the end of his/her appointment.
  • Making the appropriate arrangements for an academic appointment at Harvard. The HIO also provides visa sponsorship for researchers and faculty with joint appointments between the Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Cambridge Hospital, Mass Eye and Ear Infirmary, Joslin Diabetes Center, Brockton and West Roxbury VA Hospitals, or Mass Mental Health Center.
  • Clarifying for scholars what facilities will or will not be available to them while at Harvard, e.g. prearranged housing, health coverage, office space, secretarial help, computer/email access, and the time and attention of departmental colleagues.

In general, the University does not provide visa sponsorship for non-academic staff positions.

Employer Responsibilities and Obligations for STEM OPT

The information below is intended to provide guidance to Harvard administrators, Harvard students, and individuals who work at Harvard on OPT.

Students on F-1 visas are eligible for a work benefit in the U.S. called Optional Practical Training (OPT) that allows students to work in their field of study for 12 months. Those who have earned eligible U.S. degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) may apply for additional OPT time. Effective on May 10, 2016, new STEM OPT regulations are issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  The new rule imposes significant new obligations on students, employers and schools. Below are highlights of the new STEM OPT regulations.

• The new rule increases STEM OPT from 17 to 24 months, allowing a total of 36 months of work authorization. 
• There are new requirements that must be followed by employers, students and Designated School Officials (DSO). There is a required training plan form (I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Students) that must be completed by employers.
• STEM OPT employment must be paid; and self-employment is not allowed.
• Students will qualify for up to two STEM OPT extensions if they earn multiple STEM degrees in the U.S. and may be eligible for a STEM extension based on a previously earned STEM degree.

For more and the most up-to-date information on STEM OPT, please refer to the Study in the States website.

Responsibilities and Obligations

There are numerous employer requirements to which you must adhere. Some of those requirements are enumerated here, but you should pay particular attention to the attestation on page 2 of the I-983 and the employer information located here. General employer requirements include being registered with the E-Verfiy program and ensuring that hiring an international student with STEM employment will not displace a U.S. worker.

1. Rules apply for all STEM OPT students working at Harvard regardless of appointment title
2. Must be E-Verify employer; Harvard is an E-Verify employer.
3. Develop a training plan for the student
4. Complete Form I-983
5. Provide two evaluations for the student
6. Responsible for proving compliance during government site visits

F-1 Students
1. Have a job offer related to your U.S. STEM degree
2. Work for an E-Verify employer
3. Have a paid position in STEM field for at least 20 hours per week
4. Work with your international student advisor to complete a STEM OPT application and submit the application to USCIS
5. Complete student part of Form I-983
6. Submit the completed Form I-983 to the school that issued the Form I-20 (for Harvard students, submit the completed Form I-983 to the HIO)
7. Responsible for completing validation reports every six months via their school; Harvard students via the HIO
8. Completing parts of evaluation

1. Review STEM OPT application
2. Issue STEM OPT Form I-20
3. Maintain the completed Form I-983 in student’s file

About Form I-983

The new STEM OPT rule that provides the 24-month STEM OPT regulations increases the educational benefits that F-1 students receive from their practical training experiences by requiring the submission of a formal training plan, using Form I-983.

The formal training plan, Form I-983, must clearly articulate the STEM OPT student’s learning objectives and affirm the employer’s commitment to helping the student achieve those objectives. To fulfill this requirement, a student and their employer must complete and sign Form I-983 and submit it to the student’s international student advisor. By signing Form I-983, students and their employers agree that they understand their obligations during the STEM employment.

STEM OPT students and their employers are subject to the terms and conditions of the 24-month STEM OPT extension regulations, effective as of the employment start date requested for the associated STEM OPT period, as indicated on Form I-983.

STEM OPT students may participate in entrepreneurial ventures where the student is an employee. However, they may not act as their own employer or as the signatory for the employer for the purposes of the form.

Instructions for Completing Form I-983

Harvard administrators, please click here.

Non-Harvard employers, please click here.

How to Begin Visa Sponsorship at Harvard

You wil need to use ISD to start the process of visa sponsorship. ISD is a web-based electronic system designed to allow scholars to enter their information electronically and submit it to you. It will also allow you to review and complete the data from the scholars and submit it to the HIO for processing. This system is designed to increase efficiency, speed, and accuracy of the process.

If you need assistance with ISD, please refer to the ISD Manual. If you need technical assistance with ISD, please be in touch with Martha Gladue.

N.B. For scholars already in the Harvard system who are changing departments and for scholars already in the Harvard system from previous visits, use eForm and fax it to the HIO instead of using ISD.

SEVIS Coordinator

The HIO SEVIS Coordinator serves as the point person at the HIO overseeing visa management protocols to ensure that the university meets all reporting requirements and registration deadlines for all J-1 Scholars (as well as F and J students) sponsored by the University. Hiring departments begin visa sponsorship work with the HIO advisor assigned to them. However for J scholars, once the visa document has been produced (Form DS-2019) management of the visa record and the scholars arrival is handled by the SEVIS Coordinator.

Monthly Email Alerts

The HIO sends out monthly email messages to the department contacts of all incoming J-1 scholars the second Monday of each month. The monthly email messages are sent for two reasons: to alert a department that an incoming scholar is expected to arrive within the month, and to ensure that the scholar registers with the HIO within the 30 day validation period. The scholar's SEVIS record must be validated by the HIO within 30 days of the start date on the Form DS-2019. If the scholar's SEVIS record is not validated within the 30 days, it will be automatically terminated in SEVIS.

To avoid auto-termination of a scholar's SEVIS record, the department contact must notify the SEVIS Coordinator at the HIO when there is a change to the original start date on the Form DS-2019. If a scholar will be delayed in coming to Harvard changes will need to be made to the scholar's record in SEVIS. The department contact should provide the SEVIS Coordinator with the reason for the delay, and provide amended start and end dates for the visa sponsorship.

The SEVIS Coordinator will change and reissue an amended Form DS-2019 for the incoming scholar. If enough time allows the Form DS-2019 to be mailed to the scholar, the scholar will travel to the United States with the amended Form. If there is not enough time to send the amended Form DS-2019 to the scholar, the amended Form DS-2019 will be kept at the HIO. The Scholar will receive the amended Form DS-2019 when registering with the HIO.

Use of Outside Counsel

The HIO files all employment-based visa petitions (e.g., H-1B, O-1, Green Card) sponsored by Harvard University and is the only entity authorized to sign visa petitions and applications on behalf of the University. Individuals cannot engage outside counsel (immigration attorneys) to file University petitions on their behalf. For further information on this policy, please contact the HIO.

Required Funding

The U.S. Government expects the University to verify that the scholar has sufficient funding to maintain a minimal decent standard of living before issuing a J-1 visa document (Form DS-2019). The financial minimum for a non-medical area appointment is $30,000 per year for a single scholar, with an additional $5,000 for each accompanying family member. Be sure to list the source(s) of funding accurately, since it may be used to determine whether the scholar is subject to a two-year home residence requirement.

NOTE: The Medical Area usually follows guidelines that are higher and closer to the NIH first year postdoctoral level.

H-1B visa funding requirements are completely different from the J-1 visa. Harvard, or an affiliated hospital, must pay a salary that meets either the prevailing or actual wage, whichever is higher. For either visa category, do not indicate funding that is not guaranteed when entering information in ISD.


Types of Visas
There are many non-immigrant visa classifications. The categories most frequently used to permit an international scholar to be appointed at Harvard are the J-1 Exchange Visitor visa and the H-1B Temporary Worker visa. The HIO advisor will determine the most appropriate visa to use for each individual scholar. The type of visa chosen depends on many factors: the source and amount of the scholar's salary or funding, the nature and duration of the appointment, how soon the appointment will begin, whether the individual is currently in the United States or has recently been in the United States and is therefore subject to certain restrictions. The scholar must not plan to enter the United States without the appropriate visa documents processed by the HIO.

Visa Guides for Administrators
J Exchange Visitor Overview J Research Professor
J Short-Term Scholar H-1B Visa
O-1 Visa TN for Canadians and Mexicans
F&J Student Work Permission Permanent Residence
Government Chart of All Visa Types Extending Visas

Visa Stamps
Visa stamps, a full page sticker placed in the individual's passport, are issued by U.S. embassies or consulates outside the United States and are used only to seek entry and re-entry to the United States in a particular immigration category. The visa stamp does not determine how long a scholar may remain in the United States. A visa stamp has an expiration date and may be valid for one, two, or multiple entries. Once inside the United States, it is not necessary to renew the visa stamp in the passport in order to remain in the United States. Should the scholar and family members plan to travel outside the United States after their visa stamps have expired, they will need to obtain new visa stamps in order to return to the United States.

Usually, scholars apply for visa stamps in their home countries. It is possible to apply for a visa stamp at any U.S. embassy or consulate abroad, however, scholars may find that a consular official in a country other than their countries of citizenship may not issue the visa and may require that scholars return to their home countries for visa issuance. Scholars should consult with their HIO advisors prior to making travel plans.

ISD Manual

ISD is a web-based application that facilitates the transmission of electronic data from Harvard University international visiting scholars to the Harvard International Office (HIO). This system replaces the paper Preliminary Data Sheets that the HIO used to receive from international scholars and Harvard administrators to process immigration forms necessary to obtain a U.S. visa.

ISD Manual