Preparing to Enter the United States

When to Arrive

If you hold an F o rJ visa status, the U.S. immigration regulations allow you to enter the U.S. no more than 30 days prior to the program start date listed on your Form I-20 or Item 3 of your Form DS-2019. If you hold an H-1B visa, you may enter the U.S. no more than 10 days before the start date listed on your H petition approval notice.

U.S. Immigration Inspection

It is important that you have the proper documents to present to immigration officials at the U.S. port of entry. Be sure to carry your visa document (Form I-20, DS-2019 or I-797), passport, and financial documentation with you because you will need to show them to immigration officials when you enter the U.S. Please do not enter the U.S. in tourist visa status unless you are coming to the U.S. for tourism only. Individuals in tourist visa status are not permitted to enroll in full-time study in U.S. educational institutions.

Initial Expenses

You should plan to arrive with enough money to meet the initial expenses of your first weeks in the United States. Until you are living in a dormitory or apartment, you should expect to spend from $20-$40 per day for meals at moderately priced restaurants and from $100-$400 per night for off-campus accommodations. You may use an automatic teller machine (ATM) to get U.S. dollars at a U.S. airport using your existing bank card from home.

To avoid delays and cash-flow problems, you may want to open an account in a U.S. bank in your home country or in a non-U.S. bank (also in your home country) that has a branch in the United States. You would then be able to transfer funds from the bank in your country to a bank in the United States. It is very important for you to be familiar with your government's regulations for transferring funds to the United States. You should also check with your bank in your country regarding fees charged for transferring funds to the United States.

Customs and Baggage

Inquire at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country for information about customs regulations for visitors to the United States or consult the CBP web site. This information may prevent unnecessary expenses. You should try to bring your belongings with you because the University cannot store baggage sent ahead. You may ask your department or school if someone is able to accept your baggage, but it is usually not possible to do so. Please do not send packages or baggage to the Harvard International Office since we do not have storage space. Once you have a U.S. residential address, personal effects and packages under a certain weight may be mailed to you by international parcel post. Consult your local post office for details.

Medical Records

All full-time students must show their complete immunization records in order to register for classes. Records of your children's immunizations are also required before they may enroll in public schools in the United States. Please review the current immunization requirements. Be sure to bring copies of your medical records translated into English and those of any accompanying family members with you to the United States.

Arriving in the U.S.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has created an on-line, electronic I-94. The traditional paper form I-94 may only be issued at Canadian land ports-of-entry.  You need to do two things when you enter the U.S.:

  1. Check your passport to make sure that the CBP officer has put an entry stamp indicating that you entered on a certain date, in a certain visa status, e.g. F-1, and can stay until a certain date or D/S (duration of status) in the case of F and J visa holders.
  2. Print your I-94  or keep an electronic copy of the I-94 on your phone as you will need it for other purposes.

Arriving in Boston

You may take a taxi from Logan Airport in Boston. The cost to Harvard Square or to the medical area in Boston is approximately $30-40. You may also take the subway from Logan Airport to many points in Boston and Cambridge, although it is difficult if you have a lot of luggage with you. The subway is commonly called the "T", and it operates from 5:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. The subway lines are called the Blue, Green, Red, Silver, and Orange Lines.

If you have problems or questions upon arrival at the airport, go to the Public Information Booths in any of the terminals at Logan Airport. You may want to view a map of the Harvard campus prior to arrival. For maps of Boston's public transit system, please visit the MBTA web site.