Registration & Orientation

To help with the transition to life in the early days of your arrival in the Boston area the International Office offers three types of group orientations.  These group sessions are a good ways to meet other new comers from other parts of the university.  All are welcome to any of the sessions.  Children need to be carefully supervised.  No registration is needed unless indicated.  Getting Started is aimed at students and scholars.  The Spouse/Partner’s Orientation is focused on the people accompanying the student and scholar. The walking tours are to familiarize yourself with establishments and services in the area.    Please check the schedule for dates, times and locations.

From early October until the end of May the One-On-One half-hour orientation sessions are offered by appointment for students, scholars and or their spouses and partners.  During the month of January no One-on-One orientations will be offered as there will be group orientations offered throughout the month.


You must register at the HIO soon after your arrival at Harvard. No appointment is needed. The HIO registration takes place on a walk-in basis. Please take your passport and visa document (Form I-20, Form DS-2019 or Form I-797) for registration at the HIO. If you have dependents who have accompanied you to the United States in a dependent visa status such as F-2, J-2 or H-4 please take their visa documents and passports to the HIO as well. Please also take to the HIO any documents issued by an immigration official upon your entry to the United States. The staff at the HIO will provide important immigration-related information, and will answer any questions you may have. Students will not be permitted to register for classes at their schools without first registering at the HIO.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issues an electronic I-94 at ports of entry. You will need to do two things when you enter the United States:

  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 out your I-94 as you may need it for other purposes.

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.


 Getting Started
This orientation is a two-hour session that reviews topics such as housing, social security, taxes, health insurance, public and Harvard transportation services, telephones, banking, safety, Harvard resources, and more.  Students, scholars and their families are welcome. Children must be carefully supervised by their parents.
There are several different tours given in August and September and early October.
Central Square and Memorial Drive: In Central Square you will be introduced to a number of grocery stores, and a very small department store then we will take a bus to Memorial Drive where we will visit a computer/electronic store and two grocery stores.  Be sure to bring exact change of $2.75(one way) in cash/Charlie Ticket or have a $2.25 (one way) on your Charlie Card for the bus ride.  At total of $5.50 or $4.50 will be needed for a roundtrip.  This tour lasts for about two and a half hours.
Central Square and the Watertown Mall:  We will start by visiting a number of grocery stores in Central Square and then take the bus to the Watertown Mall where you can shop in a large department and electronic store. Be sure to bring exact change of $2.75 (one way) in cash or have $2.25 (one way) on your Charlie Card for the bus ride.  At total of $5.50 or $4.50 will be needed for a roundtrip.  This tour last about three hours.
Harvard Yard and the Square: This tour is to show you practical places in and outside the Yard.  Where to get tickets for Harvard events, on campus movies, farmer’s markets, bathrooms, cafes, etc. plus places in the Square such as the post office, the cobbler, the hardware store, venues for live music, libraries etc. This tour lasts about two hours.
Harvard and Porter Square:  You will see a cobbler store, photocopying stores, venues for live music, Harvard Square Post Office and more in Harvard Square.  We will then take a bus to Porter Square where there is a small shopping center with a large craft store, supermarket, hardware store, eateries and more. Be sure to bring exact change of $2.75 (one way) in cash/Charlie Ticket or have a $2.25 (one way) on your Charlie Card for the bus ride.  At total of $5.50 or $4.50 will be needed for a roundtrip.  This tour last about two and half hours.

Please reserve a spot by sending an email with the words “Walking Tour and the Date of the Tour” in the subject line to  An email message will be sent to you with information on where to meet.  Students, scholars and their families are welcome.  Participants can choose to leave at any time during the tour.  Children must be carefully supervised by their parents. There will be a lot of walking so strollers are advisable for children.  Please wear appropriate clothing and comfortable walking shoes!
For a historical tour of Harvard University please contact the Information Office.

Spouse/Partner Orientation
This 90 minute session focuses on the needs of the spouse or partner accompanying the student or scholar to Harvard.  It covers, among other things, J-2 work permission, shopping information, adjustment to a new culture, etc.  Students and scholars are welcome to attend. Children must be carefully supervised by their parents.
One-on-One Orientation Sessions
These sessions are available during the following months of October through December and March through May for student, scholars and spouses or partners. 
Please make an appointment to meet with Zarrin Foster by using the online scheduler “Make an Appointment” on the HIO home page. Once inside the scheduler, please select "Orientation Session" from the drop down menu. You may add a comment when making the appointment and you do not need to bring any documents to the session. Based on your comments, Zarrin will modify her presentation. The same information more or less is covered in these sessions as is described above for the Getting Started orientation.  If you have difficulty accessing the on-line scheduler please contact Zarrin Foster.
Freshman International Program (FIP) is held at the end of August for international freshmen. Details are mailed directly to international freshmen from the Freshman Dean's Office.

HIO Registration Form.pdf