Registration & Orientation

Welcome to Harvard!  Please come in with your travel documents to register with our office soon after your arrival in the U.S.  We encourage you to attend a group orientation session when offered and when those are not available to make an appointment for an individual orientation.


The HIO must register your arrival within 30 days of the start date on your visa document (Form I-20 or DS-2019), otherwise your SEVIS record will become invalid. It is important that you 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 such as F-1 or J-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.


Now that you have arrived in the Greater Boston area, here are some activities to help you settle-in!

Throughout the year we offer monthly walking tours.  During August and January, they are offered on a weekly basis.  Registration is needed for the walking tours.  Instructions are below.  Group orientations are offered to students, scholars, spouses or partners more frequently during August and January.  Registration is not needed for these group orientations.  Please check the schedule for dates and times of group orientations and walking tours. 

One-on-one orientations are available by appointment during the months when group orientations are not being offered.  See below for more information. 

Children are welcome at any of the activities. Parents are responsible for carefully supervising their children.

Getting Started
This orientation is a two-hour session that reviews topics such as housing, social security, taxes, travel, health insurance, public and Harvard transportation services, telephones, banking, safety, grocery stores, and more. 

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. 

Walking Tours
Registration is needed: Please send an email message to Zarrin Foster and put the DATE OF THE WALKING TOUR in the subject line.  An email message will be sent to you with information on where to meet.  

Harvard University:
You will be shown places on the Cambridge campus of the university, for example where to get tickets for Harvard events, films, farmer’s market, bathrooms, museums, cafes, etc.  The tour lasts about two hours.

Harvard Square:
We will visit the post office, the cobbler, the hardware store, venues for live music, the Kennedy School and the Graduate School of Education, etc.  The tour lasts about one and a half hours.

Central Square and Memorial Drive:
We will take a bus or walk to Central Square where there are grocery stores, music venues and a small department store.  Boarding a bus, we will head to Memorial Drive to visit a computer/electronics store, a grocery store, and the MIT Furniture Exchange. Bring an exact change of $2.00 in cash or $1.70 on a Charlie card for a one-way bus fare.   A total of $4.00 or $3.40 will be needed for a roundtrip.  The tour lasts for about two hours.

The Harvard Information Office offers tours throughout the year and no registration is needed.

One-on-One Orientation Sessions
These sessions are available during October through December and mid-February through May to students, scholars and spouses or partners.  Please make an appointment to meet with Zarrin Foster by using the HIO online scheduler. Once inside the scheduler, please select "Orientation Session" from the drop-down menu. You may add a comment when making an appointment and you do not need to bring any documents to the session. Based on your comments, Zarrin will modify her presentation. Typical topics covered are travel, banking, shopping, social security numbers, health insurance, housing,   J-2 work permission, etc.  Also, please indicate the number of people that will be attending the session, so a suitable space can be arranged.  Children are welcome.  Parents must carefully supervise their children.  If you have difficulty accessing the on-line scheduler, please contact Zarrin Foster.