Arriving in the U.S., HIO Registration, & Orientations

Welcome to Harvard!  This section details important information you need to know to enter the U.S. to start your academic appointment. After your arrival, you will need to bring your travel documents to register your immigration record with the HIO

When to Arrive

The U.S. immigration regulations allow J-1 Scholars to enter the U.S. no more than 30 days prior to the program start date listed on 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

Upon entering the U.S., all scholars must present the following documents to the Customs and Border Protection official at the airport or U.S. Port of Entry:

  • Valid passport
  • Visa document (Form DS-2019, or I-797)
  • Valid visa in passport (not applicable to Canadian citizens)
  • Appointment offer letter
  • I-901 SEVIS Fee Receipt (for J-1 Scholars only)

Dependents cannot enter the U.S. before the scholar.

You may not enter the U.S. in tourist visa status unless you are coming to the U.S. for tourism only. Do not use NEXUS or Global Entry, or an automated passport kiosk, to enter the U.S. You must always speak with a Customs and Border Protection Officer and present the above documents in order to be admitted to the U.S. in the proper scholar status.

Arriving in the U.S.

Once you enter the U.S., the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) creates an on-line, electronic I-94 record that details your entry into the U.S. 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. J-1, and can stay until a certain date or D/S (duration of status) in the case of 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.

HIO Registration

The HIO must register your arrival within 30 days of the start date on your visa document (Form 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 DS-2019) for registration at the HIO. If you have dependents who have accompanied you to the United States in a dependent visa status such as J-2 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.

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.

HIO Orientations and Walking Tours

The HIO offers optional orientation sessions and walking tours of Cambridge and Harvard Square for all incoming scholars and their family members. Please see HIO Orientations for more information.