HIO FAQ for Coronavirus

General Concerns/Questions

Q. Is the HIO open?
A. Yes. The HIO is currently open, and staff will continue to produce visa documents, respond to phone calls and emails, and will be available via email, phone, Skype and Zoom.  We will continue to send out updates and provide the most up-to-date information on our web site.  It is essential that you read any emails you receive from the University.

Q. If I travel to a non-level 3 country for spring break would I be able to get back into the U.S.?
A. At this time, there are travel restrictions into the United States (U.S.) for anyone who has travelled through a designated Level 3 CDC country. The situation is changing rapidly, and the U.S. and other governments may enact similar measures for other locations without advance notice. Review University guidance on the latest proclamation.

Q. If at the point of entry, I am not allowed into the U.S., could Harvard do anything to get me back in?
A. It would depend on the reason for the refusal.  The HIO has a 24/7 phone line (857-302-3772) that is to be used in situations where someone is having difficulty getting through Customs and Border Protection.  It is essential that you have all your immigration documents in order when entering the US.  Please review our travel information.

Student Issues


Q. If a student leaves the U.S., or is currently outside the U.S., and wants to return, will they be able to do so?
A. Yes. It is very important that you have all the required immigration documents when trying to reenter the U.S.  If you have any questions, please contact your HIO advisor.

Q. What if I go to my home country, on-campus classes resume, and then I can’t get back to the U.S.?
A. As you will be maintaining your student visa status while taking your full-time on-line classes, you should be able to reenter the U.S. unless you are seeking to enter from a Level 3 country. This situation is constantly changing so this information may change with very little advance notice.

Q. Instead of traveling back to my home country, may I go elsewhere in the U.S.?
A. Yes, as long as you maintain your student visa status while taking your full-time on-line classes, you can go somewhere else in the U.S.  You must provide the address where you are residing using the HIO change of address form.

Q. I am required to leave campus.  If I depart the US and my visa has expired how do I obtain a new visa to return to campus for the fall?  Should I anticipate any problem?
A. You should contact your HIO advisor to discuss your situation.


Q. Can I apply for OPT outside the U.S.?
A. You must be physically present in the U.S. at the time you apply for OPT.  You can leave the U.S. while the application is pending.  You must provide a mailing address in the U.S. where USCIS can send any correspondence related to your application.  It is essential that this address be valid for 3-5 months and the person receiving the mail must be at that address to receive the mail and forward it to you.

Q. If I am in the U.S., can I submit my OPT application to the HIO remotely?
A. Yes.  You can scan and email your application to your HIO advisor and pay the maintenance fee via Touchnet.  You must be in the U.S. in F-1 status, however, to submit the application to USCIS.

Q. I used my friend’s address to have USCIS mail my EAD and now they are leaving campus/their apartment. What should I do?
A. You cannot use an international address.  You should locate another recipient within the U.S. Then you must update your mailing address with USCIS.

Q. I applied for OPT already.  Will I have a problem if I re-enter the U.S. before graduation?
A. You should not have a problem reentering the U.S. before graduation since your Form I-20 will still be valid.  Remember you must have all the required documents when reentering the U.S.  If you want to re-enter the U.S. after graduation, you must have received your OPT approval from USCIS. A student who has graduated may not be allowed to re-enter the U.S. if the OPT application is still pending at USCIS.

Q. Can I still apply for CPT from outside the U.S.?
A. Yes.

Q. If I leave the U.S. for the rest of the semester, can I still apply for post-completion academic training from abroad?
A. Yes.  You can find information on applying for academic training on our website.  You must have a job offer and submit your application to the HIO within 30 days of graduation to qualify.

Q. Will USCIS processing times for OPT be affected by Coronavirus closings?
A. At this time we have no way of knowing what might be affected as this situation is constantly evolving.

Visa compliance

Q. Will online courses affect my visa status?
A. We have received government guidance that they intend to be flexible with temporary adaptations to classes.  Provided international students continue to make normal progress in a full course of study as required by federal regulations, students’ legal immigration status should not be affected.

SSA / Taxes

Q. Can I file my U.S. taxes outside the country?
A. Yes, you can use Sprintax, print and sign the forms, and mail them.

Scholar Issues

Q. I have been invited to start a program at Harvard soon.  Should I still come?
A. You should reach out to the department that invited you for more guidance.

Q. Should I come to the HIO to register?
A. You may provide your HIO Advisor with a scanned copy of the Harvard International Office Registration Form as well as the scan of your I-94 record, scan of visa stamp, and scan of entry stamp so that we can complete your registration and activate your SEVIS record in accordance with U.S. visa and immigration regulations.  If you plan to travel outside of the U.S., come to the HIO before you leave the U.S. to have your I-20 or DS-2019 document signed.

Q. If a scholar chooses to go home to wait out the virus, can their J-1 status remain valid?
A. Any scholar planning to leave the U.S. to wait out the virus should contact their HIO advisor for further information.

Q. Can international TAs on J-1 visas remain in their home country to teach/perform their duties remotely after spring break, or do they need to be physically present on campus in order to maintain their J-1 status?
A. Any J-1 student who continues to maintain their full-time student status at Harvard will be able to maintain their valid J-1 visa status even if they are not physically in the U.S.