Generally speaking, your non-immigrant visa status can be extended while you are in the U.S. The word extension in immigration terms means that you seek to continue engaging in the same activity as a student or a scholar for which you originally came to the U.S. (same school, same lab, same degree program, etc.).
As a student your maximum extension time permissible is determined by your school's academic policy on length of degree programs, with the exception of "non-degree" students who have a limit of 2 years in most cases.
Please note, requesting an extension through the HIO will extend your Harvard-issued visa document (Form I-20 or Form DS-2019), and your permission to remain in the U.S. The visa stamp in your passport will not automatically be extended. If you travel outside of the U.S. after the visa stamp in your passport expires, you will need to apply for a renewal of your visa at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your country in order to return to the U.S. in status. It is not possible to renew a visa within the U.S.
For more information about extensions and how to request one, check your visa type below.
Form I-20 Extension
Students who will not complete their degree programs by the date listed on item #5 of their Form I-20 will need to obtain an extension from the HIO BEFORE the current Form I-20 expires. Failure to extend the Form I-20 in a timely fashion will have negative consequences for the student's immigration status, so students should allow sufficient time for the processing of the extension.
In order to be eligible for an extension of the Form I-20, students must be in good standing and making normal academic progress towards completion of their programs.
How to Request an Extension of the Form I-20
Students must obtain documentation from their schools/departments indicating the new estimated program completion date together with the amount and source of financial support for the remainder of the program. Students who are using personal funds should obtain a recent bank statement showing the funds available. Students should also complete a document request form and take all paperwork to their schools' Registrar.* The information will be forwarded to the designated advisor at the HIO, who will issue a new Form I-20. The student will be notified when the Form I-20 is ready.
* unless indicated otherwise in the list below:
- Graduate School of Design - Student Services
- Graduate School of Education - Financial Aid Office
- Harvard Business School - Admissions Office
- Harvard Law School LLM & SJD - Graduate Program Office
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health - Admissions Office
- Harvard College
- Kennedy School of Government - Admissions and Financial Aid Office
Students moving from one Harvard school or program to another within the University should contact both the admissions office of the new school/program and the HIO advisor for that school for information on how to update and extend the Form I-20.
A J-1 student must apply to the J-1 program sponsor for an extension before the expiration date listed on item #3 of his or her Form DS-2019 if more time is needed to complete all degree program requirements. Please follow the instructions below on how to request an extension of the Form DS-2019.
A J-1 student should obtain documentation from his or her school/department indicating a new estimated completion date together with the source and amount of financial support for the remainder of the program. If a J-1 student is using personal funds, please obtain a recent bank statement.
- Fill out a Document Request form
- Take all materials to his or her school's Registrar.* The required information will then be forwarded to an HIO advisor, who processes the extension and issues a new Form DS-2019.
* unless indicated otherwise in the list below
Graduate School of Design - Student Services
Graduate School of Education - Financial Aid Office
Harvard Business School - Admissions Office
Harvard Law School - Graduate Program Office
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health - Admissions Office
Kennedy School of Government - Admissions and Financial Aid Office