Travel Outside the U.S.
COVID-19 Travel Updates
Students currently outside of the U.S. or looking to travel outside of the U.S. should be aware of various travel restrictions that may make returning to the U.S. difficult at this time. Travel restrictions or new travel bans may emerge at any time without notice, making travel very unpredictable. In general, any students or scholars looking to travel abroad or reenter the U.S. are advised to reach out to their HIO Advisor before making plans. You must also review updated travel guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic on the HIO COVID-19 FAQ page.
Official University-related travel, both international and domestic, is gradually resuming as conditions warrant. International students and scholars should do research prior to traveling to ensure that they have the documents needed to travel to another country, and to return to the U.S., keeping in mind the COVID-19 related travel bans. Harvard Global Support Services has detailed resources on their website related to University travel and how to develop a safe travel plan, as well as the travel restrictions and entry requirements for countries other than the United States.
Travel Documents Needed to Return to the U.S.
You must plan for international travel by first reviewing your visa documents for reentry to the U.S. In addition, if traveling to a country that is not your own, you need to confirm that you have the required entry visa documents for that country. Please contact the embassy or consulate of the particular country you plan to visit for detailed information on what you need to do to apply for an entry visa should you need one. Note that it is also recommended that you take with you all related immigration documents for travel inside the U.S. but outside the Boston metropolitan area.
1. Unexpired passport
All international students, scholars and their family members are required to have valid passports. The passports must be valid at least six months beyond the date of the expiration of the initial period of the alien's admission into the United States or contemplated initial period of stay. Passports of some countries will be recognized as valid for the return of the bearer for a period of six months beyond the expiration date specified in the passport, thereby effectively extending the validity period of the foreign passport an additional six months beyond its expiration date. Find out if your country is among them.
2. Unexpired U.S. visa (except for Canadian citizens)
It is not possible to apply for or renew non-immigrant visas inside the U.S. Citizens of all countries except Canada are required to have unexpired U.S. visas in their passports to enter and reenter the U.S. If you need to apply for a visa, please contact the U.S. embassy or consulate at which you plan to apply for the visa in advance to confirm its hours of operation, application procedures, and to see if any changes have been implemented. For a list of U.S. embassies and consulates abroad, visit the U.S. Department of State web site. A U.S. non-immigrant visa is issued in an individual's passport by a U.S. consul in a U.S. embassy or consulate outside theU.S. A visa is used solely for the purpose of entry and reentry to the U.S. The visa does not determine how long an individual may remain in the U.S. Therefore, an individual may stay beyond the expiration date of a visa as long as the visa document (Form I-20, Form DS-2019, or Form I-797) is valid.
3. Unexpired immigration document (Form DS-2019, I-20, I-797)
Please check your documents prior to making international travel plans. Visa documents include the Form I-20, Form DS-2019, and Form I-797. For specific information review the immigration section and click on your visa type. A visa document certifies the length of stay for international students, scholars and their family members and it indicates an individual's visa status. A visa document must be unexpired at all times.
4. Unexpired travel signature on Form I-20 or DS-2019 (in most cases no older than 12 months)
Students and scholars on F-1 and J-1 visas (as well as their dependents on F-2 and J-2 visas) need a travel signature on Form I-20 or DS-2019, in most cases, no older than 12 months.
If you need a new travel signature, please review the travel signature protocol under “Contacting the HIO & Travel Signatures” in the HIO COVID-19 FAQ.
If you leave the U.S. with a visa document (Form I-20 or DS-2019) that has an expired travel signature, i.e. one that will be more than 12 months old at the time of your reentry to the U.S., the immigration officials at the U.S. port of entry have the discretion to readmit you for up to 30 days. You will be given the Form I-515A and an I-94 card that has a 30-day admission period. It is very important that you report to your HIO advisor immediately after you are back at Harvard. The HIO will provide you with instructions on correcting the I-515A to extend your permission to remain in the U.S.
5. SEVIS fee payment receipt
If you do not have the receipt and have paid the SEVIS fee before, please click here to print one out. If you have not paid the SEVIS fee, you may pay now via the same web site and print out the receipt.
6. Negative COVID-19 Test
All air passengers entering the U.S., including those who have already been vaccinated, are required to comply with the following COVID-19 safety measures in order to board a flight to the U.S.:
- show proof of a negative viral COVID-19 test within the 3 days before their flight to the U.S. departs;
- and take another COVID-19 test 1-3 days after arriving.
Full details may be found on the CDC website. This order is backed by President Biden, who signed an executive order on January 21, 2021, requiring all air travelers to comply with these CDC measures.
Each time you enter the U.S., the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) creates an on-line, electronic I-94 to record your entry. 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.:
- 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.
- Print out your I-94 each time you enter the U.S. as you may need it for other purposes.
Transit through a Third Country
Please be aware that many countries (including the United States) do not allow visitors to transit through their countries unless they have an entry visa, a transit visa, or meet specific requirements. Before arranging travel that would require transit through a country that is not your home country, review that country's visa policies and/or ask your travel agent.
Register Global Travel
Harvard students and scholars who are traveling for school-related or personal reasons may register their travel with Harvard Global Support Services. If any incidents occur abroad while you are traveling, Global Support Servies proactively contacts registered Harvard affiliates in the area to confirm your wellbeing and offer medical or security assistance through International SOS.
Change of Visa Status within the U.S.
Those who have obtained an approval of a change of visa status in the U.S. through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will still be required to apply for a visa for the new visa status at a U.S. embassy or consulate when traveling outside the U.S. prior to returning to the U.S. in the new visa status.
Family Members Traveling Separately
Family members in dependent visa status such as F-2, J-2, H-4, or O-3 will need their own dependent visa documents (Forms I-20, DS-2019, I-797) when traveling without their principal visa holders.
The U.S. Government has strict export control laws. If you are traveling abroad, you should check with the head of your department or laboratory before sending or taking with you materials related to your work. The U.S. Government may require a license to export such items. For more information, please see the University's policy statement.