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 program. 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 F-1 and J-1 students and their dependents to enter the U.S. no more than 30 days prior to the program start date listed on page 1 of your Form I-20 or Item 3 of your Form DS-2019

U.S. Immigration Inspection

Upon entering the U.S., all F-1 and J-1 students must present the following documents to the Customs and Border Protection official at the airport or U.S. Port of Entry:

  • Valid passport
  • Original Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 (no photocopies)
  • Valid F-1 or J-1 visa in passport (not applicable to Canadian citizens)
  • I-901 SEVIS Fee Receipt

F-2 and J-2 Dependents cannot enter the U.S. before the F-1 or J-1 Student.

You may not enter the U.S. in tourist visa status unless you are coming to the U.S. for tourism only. Individuals in tourist visa status are not permitted to enroll in full-time study in U.S. educational institutions.

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 student 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 F and 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

You must register your arrival with the HIO within 30 days of the start date on your visa document (Form I-20 or DS-2019), otherwise your SEVIS record will become invalid. No appointment is needed. The HIO registration takes place on a walk-in basis.

Please take your passport and visa document (Form I-20 or Form DS-2019) for registration at the HIO. If you have F-2 or J-2 dependents who have accompanied you to the United States, please take their visa documents and passports to the HIO as well.

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 students and their family members. Please see HIO Orientations for more information.