Your Immigration Responsibilities

All international students are responsible for complying with the terms and conditions of their visa status in the U.S. In order to maintain your legal F-1 or J-1 immigration status, you must assume the following responsiblities. 

F-1 Students

Initial Registration Requirements

New F-1 students must register in person with the HIO as soon as possible after arrival in Cambridge/Boston and no later than 30 days after the program start date on their Forms I-20. The HIO must report F-1 arrivals to the government within 30 days of the start date.

Full Course of Study

Every F-1 student must pursue full-time study each semester and make normal progress toward completing the program of study. Each school within Harvard has its own definition of what is considered full-time. Students are advised to consult the registrar's office for the definition of being full-time.

Students must not drop a course and become less than full-time without prior authorization from the HIO. Please note that there are very limited circumstances in which pursuing less than full-time study is allowed.

Students must get authorization from the HIO before taking a leave of absence or medical leave.

Conditions and Restrictions on Student Employment

Students must not engage in unauthorized employment. F-1 students in good standing are eligible for on-campus employment. Employment is limited to 20 hours per week when school is in session, and can increase to full time during official holidays and vacations. A student must obtain prior written authorization from the HIO for other types of employment.

Change of Residential Address

Students must report any change of residential address to the HIO within 10 days of the change. F-1 students may report their address changes in the Change of Address form.

Program Changes

Students must notify the HIO if they will complete their program earlier than expected (earlier than the end date of the Form I-20) or if they change their program of study.

Program Extension

Students who need additional time to complete their programs of study must request and be granted a program extension before the current expiration date/program end date on the Form I-20.

Required Travel Documents

Please review our travel information page before making plans to travel abroad. An F-1 student should bring all required travel documents to the HIO to speak with an advisor if needed.

Students should keep their passport valid for six months into the future at all times.

Grace Period

After completing your program, you are allowed to remain in the U.S. for up to 60 days from the program end date on your Form I-20 before either departing the U.S., applying for OPT, or transferring to another institution.

Health Insurance

Massachusetts law requires that students enrolled in an institution of higher learning participate in a student health insurance program or in a health benefit plan with comparable coverage. All Harvard students are automatically enrolled in the Harvard University Student Health Program (HUSHP) and the cost of the plan is applied to their student bill. More health care and insurance information is available here.

J-1 Students

It is critical that J-1 students maintain legal status by complying with applicable federal government regulations. The following is a summary of what Harvard sponsored J-1 students must do to remain lawfully in the United States. Students sponsored by other institutions such as Fulbright, LASPAU, USAID, or AMIDEAST should contact the relevant student advisor of that organization for additional information.

Initial Registration Requirements

All new J-1 students must report to the HIO within 30 days of the start date on their Forms DS-2019. A returning student with a new Form DS-2019 must also re-register with the HIO.

Full Course of Study

International students must maintain full-time registration every fall and spring semester. Prior written authorization from an HIO advisor is required in order to take a reduced course load unless it is a student's final semester at Harvard. If students have to interrupt their studies for any reason they must contact their HIO advisors immediately.

Conditions and Restrictions on Student Employment

J-1 students in good standing are eligible for on-campus employment. Employment is limited to 20 hours per week when school is in session, and can increase to full time during official holidays and vacations. A student must obtain prior written authorization from the HIO for other types of employment. If a J-1 student is sponsored by an institution other than Harvard, the student must obtain prior written authorization from that organization for all types of employment.

Maintain Required Health Insurance

J-1 students and their J-2 dependents must maintain required health insurance (including basic Medical Health Insurance, Medical Evacuation and Repatriation insurance) throughout their stay in the United States.

Change of Residential Address

Immigration regulations require that all non-citizens report their residential addresses within 10 days of entry to the United States and subsequently report any changes of address within 10 days to the Immigration authorities. Harvard sponsored J-1 students may report their address changes in the Change of Address section of this website.

Students sponsored by other institutions should contact their program sponsors directly.

Program Extension

J-1 students are required to maintain the validity of their Forms DS-2019 throughout the duration of their exchange programs in the United States. They must apply to their program sponsors for an extension of their J-1 status before their current Forms DS-2019 expire.

Change of Major or Degree

J-1 students should discuss a change of major or degree objective with their advisors. Any such changes should be discussed fully with an HIO advisor prior to making changes with a school or academic department.

Early Withdrawal

If for some reason a J-1 student is not able to complete an academic program, s/he must notify an HIO advisor and receive approval before withdrawing from his/her academic program at Harvard.

Required Travel Documents

Please review our travel information page before making plans to travel abroad. A J-1 student should bring all required travel documents to the HIO to speak with an advisor if needed.

Grace Period

After completing your program, you are allowed to remain in the U.S. for up to 30 days from the program end date on your Form DS-2019 before either departing the U.S., applying for Academic Training, or transferring to another institution.

General Immigration Responsibilities

It is your responsibility to maintain your F or J status. The HIO is here to help you understand often complex immigration regulations and provide resources to keep you up to date with immigration regulations. In order to maintain your immigration status you must:

  • Report a new residential address to the HIO within ten days of moving to a new address
  • Maintain your health insurance required by the Exchange Visitor Program (J students)
  • Enroll full-time while school is in session
  • Not work more than 20 hours per week while school is in session
  • Obtain authorization from the HIO for off-campus employment prior to the start of the employment
  • Apply for an extension of your status before your current I-20 or DS-2019 expires
  • Depart the U.S., transfer to another F or J program, or change to another visa status within the 60-day grace period at the end of your F program, or 30-day grace period at the end of your J program
  • Check your I-94 record each time you enter and reenter the U.S.
  • Not accept cerain public benefits or assistance from federal, state or local government.

 We do not want anything to interfere with your purpose for coming to Harvard – whether it be studying, teaching, or doing research. Please read all emails from the HIO and contact your HIO advisor if you have any questions.

Federal regulations change frequently. Please be sure to check our website on a regular basis for the most up-to-date immigration related information.