About Visa Sponsorship at Harvard
For those with temporary academic appointments at Harvard, the University provides visa sponsorship to enable scholars to enter the U.S. and to remain at Harvard for the time required to fulfill the intended purpose of the visit. In general, the University provides visa sponsorship for post-doctoral researchers and faculty members only. It is the University policy that in exceptional circumstances visa sponsorship will also be provided for high level administrative and staff positions. If you are uncertain whether an individual’s appointment would be eligible for visa sponsorship at Harvard, please reach out to your HIO advisor before offering the position to the individual.
Immigration regulations tend to be confusing to those who are not frequently involved with them. The HIO staff are trained to work on immigration matters. Please notify the HIO whenever a non-U.S. citizen who is not a U.S. legal permanent resident (green card holder) accepts an academic appointment. Any non-U.S. citizen who is not a U.S. legal permanent resident, whether presently living in the U.S. or outside the U.S., must have some visa action taken on his or her behalf before beginning an appointment at Harvard. You will need to use ISD to start the process of visa sponsorship. ISD is a web-based electronic system designed to allow scholars to enter their information electronically and submit it to you. It will also allow you to review and complete the data from the scholars and submit it to the HIO for processing. This system is designed to increase efficiency, speed, and accuracy of the process.
N.B. For scholars already in the Harvard system who are changing departments and for scholars already in the Harvard system from previous visits, use eForm and email it to the HIO instead of using ISD.
Academic Appointments at Harvard
An international scholar at Harvard is usually an individual who is not enrolled in an academic degree program, who holds a temporary academic appointment, and who engages in scholarly activities including teaching and/or research at the University or its affiliated hospital. They may be faculty members, post-doctoral research fellows or visiting scholars. The University generally brings these individuals to campus on temporary non-immigrant visas. There are certain responsibilities that the University bears when bringing in international scholars.
The sponsoring department must make the appropriate arrangements for an academic appointment. If the appointment is an unpaid one, the department must confirm that sufficient funding is available for the scholar (and family members if applicable) for the length of their appointment. To better manage expectations and to avoid possible misunderstandings, the sponsoring department must also make it clear to the scholar, prior to their arrival, what facilities and resources are available to him or her while at Harvard.
Required Funding for Scholars
For J-1 visa, the U.S. Government expects the University to verify that a scholar has sufficient funding to maintain a minimal decent standard of living before issuing a Form DS-2019. The required amount of funding may vary from school to school within the University. Generally speaking we follow guidelines that are closer to the NIH first year postdoctoral level. Be sure to list the source(s) of funding accurately, since it may be used to determine whether a scholar is subject to a two-year home residence requirement. We are required to document funding for the entire time when a scholar is expected to be at Harvard.
H-1B visa funding requirements are completely different from the J-1 visa. Harvard, or an affiliated hospital, must pay a salary that meets either the prevailing or actual wage, whichever is higher. For either visa category, do not indicate funding that is not guaranteed when entering information in ISD.
Use of Outside Counsel
The HIO advising staff has the authority and responsibility to submit all employment-based immigration petitions (e.g., H-1B, O-1, green card) sponsored by Harvard University and is the only entity authorized to sign immigration petitions and applications on behalf of the University. Individuals cannot engage outside counsel (immigration attorneys) to file University petitions on their behalf. For further information on this policy, please contact your HIO assigned advisor.
HIO Orientations for Scholars
Throughout the academic year the HIO offers information sessions for international scholars and their families called Getting Started and Spouse/Partner Orientation. Getting Started covers immigration-related information as well as topics useful for those settling into the local area, such as banking, transportation, telephones, Harvard resources, health care, insurance, taxes, cultural adjustment. The Spouse/Partner Orientation covers adjustment issues, shopping, J-2 Work Permission and more. During the summer group sessions are held and walking tours are added. During the rest of the year orientations are offered by appointment or on an availability basis. All sessions are held in Smith Campus Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Upon arrival, international scholars are provided with information brochures and flyers that cover many subjects such as Massachusetts driver's licenses, phones, social security numbers and more.