What's New

July 8, 2020

Dear Members of the Harvard Community,

On Monday, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that international students will not be allowed to stay in the country if they attend institutions, like Harvard, that are holding courses online this fall. Their choices are either to transfer to another institution that provides in-person or hybrid (both in-person and online) instruction—or to depart the country and risk not being able to return. Those students who fail to comply with this guidance may face deportation.

The order came down without notice—its cruelty surpassed only by its recklessness. It appears that it was designed purposefully to place pressure on colleges and universities to open their on-campus classrooms for in-person instruction this fall, without regard to concerns for the health and safety of students, instructors, and others. This comes at a time when the United States has been setting daily records for the number of new infections, with more than 300,000 new cases reported since July 1. Moreover, if an institution pursues in-person or hybrid instruction this fall and a serious outbreak of COVID-19 occurs, the institution would face strong pressure not to switch to online instruction, as Harvard and others necessarily did this past March, because to do so would immediately place its international students in jeopardy.

In making plans for the fall, Harvard, like many other institutions, has sought to balance addressing concerns for public health with preserving our academic mission of teaching and scholarship, and we have undertaken careful planning to address the unique circumstances of our community and to enable students to make educational progress safely. We have done so recognizing that the nation is in the grip of a pandemic that poses risks to the health of millions and that threatens to overwhelm our capacity to manage it. We believe that the ICE order is bad public policy, and we believe that it is illegal.

Within the last hour, we filed pleadings together with MIT in the US District Court in Boston seeking a temporary restraining order prohibiting enforcement of the order. We will pursue this case vigorously so that our international students—and international students at institutions across the country—can continue their studies without the threat of deportation.

For many of our international students, studying in the United States and studying at Harvard is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. These students are our students, and they enrich the learning environment for all. We fervently hope that, before long, the circumstances that necessitate online learning will pass. As a university with a profound commitment to residential education, we hope and intend to resume full in-person instruction as soon as it is safe and responsible to do so. But, until that time comes, we will not stand by to see our international students’ dreams extinguished by a deeply misguided order. We owe it to them to stand up and to fight—and we will.

Sincerely,
Larry

More information regarding the Harvard/MIT lawsuit

July 8, 2020

Starting Wednesday, July 8, an HIO Advisor-on-Call will be available via Zoom Monday – Friday from 9:00 -10:00am and 4:00 - 5:00pm Eastern Standard Time. This service is offered via Zoom on a first-come, first-serve basis, and is intended for international students and scholars with quick questions.  For details on accessing the Advisor-on-Call waiting room during these times, please click here.

If you would like to set up a regular 30-minute appointment to speak with the HIO Advisor for your School or Department, you may make an appointment online or contact your HIO Advisor directly.

July 6, 2020

In recent weeks, like many of our colleague institutions across the country, Harvard has announced plans for the fall semester. Our schools have taken into account the most up-to-date public health and safety guidance, the specific educational requirements of their programs, and their unique student populations. The wellbeing of the University community has been our highest priority in making these difficult decisions.

We are deeply concerned that the guidance issued today by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement imposes a blunt, one-size-fits-all approach to a complex problem, giving international students, particularly those in online programs, few options beyond leaving the country or transferring schools. This guidance undermines the thoughtful approach taken on behalf of students by so many institutions, including Harvard, to plan for continuing academic programs while balancing the health and safety challenges of the global pandemic.

We will work closely with other colleges and universities around the country to chart a path forward. We must do all that we can to ensure that our students can continue their studies without fear of being forced to leave the country mid-way through the year, disrupting their academic progress and undermining the commitments—and sacrifices—that many of them have made to advance their education.

June 23, 2020

The long-anticipated expansion of the President’s Proclamation 10014, issued on April 22, 2020 was published on June 22, 2020. It is effective June 24, 2020 at 12:01 AM EDT through December 31, 2020 and may be continued.  The full text of the Proclamation can be found here.

Suspension of visa issuance:

The new proclamation temporarily suspends the issuance of certain nonimmigrant visas and renewals including H-1B, H-4, L-1, H-2A/B, and certain categories of  J-1 (as listed below) through December 31, 2020.  It may be continued or modified as necessary beyond December 31.

The new proclamation bars entry into the U.S. for:

  • H-1B and H-2B visa holders and their H-4 dependents who do not have a valid visa stamp
  • The specific J visa categories include interns and trainees (commonly used by business), teachers (commonly used by K-12 schools), camp counselors, au pairs, and summer work travel program participants

The new proclamation does not apply to:

  • Those visa holders who are already in the U.S.
  • J visa holders outside the U.S. in the various student categories (student intern, student bachelor’s, student master’s, student doctorate), short-term scholars, research scholars (which is most often used by Harvard for postdocs and visiting scholars) professors and specialists
  • H-1B and H-2B visa holders and their H-4 dependents outside the U.S. who do have a valid visa stamp
  • Nothing in the Proclamation applies to F1 visas holders, including F-2 dependents and those on OPT/STEM OPT.

The new proclamation does not limit or otherwise restrict other nonimmigrant visa categories and work authorizations, including F-1 student visas, O-1 extraordinary ability visas, or B visitor visas.

Given the importance of international students and scholars to the life of the University – and to Harvard’s core principles of openness and inclusivity – we also want to update you on the work that has occurred in anticipation of the Executive Order.  In addition to the sustained immigration advocacy of Harvard’s federal relations office and national higher education associations, on June 2 President Bacow wrote to Secretary of State Pompeo and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Wolf, urging them to advocate within the Administration against any restrictions or reforms to nonimmigrant visas and work authorizations that would threaten the free flow of students and scholars, on which Harvard and American higher education generally depend. That letter can be found here. Please rest assured that these efforts will continue over the coming months.

We are still waiting for additional information regarding waivers of the proclamation and other details.  We will update our website as we learn more.  We continue to strongly recommend that visa holders in the U.S. avoid all non-emergency international travel.  Please reach out to your HIO advisor with any questions.

June 11, 2020

As you well know, immigration reform has long been on the Trump Administration’s policy agenda, with multiple efforts to bar or restrict legal and illegal immigration alike. Most recently, and as part of the April Presidential Proclamation barring entry of certain immigrants to the U.S., the secretaries of homeland security, labor, and state were directed to review all nonimmigrant programs and recommend “measures appropriate to stimulate the economy and ensure the prioritization, hiring, and employment of U.S. workers.” Pursuant to that order, the Trump Administration is expected in the coming days to issue an Executive Order to bar – on a temporary basis - entry to the U.S. for certain nonimmigrant categories and, in the longer term, significantly reform federal policies governing work authorization for students, scholars, and H-1B visa holders. As soon as the Executive Order is released, my office, working with the Office of the General Counsel and the Office of Federal Relations, will review it and share with you information and advice.

Given the importance of international students and scholars to the life of the University – and to Harvard’s core principles of openness and inclusivity – I also want update you on the work that has occurred in anticipation of the Executive Order. In addition to the sustained immigration advocacy of Harvard’s federal relations office and its national higher education associations, on June 2 President Bacow wrote to Secretary of State Pompeo and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Wolf, urging them to advocate within the Administration against any restrictions or reforms to nonimmigrant visas and work authorizations that would threaten the free flow of students and scholars, on which all colleges and universities depend. That letter can be found here.

I appreciate and share your concerns and your sense of vulnerability, perhaps heightened by the COVID 19 pandemic and the larger societal issues our times. And I know that the entire academic community joins me in support of your place at and many contributions to Harvard.

May 19, 2020

Students and scholars currently outside of the U.S. should be aware of various travel restrictions that make returning to the U.S. difficult at this time. In general, any students or scholars looking to reenter the U.S. over the summer are advised to reach out to their HIO Advisor before making plans.

Presidential Proclamations Suspending Travel
There are several Presidential Proclamations suspending the entry of individuals from various countries and regions throughout the world. You may read more about these proclamations, including who is subject to the suspension, here.

Travel from Canada and Mexico
Currently the land borders between the United States and Canada, and the United States and Mexico are closed for nonessential travel.  Students and scholars planning to enter the U.S. from Canada or Mexico are encouraged to speak directly with their HIO advisor regarding their travel plans and best practices for returning to the U.S. before finalizing arrangements.

April 21, 2020

On April 22, 2020 President Trump issued a new proclamation related to immigration.  It does not appear that this order will affect our international students and scholars on non-immigrant visas at this time.

You may find a summary of some of the key points here.

The HIO will continue to monitor the situation and as always, will work with Harvard’s Office of Federal Relations to advocate for all international students and scholars.  Stay safe.

April 16, 2020

The HMS Office for Postdoctoral Fellows and the Harvard International Office team up to provide informational sessions regarding visa options and green cards each year.  This session provides general information regarding sponsorship possibilities outside of Harvard.  Given the current pandemic, we have asked the attorney scheduled to present this semester to record her presentation.  You may access the presentation on the HMS Office for Postdoctoral Fellows website.

Please note that the university does not endorse any attorney or firm nor is this presentation intended to be legal advice.   If you have questions for the presenter, please feel free to leave them in comments on the link and she may respond.

March 31, 2020

All local Social Security offices are closed to the public for in-person service. You may refer to their COVID-19 web page to learn more, including how to get help from the Social Security Administration (SSA) by phone and online.  If you need to apply for an SSN you must wait until they resume in-person services.

Please note, the deadline to file federal taxes for 2019 has been extended to July 15, 2020. Please review the Internal Revenue Service announcement for details. The deadline for filing Massachusetts state taxes has also been extended to July 15, 2020.

March 12, 2020

The HIO has compiled a comprehensive FAQ to answer any visa-related issues connected to Coronavirus (COVID-19), including general travel and visa concerns, student issues, work authorization applications, and international scholar issues. Please note that any future travel to the U.S. may be impacted by the U.S. government's travel suspension.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact your HIO Advisor.

March 10, 2020

Harvard President Larry Bacow issued a statement this morning announcing the transition of all courses to virtual instruction in light of Coronavirus (COVID-19).

The U.S. government recognizes there are extenuating circumstances because these classes were not intended to be online. The Harvard International Office (HIO) received guidance from the government that they intend to be flexible with temporary adaptations to classes. Provided international students can continue to make normal progress in a full course of study as required by federal regulations, students’ legal immigration status is not in jeopardy. International students and scholars should contact their HIO advisor with any questions or concerns.

For continued Coronavirus updates, please monitor Harvard University’s Coronavirus webpage.

March 4, 2020

Before making any spring break travel plans, please review Harvard University's Guidance for Spring Break and Other Travel with respect to coronavirus (COVID-19). The University is discouraging all non-essential international travel for now. If you have concerns over the coronavirus, please visit Harvard’s new coronavirus website which is frequently updated with the latest guidance and resources.

Please note: domestic travel guidance, or international travel guidance under normal circumstances, can be found on our Travel page.

February 1, 2020

If you were present in the United States (U.S.) during any part of calendar year 2019 in any immigration status other than B or WT/WB (ESTA), there is at least one tax form (IRS Form 8843) you must file with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) this spring. Below is what you should consider in preparation for the coming tax filing season. If you were not in the U.S. at all during 2019, you do not need to complete any tax forms this year.

  • Review the HIO Tax FAQ and additional tax preparation resources, including tax filing deadlines for 2019.
  • All current students, scholars, and student interns at Harvard will receive an email from the HIO in mid-late February providing additional information, instructions, and discounted access to use the Sprintax tax preparation software.
  • If you are no longer an active student or scholar at Harvard and need to file taxes for 2019, please contact your HIO Advisor in late February to request a unique discount code to use Sprintax.
January 31, 2020

On January 31, 2020 a new Presidential Proclamation expanded the travel ban to six additional countries.  Only immigrant visas are impacted by this new order – non-immigrant visa (including F, J, H-1B, etc.) issuance and/or travel is not affected.  Starting February 21, 2020 foreign nationals from Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar (Burma), and Nigeria will not be issued most types of immigrant visas.  Under the same order, foreign nationals from Sudan and Tanzania will not be issued Diversity Lottery immigrant visas. Current lawful permanent residents and those holding immigrant visas who have not yet entered the United States are exempt from the proclamation.  Please reach out to your HIO advisor with any questions.

December 19, 2019

The HIO has received multiple reports of international students and scholars receiving scam phone calls from individuals representing themselves as employees with “U.S. Immigration” or other government entities. They alter caller ID systems to make it appear that the call is coming from a governmental number. The scammers obtain or verify personally identifiable information from their victims through various tactics, including by telling individuals that they are the victims of identity theft. The scammers also pose as law enforcement or immigration officials and threaten victims with arrest unless they make payments to the scammers using a variety of methods.

If you receive a call from anyone claiming to be a governmental entity, please ask for their contact information and callback number and contact your HIO Advisor immediately. Individuals receiving phone calls from these numbers should not provide any personal information. You can find more information on the HUPD website.

September 19, 2019

Welcome back to campus! We want to remind new and returning international students and scholars that they should always contact the HIO directly for any immigration-related questions or concerns during your time at Harvard.

For travel signatures or quick immigration questions, you can stop by the HIO during our regular office hours, 9:00 am to 3:00 pm on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; 11:00 am to 5:00 pm on Tuesday, to speak with an Advisor On Call (AOC).

You can also contact your HIO Advisor directly for information, or to book an appointment to meet.

Several advisors also hold office hours in various locations around the University, including the Longwood Medical area, HBS, and HLS. For a schedule of on-site office hours, please click here.

September 4, 2019

Harvard President Lawrence Bacow issued a welcome letter to incoming and returning students, particularly addressing the obstacles and sacrifices many international students and scholars face in obtaining visas and entering the United States.  You may read his entire message to the Harvard community here.

August 27, 2019

With the beginning of the new school year upon us, Mayor of Boston Martin Walsh has issued a letter welcoming international students who have chosen Boston to be their new home in the United States. You may read his welcome letter here.

July 17, 2019

President Larry Bacow traveled to Washington, DC this week to meet with members of Congress to discuss a range of University priorities and concerns, including the uncertainties federal immigration policy has created for faculty and students at Harvard and at universities across the nation. Read more

In a related move, Bacow also sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan last week calling on them to expedite the visa and immigration process for foreign students and researchers.

June 24, 2019

F-1 students who applied for OPT are facing unprecedented delays in receiving their EADs (employment authorization documents). These delays not only affect our recent graduates and HU hiring departments, but those across the U.S. Without EADs, students have no income and are not permitted to begin working until they get their EADs. They cannot travel outside the U.S. and reenter the U.S. without the EAD. In previous years, OPT applications have taken 60-100 days to be processed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), but the processing time this year is much longer than previous years.  Recent estimates are that OPT processing could take as long as 5.5 months. These delays are part of a bigger problem within USCIS. The General Accountability Office (GAO) will undertake a study in the fall at the urging of Congress to investigate USCIS processing times which have increased by up to 46 percent since Fiscal Year 2016.  We are working with various offices across the University and professional organizations to advocate for our students.  Please feel free to contact your HIO advisor if you have any questions.

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