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The Harvard International Office (HIO) has prepared the following information related to sponsorship of visas for international scholars, and their family members. The information is intended for administrators responsible for processing visa document requests to the HIO. It provides information about visa options for international scholars, the programs and services provided by the HIO, and the University policies and procedures for brining international scholars to Harvard. It is designed to provide University administrators at Harvard and its affiliated hospitals with information about the U.S. government regulations affecting the appointments of international scholars and faculty members. Please note that this information is not intended to be legal advice.
Harvard International Scholars & HIO Programs
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.
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.
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 wil 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 fax it to the HIO instead of using ISD.
Types of Visas
Types of Visas
There are many non-immigrant visa classifications. The categories most frequently used to permit an international scholar to be appointed at Harvard are the J-1 Exchange Visitor visa and the H-1B Temporary Worker visa. The HIO advisors will determine the most appropriate visa to use for each individual scholar. The type of visa chosen depends on many factors: the source and amount of the scholar's salary or funding, the nature and duration of the appointment, how soon the appointment will begin, whether the individual is currently in the U.S. or has recently been in the U.S. and is therefore subject to certain restrictions. Scholars must not plan to enter the U.S. without the appropriate visa documents processed by the HIO and sent to them.
Visa stamps, a full page sticker placed in the individual's passport, are issued by U.S. embassies or consulates outside the U.S. and are used only to seek entry and re-entry to the U.S. in a particular immigration category. The visa stamp does not determine how long a scholar may remain in the U.S. A visa stamp has an expiration date and may be valid for one, two, or multiple entries. Once inside the U.S., it is not necessary to keep the validity of the visa stamp in the passport in order to maintain legal status in the U.S. Should scholars and family members plan to travel outside the U.S. after their visa stamps have expired, they will need to apply for new visa stamps in a U.S. embassy or consulate outside the U. S. in order to return to the U.S.
Usually, scholars apply for visa stamps in their home countries. It is possible to apply for a visa stamp at any U.S. embassy or consulate outside the U.S., however, scholars may find that a consular official in a country other than their countries of citizenship may not issue the visa and may require that scholars return to their home countries for visa issuance. Scholars should consult with their HIO advisors prior to making travel plans. Please note that it is not possible to apply for a U.S. visa inside the U.S.
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.
Responsibilities of Hiring Department
A departmental administrator (the HIO departmental contact) must be an individual who has the authority to act and accept certain responsibility on behalf of the department for University compliance with U.S. Government regulations. The HIO cannot assume overall responsibility without close cooperation from the departmental contact. These responsibilities include:
- Being responsible for verifying the validity of funding of incoming scholars if they are bringing their own funding, whether it is personal funding or a fellowship. For personal funding, you must request a bank statement in U.S dollars.
- Submitting required information via ISD, to the HIO for all non-U.S. citizens or U.S. legal permanent residents who will have academic appointments at Harvard even if a scholar is currently in the U.S. with a non-immirant visa status. Please allow at least a two-month lead-time before a scholar arrives. In some cases it may take longer based on the country of origin or the visa action required.
- Monitoring scholars' arrival dates and informing the HIO of possible delays. Scholars must enter the U.S. within 30 days of the start date on the Form DS-2019, the certificate of eligibility of the J-1 visa. The HIO may need to issue a new Form DS-2019 if a scholar arrives close to the 30 day mark.
- Notifying the HIO if the scholar decides not to come to Harvard at all.
- Sending scholars to register at the HIO as soon as they arrive in the U.S. If a scholar has entered the U.S., the HIO must register the scholar in SEVIS within 30 days of the start date of the Form DS-2019, or the scholar will be considered a "no show" and therefore may face negative consequences with his/her visa status.
- Returning the eNED (Notification of Extension/Departure) to the HIO in a timely fashion so the HIO can take appropriate steps to extend the scholar's permission to remain in the U.S. The eNED is sent out to administrators 6 months before a scholar's permission to stay in the U.S. expires.
- Notifying the HIO if a scholar leaves Harvard before the end of his/her appointment.
- Making the appropriate arrangements for an academic appointment at Harvard. The HIO also provides visa sponsorship for researchers and faculty with joint appointments between the Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Cambridge Hospital, Mass Eye and Ear Infirmary, Joslin Diabetes Center, Brockton and West Roxbury VA Hospitals, Mass Mental Health Center and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute.
- Clarifying for scholars what facilities will or will not be available to them while at Harvard, e.g. prearranged housing, health coverage, office space, secretarial help, computer/email access, and the time and attention of departmental colleagues.
In general, the University does not provide visa sponsorship for non-academic staff positions.
Once a year, the department administrator noted in ISD will receive an eNED, Notification of Extension/Departure Form, for each scholar who has registered with the HIO, usually six months before the scholar's authorized stay in the U.S. will expire. The department administrator should complete the eNED and return it to the HIO as soon as possible. Please note that the eNED must be completed by the department administrator, not the scholar. The HIO can only send eNEDs out for scholars who have registered with us. Therefore, it is very important that all new international scholars register with the HIO as soon as they arrive at Harvard.
If a scholar will be continuing his or her appointment with the faculty sponsor, the department must complete the relevant section of the eNED, providing all details requested. The department should be sure to provide accurate funding information for the entire requested period of time and exact dates of the extension. If any of the information changes after the form is returned to the HIO, please call your HIO advisor to discuss the changes. In some instances, the university is required to inform the government of changes.
It is important to return the eNED in a timely fashion to ensure that there will not be disruption of an individual's salary or immigration status. Once the HIO receives the completed eNED, it will process the extension and send the scholar a newly updated visa document such as the Form DS-2019. Extensions must be processed before the current visa status expires. Depending on the visa type, processing time can take up to 30 working days (J-1 status) or up to 6 months (H-1B or O-1 status). After the extension is processed, the Form I-9 must be updated if the person is on payroll, as required by the payroll office.
Please note that completing the eNED does not extend the academic appointment, which is also necessary. Extending an academic appointment is handled by sending the appropriate information to the corresponding Dean's office.
The eNED must also be completed when a scholar's appointment has ended (both as planned and earlier than planned), when the individual has left the university or obtained U.S. legal permanent residence (a green card). When the HIO receives this type of NED, the scholar's record will be withdrawn from the HIO database as well as any corresponding government databases.
ISD is a web-based application that facilitates the transmission of electronic data from Harvard University international visiting scholars to the Harvard International Office (HIO). This system replaces the paper Preliminary Data Sheets that the HIO used to receive from international scholars and Harvard administrators to process immigration forms necessary to obtain a U.S. visa.
Use of Outside Counsel
The HIO advising staff has the authority and responsibility to submit all employment-based visa petitions (e.g., H-1B, O-1, Green Card) sponsored by Harvard University and is the only entity authorized to sign visa 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.
Employer Responsibilities and Obligations for STEM OPT
The information below is intended to provide guidance to Harvard administrators, Harvard students, and individuals who work at Harvard on OPT.
Students on F-1 visas are eligible for a work benefit in the U.S. called Optional Practical Training (OPT) that allows students to work in their field of study for 12 months. Those who have earned eligible U.S. degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) may apply for additional OPT time. Effective on May 10, 2016, new STEM OPT regulations are issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The new rule imposes significant new obligations on students, employers and schools. Below are highlights of the new STEM OPT regulations.
• The new rule increases STEM OPT from 17 to 24 months, allowing a total of 36 months of work authorization.
• There are new requirements that must be followed by employers, students and Designated School Officials (DSO). There is a required training plan form (I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Students) that must be completed by employers.
• STEM OPT employment must be paid; and self-employment is not allowed.
• Students will qualify for up to two STEM OPT extensions if they earn multiple STEM degrees in the U.S. and may be eligible for a STEM extension based on a previously earned STEM degree.
For more and the most up-to-date information on STEM OPT, please refer to the Study in the States website.
Responsibilities and Obligations
There are numerous employer requirements to which you must adhere. Some of those requirements are enumerated here, but you should pay particular attention to the attestation on page 2 of the I-983 and the employer information located here. General employer requirements include being registered with the E-Verfiy program and ensuring that hiring an international student with STEM employment will not displace a U.S. worker.
1. Rules apply for all STEM OPT students working at Harvard regardless of appointment title
2. Must be E-Verify employer; Harvard is an E-Verify employer.
3. Develop a training plan for the student
4. Complete Form I-983
5. Provide two evaluations for the student
6. Responsible for proving compliance during government site visits
1. Have a job offer related to your U.S. STEM degree
2. Work for an E-Verify employer
3. Have a paid position in STEM field for at least 20 hours per week
4. Work with your international student advisor to complete a STEM OPT application and submit the application to USCIS
5. Complete student part of Form I-983
6. Submit the completed Form I-983 to the school that issued the Form I-20 (for Harvard students, submit the completed Form I-983 to the HIO)
7. Responsible for completing validation reports every six months via their school; Harvard students via the HIO
8. Completing parts of evaluation
1. Review STEM OPT application
2. Issue STEM OPT Form I-20
3. Maintain the completed Form I-983 in student’s file
About Form I-983
The new STEM OPT rule that provides the 24-month STEM OPT regulations increases the educational benefits that F-1 students receive from their practical training experiences by requiring the submission of a formal training plan, using Form I-983.
The formal training plan, Form I-983, must clearly articulate the STEM OPT student’s learning objectives and affirm the employer’s commitment to helping the student achieve those objectives. To fulfill this requirement, a student and their employer must complete and sign Form I-983 and submit it to the student’s international student advisor. By signing Form I-983, students and their employers agree that they understand their obligations during the STEM employment.
STEM OPT students and their employers are subject to the terms and conditions of the 24-month STEM OPT extension regulations, effective as of the employment start date requested for the associated STEM OPT period, as indicated on Form I-983.
STEM OPT students may participate in entrepreneurial ventures where the student is an employee. However, they may not act as their own employer or as the signatory for the employer for the purposes of the form.
Instructions for Completing Form I-983
Harvard administrators, please click here.
Non-Harvard employers, please click here.