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International Student Guidelines

International Student Guidelines

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Please read the following information to understand the immigration regulations regarding study in the United States. Below you will also find the requirements that need to be met to obtain an I-20 Certificate of Eligibility for the F-1 student visa to attend Harvard Summer School. For the most current visa information, check the US Department of State website periodically.

F-1 Student Visa

The F-1 student visa is the appropriate visa for you if your main reason for coming to the United States is to attend a Harvard Summer School session on campus, and you will be enrolled full-time in either:

  • A total of 8 undergraduate (UN) or graduate (GR) credits in the seven-week session
  • 4 undergraduate (UN) or graduate (GR) credits in a three-week session

To apply for the F-1 student visa, you must first obtain the I-20 Certificate of Eligibility from Harvard Summer School. See the requirements for obtaining an I-20 in the first tab below and request an I-20 certificate if applicable. The I-20 certificate is required for F-1 visa application, interview and entry to the United States in F-1 visa status.

Canadian students: if you will be enrolled in courses as specified above, you are required to request an I-20 certificate. However, you do not need to obtain an F-1 visa stamp in your passport for entry into the US. Instead, you will present your I-20 certificate at the port of entry.

Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) and B-2 Visas

Neither ESTA nor the B-2 visa allows full-time study, nor do they allow part-time study. ESTA and B-2 visas are only for international travelers whose main reason for visiting the United States is tourism.

If you intend to pursue full- or part-time study at Harvard Summer School, do not attempt to enter the United States on either ESTA or the B-2 visa. Attempting to enter the United States in ESTA or the B-2 visa status to earn credit is a violation of US visa policy and you risk being denied entry to the United States. This is true for non-degree students as well as admitted Harvard Extension School degree candidates. 

Please note noncredit study is permissible while on a B-2 visa or ESTA.

Additional Types of US Visas

Many other types of US visas allow study, such as the A, J-1, J-2, F-2, H1B, H-4, L, TN, and others. If you have obtained one of the listed visa types, please check with your visa sponsoring organization on the limitations for your study.

Read the instructions that apply to you:

The F-1 student visa is the appropriate visa for you. To be issued the F-1 student visa, you must first obtain the I-20 Certificate of Eligibility from Harvard Summer School.

Visa processing times vary from country to country. You should meet the I-20 requirements early enough to ensure you can obtain your visa from a US consulate or embassy in time to arrive in Cambridge for the start of your Summer School session. Note that the Summer School may prohibit or cancel your registration if you do not attend all class meetings during the first week of classes.

You can request an I-20 certificate online from Harvard Summer School when you:

  • Register for courses (beginning March 1), or
  • Apply to a Summer School selective admissions program (the Secondary School Program or the Ukrainian Summer Institute).

The firm deadline to request an I-20 certificate and to meet all the requirements is May 1. You will not be issued an I-20 if your request is not complete by May 1.

Requirements for obtaining an I-20 certificate:

  1. You have submitted your online I-20 request.
  2. The following required documents have been received by Harvard Summer School (by e-mail to visas@dcemail.harvard.edu or by fax to 617-998-8467):
    • A copy of the biographical page of your passport.
    • If you are transferring to Harvard Summer School from another school in the US where you are attending on an F-1 visa and to which you will not be returning in the fall, a completed Transfer In to Harvard form, copies of all pages of your most recent I-20, and a copy of your I-94 electronic arrival record.
    • If your spouse and/or child(ren) will come with you to the United States, a copy of the biographical page of each dependent's passport and the Preliminary Data Sheet.
  3. You have been admitted to a selective admissions program (if you applied for such a program).
  4. You have registered for a total of 8 undergraduate (UN) or graduate (GR) credits in the 7-week session, or for 4 undergraduate (UN) or graduate (GR) credits in a 3-week session, in courses held on the Harvard campus (no Study Abroad, online-only, web-conference, or hybrid courses allowed).
  5. You have met the English proficiency requirement if English is not your native language.
  6. Your payment of the $50 nonrefundable registration fee and $1500 deposit toward your total Summer School charges has been received by the Summer School.

Receiving your I-20 certificate

It takes three to four weeks for the Summer School to process your I-20 request once you meet all requirements. Starting on March 2, you can check the status of your I-20 request by logging in to online services. Once the I-20 certificate has been mailed, a link to your FedEx tracking number will be provided there.

If you are transferring to Harvard Summer School from another school in the United States, note that if you meet all of your I-20 certificate requirements by the May 1 deadline, your Harvard I-20 will be issued after the program completion date specified by your current school on your completed Transfer In to Harvard form.

Applying for the F-1 Visa

Before entering the United States, you will need to obtain an entry visa at a US embassy or consulate in your country of citizenship. The visa application will require, among other things, a visa document from Harvard Summer School (I-20 Certificate for F-1 visa category), your valid passport, SEVIS Fee* payment receipt, and documents showing your financial support while at Harvard.

*The SEVIS Fee ($200) is a US government fee paid to the Department of Homeland Security. All applicants who require an F-1 visa to enter the United States must pay the SEVIS Fee before going to the US embassy or consulate for their visa interview. It can be paid online at http://www.FMJfee.com by using a credit or debit card, or by alternate means detailed on that same site. Harvard’s school code needed to pay the SEVIS fee is: BOS214F00162000.

In order to schedule an appointment at a US embassy or consulate, you will need to follow the instructions on the website of the US embassy or consulate you will visit. For information on required documents, please refer to the F-1 visa category section on the website of the US embassy or consulate you will visit.

It is recommended that you allow yourself ample time to obtain your visa from a US embassy or consulate. The US Department of State (DOS) has indicated that the process of issuing visas to some individuals might be longer due to security clearances. Please check with the US embassy or consulate at which you will apply for its specific processing time.

Canadian citizens are not required to have US visas, but must have visa-supporting documents (I-20 certificate and SEVIS Fee payment receipt) with them for entry to the United States.

Dependents (spouse and unmarried children aged 21 or younger) must have their own original I-20 Forms from Harvard Summer School and must apply for F-2 visas (except for Canadians) at a US embassy or consulate whether traveling to the US with you or independently.

After you receive your passport with your visa and your I-20 Certificate, please check to make sure that all the information printed on the visa is correct. If any of the information on your visa does not match the information in your passport or is incorrect, please contact the US embassy or consulate that issued you the visa. 

Entering the United States

You may enter the US in F-1 status no more than 30 days before the start date listed on your I-20 Certificate. F-2 dependents must not enter the US before the F-1 visa student does.

Upon entering the US, you are required to present a valid passport, original Form I-20 (copies are not acceptable), a valid F-1 visa (except for Canadians), and evidence of SEVIS fee payment. Do not pack your I-20 and passport in your luggage.

Checking in upon arrival

If you have an I-20 from the Summer School, you must check in with a Harvard international student advisor during your session’s specified arrival and check-in dates. Please bring the following documents when you check in: your passport, your I-20, and your I-94 record of arrival to the US. You may download your I-94 record online only after you have entered the US as an F-1 student. You may bring a printout of the I-94 or have the PDF saved on your electronic device to show during check-in.

Enrollment requirements for students with I-20s

You must remain enrolled for a total of 8 undergraduate (UN) or graduate (GR) credits in the 7-week session, or 4 undergraduate (UN) or graduate (GR) credits in a 3-week session, in courses held on the Harvard campus. You may not enroll in Study Abroad programs, online only or hybrid courses.

If you do not comply with this requirement, you are considered out of status and are subject to removal from the United States.

If you have an I-20 from the Summer School, you may add courses in online services but may not drop or withdraw from courses or change credit status online. You must submit all course drops or withdrawals, even those that are part of course changes, with the Course Registration Changes and Summer School Housing Cancellation form to the Registrar’s Office for approval.

If your I-20 will expire or your program will end in spring 2017, request an I-20 from Harvard Summer School for your summer study. See above for request guidelines.

If you are enrolled full-time in a program or school in the spring of 2017, and you will be enrolled in the same institution in the fall, you do not need to request a new I-20 from Harvard Summer School and may enroll either part-time or full-time during the summer.

If you plan to be enrolled in courses as specified above and then attend another US school on an F-1 visa in fall 2017, you should request an I-20 certificate from the Summer School and enter the United States on an F-1 student visa in June for your studies at Harvard Summer School. See above for request guidelines. You may transfer to the new school within the 60-day grace period following the program completion date specified on your Harvard I-20 certificate by submitting transfer-out documentation to the Harvard International Office.

Unsure which instructions apply to you?

Please contact us at visas@dcemail.harvard.edu and we will be happy to help you with your questions.

And visit these US Department of State webpages: visa type information, list of embassies, and the visa waiver program.

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