Planning Your Arrival
The official program start date stated on your I-20 or DS-2019 is the first day of the New Student Orientation Week, August 26, 2019. The earliest you can enter the United States is 30 days before this date, or July 27, 2019. Please plan your travel accordingly.
For further instructions on preparing to enter the United States, please visit the Harvard International Office website.
As an international student, you are required to submit the “Financial Certification Form” and provide the appropriate materials to document that you have sufficient funds in US dollars for the first year of study at the GSD. All incoming MArch, MLA, MDes, MDE, MUP, MAUD/MLAUD, and DDes students must certify $79,536 USD to cover expenses for an academic term of 9 months. An additional $9,000 must be certified for one dependent (child or spouse), plus $4,500 for each additional dependent. Furthermore, all incoming students will receive an F-1 visa unless the student meets the criteria for a J-1 visitor's visa. For more information on specific visa types, visit the Harvard International Office website.
If you will be using personal funds for a portion or all of your financial certification (including the personal funds of your parents), please include a signed letter from your bank documenting your funds. We will accept an official bank statement if your bank cannot provide a letter. However, due to security purposes, we highly prefer that you request a letter from your bank that verifies your current balance. Download a Memorandum for Graduate Degrees that you can present to an official at your banking institution. This letter or statement must be written in English. Personal funds may only be listed in your name or your parent’s name.
All visa forms must be received no later than May 1; though we encourage you to complete your financial certification as soon as possible. Issued I-20 forms will be mailed via FedEx. If you are in the Boston area, you can also pick up your I-20/DS-2019 at the GSD.
You can obtain a FedEx shipping label for your visa documents from University Express Mail Service. Please note, the company offers other mailing alternatives, but we ask that you use FedEx only.
- In the UEMS system, please select Harvard University, and for the department select “GSD – Admissions Office.” Download the visual guide: First Steps in Creating FedEx Label via UEMS.
The sender's address will be:
48 Quincy St, Suite 422
GSD Admissions Office
Cambridge MA 02138
What to Submit:
- Financial Certification Form
- Certified letter from your bank or official bank statement verifying funds in U.S. dollars
- Signed letter from parents stating they will fund your education if you are certifying funds from their account (Download a Parental Letter of Support Template)
- Photocopy of the information page of your passport and the passports of your dependents (if applicable)
Tracking I-20/DS-2019 Processing Status
We will commence processing forms as they come in. Therefore, we encourage incoming students to submit their certification as soon as possible. Please note that processing your form is a two step process. GSD Admissions must first review your information, and then we hand it off to the Harvard International Office (HIO) so that they can issue you your I-20 or DS-2019. Your I-20 or DS-2019 will typically ship or be available for pick up within two weeks of the HIO receiving your packet from us.
- “Financial Certification Documents for Student Visa” checklist item is now green because we received your form.
- When we transfer your documents to the HIO for approval, you will see the following checklist item: “Documents Trasnsferred to HIO; I-20/DS-2019 Should Ship Within 2 Weeks.”
- Lastly, a checklist item will pop-up when your visa document has shipped or is ready for pick-up.
We will not be able to provide further notification of when your I-20/DS-2019 has shipped. On average, the HIO is able to ship visa documents within 3-5 business days after the GSD transfers your paperwork to them. Nevertheless, please allow for up to 2 weeks for your visa documents to ship.
Special Instructions for those in the U.S.
Students Currently Holding an F-1 Visas:
Students who currently hold an F-1 or J-1 visa through another US college or university should include copies of relevant visa related paperwork. You will also need to complete a Harvard International Office visa transfer form. Take note that we will not be able to issue you a new I-20/DS-2019 until after the indicated release date on your transfer form. Please plan travels accordingly. Furthermore, you should contact us to discuss your travel plans if you will be exiting the US. This will ensure you receive the proper instructions for reentering the United States.
Am I required to get a new visa stamp?
- It depends on the expiration date of your current visa stamp. If your visa stamp is valid for the duration of your program, then you do not need get a new stamp. For example, if your stamp expires in 2021 but your program goes from 2018-2020, then you can keep your current stamp. One the other hand, if your stamp expires in 2018 and your program goes from 2018-2021, then you will need to get a new visa from the US embassy in your home country.
Students Graduating from a U.S. College or University in May:
If you are graduating from a U.S. college or university this spring you will need to complete and submit a Harvard Visa Transfer Form. If you have the completed form, then please upload it in the certification form. However, it is fine if your current international adviser emails it to us. Please have them send it to Mikaela Allen at email@example.com.
If you have any questions, please email Mikaela Allen.
Students Currently on OPT:
If you are currently on OPT, then you will need to coordinate with your current international adviser for your SEVIS release date. When your record is released to Harvard, your work authorization under OPT terminates. If you have any doubts or questions about your release date or the transfer process, please contact GSD Admissions. Lastly, your SEVIS release date can be after the financial certification submission deadline.
Students Currently at GSD not Graduating in May:
The registrar, Sean Conlon, will follow up with you to update your current I-20 so that it reflects your new program.
STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Students who hold degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) may be eligible to apply for an additional 24 months of Optional Practical Training (OPT), for a total of 36 months of post-completion OPT. The following GSD programs are designated STEM and currently are eligible for Optional Practical Training:
- MArch I
- MArch I AP
- MArch II
- MLA I
- MLA I AP
- MLA II
- MDes, Energy and Environments
- MDes, Risk and Resilience
- MDes, Technology