Visiting Fellows: FAQ

Visiting Fellows: FAQ

What is a Visiting Fellow's registration status?

Visiting Fellows are required to officially register for each term at GSAS as full-time research students.  This is particularly important for individuals conducting their studies on a Harvard-sponsored visa.  Visiting Fellows’ visa status requires that they be enrolled full time as determined by the United States Department of Homeland Security.

Visiting Fellows are neither Harvard degree candidates nor members of the Harvard University faculty. Although they may audit courses, they may not sit for examinations nor receive academic credit. Visiting Fellows are not eligible to apply at a later date to the degree programs in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Does Harvard sponsor my visa?

Individuals who are not United States citizens, who intend to enroll in the GSAS as either a Special Student or Visiting Fellow, ordinarily conduct their studies on a Harvard-sponsored student (F-1) visa.  A Harvard-sponsored Exchange Scholar (J-1) visa will be issued upon request and based on certain formal exchange agreements that require it.  Visa arrangements cannot be made until the applicant has been admitted and the necessary financial certification has been provided to the Special Students Visiting Fellows Office by the student.

Additional information about visa regulations can be obtained from the Harvard International Office .

Do Visiting Fellow applicants need to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)?

The GRE is not a required component of the application for Visiting Fellow status.

How do admitted Visiting Fellows provide financial certification for a Harvard-sponsored visa?

To certify grants from outside Harvard, the Special Students and Visiting Fellows Office must receive an official letter, in English, from the funding institution, stating the exact amount of the award in U.S. dollars, the date of the award, and any restrictions on the use of the money.  

To certify personal funds, you must submit a letter or statement from your bank certifying the amount of funds in your account.  (The account does not need to be at an American bank.)  The amount of funds must be clearly stated and sufficient to finance your entire stay in The United States including tuition, fees and living expenses for the semester or academic year.  The bank letter must be an original letter translated to English and the currency must be converted to US dollars.  

Additional information regarding financial certification will be provided to international Visiting Fellows upon acceptance to study at GSAS.

Do Visiting Fellows applicants need to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)?

If your native language is not English, you must meet one of the following English proficiency requirements:
 

  1. TOEFL
    The preferred test for proof of English language proficiency is the TOEFL IBT. It is therefore highly recommended that applicants take the TOEFL IBT whenever possible. This test is administered by the Educational Testing Service, Box 899, Princeton, New Jersey 08540. Only official scores sent directly to the Special Student/Visiting Fellow Office from the test administrators will be accepted. The Special Student program code number is 3478. When you take the TOEFL, be certain to use this code so your scores will be sent directly to the Special Student/Visiting Fellow Office.
  2. Full-time enrollment at a university or in a program for at least one year in which English is the language of instruction.
  3. If neither of these requirements is met, please state in the application form when and how you feel that this requirement has been met.*

*If you require a J-1 visa and you have not taken the TOEFL nor have attended an English speaking institution, then you may be required to demonstrate adequate English proficiency by means of an official interview before acceptance into the program.

Can Visiting Fellows apply to conduct studies during the summer?

There is no summer term for Visiting Fellows. Applicants may apply for either the full academic year (September-June) or for one term: fall (September – December) or spring (January – May). Visiting Fellow admission is normally for one academic year or term.

Do Visiting Fellows have access to Harvard-administered financial aid programs?

Financial Aid through Harvard University or the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (including scholarships, work-study, and loans) is not available to non-degree seeking students. Most international fellows applying from abroad are sponsored by a foundation, university, government entity, organization or company. All international fellows should be certain they can provide evidence of sufficient funding before applying. Visa authorization is contingent upon the financial certification of funds to cover tuition and living expenses.

Are Visiting Fellows offered office space in the department with which they are affiliated or desk space in the library?

Office space is extremely limited, and only a few departments have extra offices for Visiting Fellows. However, carrel or desk space is available in Widener Library. Carrel assignments are made by completing a reservation card at the Widener Billing Office on the first floor of Widener Library. Carrels are free of charge and are assigned on a yearly basis.

Are Visiting Fellows offered laboratory space?

Laboratory space is also restricted and any special requirement should be clearly indicated in the application. Departments will provide space only if available. Any such arrangements must be made on an individual basis through the department concerned.

Does the Special Students and Visiting Fellows Office assist in locating housing in Cambridge?

It is the Visiting Fellow’s responsibility to find housing appropriate to his or her needs. Visiting Fellows are eligible to apply for dormitory housing at the Cronkhite Graduate Center or in the GSAS dormitories; however, please note that campus housing is very limited. Married couples and family members cannot be accommodated in the Cronkhite Center nor in the GSAS residence halls. Housing applications may be submitted only after academic admission. Additional information is available on the GSAS Housing web site.

Most Visiting Fellows seek off-campus, non-Harvard housing. When considering non-Harvard housing, it’s important to consider that the area around Harvard (the city of Cambridge) is highly residential and is accessible by foot from the campus.  Much of the city of Boston is accessible by public transportation from Cambridge as are the surrounding towns of Brookline, Allston, Somerville, Belmont and Watertown.

Does Harvard provide health insurance?

Every registered Visiting Fellows is automatically enrolled in the Harvard University Student Health Plan (HUSHP), which the University offers through the insurance provider Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Massachusetts.  There is also a required Harvard University Health Services fee paid each term that allows any student to take advantage of Harvard University Health Services walk-in clinic.  If a Visiting Fellow provides documentation establishing that he or she has comparable insurance that meets pre-determined Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Harvard University Health Services standards, HUSHP coverage and the associated fee may be waived. To learn more about waiving health insurance coverage visit the HUHS website.

Do Visiting Fellows need immunizations?

Compliance with Massachusetts Immunization Law is an enrollment requirement for all Harvard University students. In order to register for courses, students must provide a complete immunization history in advance of the deadlines prior to enrollment shown on the HUHS website. Students are encouraged to review the requirements promptly to allow time to obtain and submit documentation.

By state law, students enrolling full-time in Massachusetts colleges and universities will ordinarily be required to provide proof of immunization against measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, diphtheria, Hepatitis B, and ameningcococcal (or submit a waiver for the ameningcocccal). Proof of immunizations is compulsory prior to registration.

Does GSAS offer a host student program?

Yes.  Hosts students are continuing GSAS students who provide friendship to incoming international GSAS students as they make the transition to life in the United States and to graduate studies in GSAS. Host students are available to answer general questions and to share their Harvard experiences. While not intended to be a counselor or academic advisor, a host student is someone to whom a new international student can turn for support and informal advice. Several Host Student events are planned at the beginning of each academic year.  To earn more, visit the Host Student Program website.

Is there an International Student Orientation at the beginning of each academic year?

Yes.  As part of an array of events for incoming Special Students, all international students (including Special Students and Visiting Fellows) are invited to attend International Student Orientation where they will learn about life at Harvard GSAS.  Visit the website to learn what was on a previous year’s agenda.

Where can I learn more about being an International Student at Harvard?

Please visit the Harvard International Office’s website to learn more.

What is the best way to contact the Special Student/Visiting Fellow Office?

The office is open from 9:00 am – 5:00 p.m. Monday–Friday Eastern Standard Time.  The best time to contact the Special Students and Visiting Fellows Office is between 9:00 am and 12:00 pm.

Special Students and Visiting Fellows Office
Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Campus Center, 3rd Floor
1350 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02138
Phone: 617-495-5392
Fax: 617-496-5333
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.