April 6, 2020
Dear Members of the Harvard Community,
As together we rise to the challenges posed by these uncertain times, the health and safety of our community must guide every decision we make. Worldwide cases of COVID-19 continue to grow; governments continue to enact border, travel, and stay-at-home restrictions; and it is too soon to predict the trajectory of the virus at the local, national, and international levels over the next several months. Informed by the best available information, and with these circumstances in mind, we write to you with several updates on travel and summer programming.
Current prohibitions on University-related international travel and non-essential domestic air travel are extended through at least May 31. Personal international travel remains strongly discouraged, and we still urge you to use extreme caution for personal domestic travel. This guidance pertains to all community members—students, faculty, staff, and postdocs/other academics. Because governments around the world, including the United States, may modify travel restrictions at any time, advance, nonrefundable travel purchases are inadvisable. We anticipate that all travel will continue to be disrupted for some time. We will continue to monitor the situation and will issue updated guidance when conditions change.
Harvard-organized and Harvard-funded international travel for all students that is scheduled to start and end between now and August 31 is prohibited. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. State Department have issued global level 3 and level 4 advisories: “avoid nonessential travel” and “do not travel,” respectively. It is unclear when those restrictions will be lifted. We know that many of our students—undergraduates as well as graduate and professional school students—rely on summer travel to further their education, fulfill academic requirements, and explore new work environments. This decision is difficult and disappointing, but we urge students to contact their individual Schools, centers, and programs to explore creative options for alternative summer study, research, and work. For more information, see the memo from the Vice Provost for International Affairs.
We are closely monitoring the worldwide suspension of routine visa processing at U.S. consular locations and advising international students and scholars accordingly. We anticipate that many newly admitted and returning international students and scholars will face delays in obtaining or renewing visas. The Harvard International Office (HIO) continues to issue the necessary University documentation for F-1, J-1, and other visa applications, so that when consular processing resumes, students and scholars will have the forms they need to schedule visa appointments. Visit the HIO COVID-19 webpage for the latest immigration updates and advice.
As always, we continue to update the Harvard coronavirus website with the latest information, policies, and advice for teaching, learning, researching, and working remotely, as well as for maintaining your health and well-being and how you can support healthcare providers and first responders.
Thank you to the frontline workers and our researchers, faculty, students, and staff for your tremendous efforts these past few weeks. We greatly value your patience, empathy, creativity, and resilience as we face these extraordinary challenges together.
Alan M. Garber AB '77, PhD '82, MD
Executive Vice President, Harvard University
Giang T. Nguyen MD, MPH, MSCE, FAAFP
Executive Director, Harvard University Health Services