Read more about University efforts to assist international students.

Soon after it was announced that President Donald Trump had signed a controversial executive order restricting entry of individuals into the US from seven countries, Harvard began reaching out to affected students and to the larger Harvard community. In addition to the communications from President Drew Faust, the Harvard University Police Department, and the Harvard International Office, the University organized a number of information sessions through the Office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs that included staff from the Harvard International Office and the Harvard Immigration Clinic, who attempted to clarify the fast-moving effects of the executive orders on individual graduate students. While a federal judge has since stayed the order, the White House is expected to release a similar order this week.

At GSAS, Dean Xiao-Li Meng sent a message to all students with links to resources and the Office of Student Affairs connected directly with students from the seven countries noted in the executive order. “I immediately reached out to those of our students who are affected by the order to affirm GSAS’s support for them and to direct them to Harvard resources,” said Dean for Student Affairs Garth McCavana. “Both Director of Student Services Jackie Yun and I also met individually with a number of these students to discuss their concerns.” In these meetings, students shared their fears about traveling outside of the country, concerns about family coming to Commencement, the possibility that the Optional Practice Training, or OPT, program will be cut, and rumors that changes in visa status would not be allowed.

Given the international nature of the GSAS population, helping graduate students deal with these executive orders remains a high priority. While the legal stay of January’s executive order has meant that no students were unable to return to the US over the past month, GSAS would help traveling students affected by possible future orders, providing financial assistance if necessary and, should students lose time in progress toward their degree, work with them to adjust their G-years. Because the initial order included suspension of the Visa Interview Waiver Program, which could lead to delays in the processing of new visas outside of the country, GSAS has established a working group that includes staff from the Harvard International Office and the FAS Registrar’s Office to ensure that visa documentation can be processed expeditiously.

Regardless of the eventual outcome of the political situation, GSAS remains committed to all its students, including its international population, which is Harvard’s largest. “Harvard maintains a long tradition of not only welcoming students from all backgrounds and cultures, but also providing a dynamic multicultural, intellectually rich, and multi-perspective academic community where all can excel,” said Dean Xiao-Li Meng. “I am proud of this community, and I want all our students, regardless of country of origin, to feel a welcomed member of it—just as I did.”


International students can access a number of resources within GSAS and at Harvard.

  • International students with questions regarding their visa status or who are contemplating travel should contact the Harvard International Office.
  • If you travel abroad, enter your itinerary and contact information in the Harvard Travel Registry, which is managed by Harvard Global Support Services, for access to Harvard Travel Assist, the 24/7 global emergency response program. If you do travel abroad and are not permitted to return to the US, you should contact Harvard Travel Assist at +1-617-998-0000 or to immediately notify the University.
  • If you have concerns that require immediate attention, you can reach out to Garth McCavana, dean for student affairs, or Jackie Yun, director of student services.
  • If you are experiencing emotional or mental distress and would like to speak with someone urgently, please contact Harvard’s Counseling and Mental Health Services at 617-495-2042.
  • All students can also reach out to the Harvard Chaplains, 617-495-5529, who provide counseling and general support to all students regardless of religious/spiritual affiliation.

GSAS Affirms Support for International Students