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Research Scholar FAQs

Research Scholar Coordinator: Bonnie Currier Jefferson 361 | (617)384-9357 | send email


Welcome to Harvard's Department of Physics!

If you have a question not addressed below, or need more information than what this section supplies, please contact Bonnie.  Also consult Resources for Research Scholars.

APPOINTMENT PROCEDURES
  1. What are the procedures to being appointed as a Research Scholar in the Department of Physics?
  2. What forms or information will I have to supply to be appointed in Physics?
FUNDING
  1. Does Harvard have resources to assist scientific investigators with funding opportunities and research compliance?
  2. Does Harvard have in-house services providing funding opportunities/databases?
  3. What funds are commonly-utilized by our scholars?
ID CARD
  1. Am I eligible to have a Harvard ID card?
  2. What if I do not have an FAS appointment?
INSURANCE
  1. Am I eligible for Harvard-based health insurance?
  2. For what kind of insurance am I eligible if I am not a Harvard employee?
  3. What happens to my insurance if my appointment changes from paid to unpaid, or when my appointment is terminated?
  4. Am I eligible for Family and Medical Leave?
OUTREACH
  1. Are there Harvard offices/programs to help orient me and assist me in my career development?
RECREATION FACILITIES
  1. Am I eligible to use the Harvard Athletic Facilities?
  2. Am I eligible to use Harvard athletic facilities if I am not an employee?
TAXES
  1. Do I have to pay taxes on my Harvard earnings
  2. What if I didn’t receive my W-2 form from Harvard?
  3. I am a foreign national. What are my tax obligations?
VISAS AND ISSUES PERTAINING TO FOREIGN NATIONALS
  1. Do I need a visa to have an appointment or to visit?
  2. What if I'm a Canadian or Mexican national?
  3. What about Fulbright Scholars?
  4. How do I get my current Harvard-sponsored visa extended?
  5. What do I need to do to change my visa?
  6. May I travel on my Harvard visa?
  7. Do I pay U.S. taxes as a foreign national?
  8. How do I ensure that the correct taxes are taken from my Harvard paychecks?

Send Your Questions to Bonnie Now! (bcurrier@fas.harvard.edu )


APPOINTMENT PROCEDURES
  1. What are the procedures to being appointed as a Research Scholar in the Department of Physics?
    You must be appointed for a minimum of 3 months to have a formal appointment and receive a Harvard ID card. All appointments may be made for a maximum of one year at a time. Many Post-Docs are offered 2-3 year positions by their faculty sponsors, and may be reappointed based on performance, continued research collaboration, and funding. This is Harvard FAS policy. You do not have to be on site to have an HUID appointment.
     
  2. What forms or information will I have to supply to be appointed in Physics?
    You must sign and email the University Participation Agreement, and in some cases, also the Risk and Release form.  Bonnie will send you these forms as part of the documents she needs from you which she will submit to the appointments office.  These contracts are explained at the Harvard Office of Technology Development site at: http://www.otd.harvard.edu/recources/policies/IP/.  All scholars are required to submit one or both of these contracts, whether they are paid or unpaid by Harvard.  Bonnie Currier will send you the contracts that are required for your specific appointment, as you cannot download them from that site unless you already have a Harvard ID.

    If you obtained your Ph.D. degree within one year of the start-date of your Harvard Post-Doctoral Fellow appointment, whether you will be paid or unpaid, you must submit a letter from the degree-granting body of your university that states that you have completed all requirements for the Ph.D. degree on or by your Harvard start-date. This letter must state the date you completed these requirements.  Most institutions grant the actual diploma some time after degree-completion.  We do not have to wait for that date in order for you to start your Post-Doc at Harvard.  Rather, we need a letter from the appropriate officer at your university stating the date you have completed the requirement for the degree.  You may of course submit a scan of your actual diploma, but it must be translated into English by a certified translator, it in another language.  Note that we cannot accept such letters from your department officer, or your examining committee.  This letter must come from the Registrar’s office (or the equivalent degree-granting body of your university).  Send this letter to Bonnie, as part of the required documents for your appointment.

    If you are paid by Harvard, you will be given employment verification, tax and other forms to fill out, for which you will need to supply your passport, visa, or other required documents to confirm that you are employable.  Bonnie will give you these forms. Please note that all employment forms require an original ink-signature and are not acceptable as scanned pdfs or e-signed.

    You must have an American Social Security number if you live and work in the U.S.   If you do not have a social security card, Bonnie will give you the appropriate application.

    The social security card is explained at the site of the Harvard International Office (HIO)

    Some scholars have an ITIN number, which is explained also at the HIO: http://hio.harvard.edu/taxesandsocialsecurity/ITIN/.

    You must sign up for health insurance benefits, if you are eligible, WITHIN THIRTY days of your official start-date.  Note that you need a Harvard ID number to sign up for benefits.  See below.

    Once all documents are submitted by Bonnie to the relevant appointments offices, there is always at least a 5-7 business day lag between the time of approval and the assignment of your Harvard ID number (HUID).  You will not be able to access your HUID privileges, sign up for health insurance (if eligible), access our systems, etc. until you have an ID card.  The ID number is not immediately assigned due to this required lag in time. Note that the 5-7 business day wait begins AFTER the appointment documents have been approved by the appropriate office.  The time does not start when Bonnie sends in your documents or puts your appointment into the Harvard personnel database.  It starts after all business pertaining to your appointment is approved.  Please understand that this is normal Harvard policy and we cannot expect your ID privileges to start immediately.  HOWEVER, please note that you are formally appointed at Harvard, and if eligible, are insured from the start-date of your appointment.  Should you need immediate medical assistance, and you don’t yet have your HUID, you would obtain it, then submit those costs to your insurance program after you sign up.

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FUNDING
  1. Does Harvard have resources to assist scientific investigators with funding opportunities and research compliance?
    Yes! See Research Administration Services (RAS): http://research.fas.harvard.edu/research-development-support

     
  2. Does Harvard have in-house services providing funding opportunities/databases?
    Harvard Research Administration Services makes available to Faculty and many members of the Harvard community, the following funding resources:

    FAS Research Development, Main Page: http://research.fas.harvard.edu/research-development-support
    FAS Research Administration Services, Resources Page: http://research.fas.harvard.edu/resources
    Funding Spotlight:  http://science.fas.harvard.edu/pages/funding-spotlight
    Funding Opportunity Databases: http://research.fas.harvard.edu/funding-databases
    Sample Proposal Library: http://research.fas.harvard.edu/proposal-library
     
  3. What funds are commonly-utilized by our scholars?
    Here follows links to a sample of current and common funding sources:
    http://environment.harvard.edu/about/mission
    http://grants.nih.gov/training/nrsa.htm
    http://energy.gov/physics
    http://www.socfell.fas.harvard.edu/
    http://www.nationalacademies.org/nrc/
    https://simonsfoundation.org/
    http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~fqeb/fellowships/
    http://ec.europa.eu/research/mariecurieactions/
    http://www.hria.org/tmfservices/tmfgrants/king.html
    http://www.physics.harvard.edu/research/golub.html
    http://www.nist.gov/index.html

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ID CARD
  1. Am I eligible to have a Harvard ID card?
    Yes, so long as you are appointed in one of the FAS appointments listed in the introduction.
     
  2. What if I do not have an FAS appointment?
    Only if your faculty sponsor will process the following linked form and send it to the Harvard ID office, can you obtain an ID: http://www.campusservices.harvard.edu/id-cards/special-identity-card-request-non-peoplesoft-affiliates.

    More information may be found at the Harvard ID site.

INSURANCE
  1. Am I eligible for Harvard-based health insurance?
    Your eligibility to be covered by one of the Harvard-based insurance programs is based on whether you are a paid employee, or have an appointment that allows you to tap Harvard’s affiliated insurance.  Upon completion of your appointment into the Harvard employee database, if you are a benefits-eligible employee, you will be sent all benefit information directly from the benefits office.  You must have a Harvard ID card to sign up for the program of your choice.

    If you have a paid employee appointment, which may include Post-Doctoral Fellow, Research Associate, Visiting Scholar, Visiting Undergraduate Research Scholar, or Fellow (these latter 3 appointments have specific requirements which must be fulfilled first, so please see Bonnie, you may be able to enroll in one of the Harvard-based programs.

    You must be at least a half-time employee (.5 FTE), AND be paid a minimum of $15,000/annum, AND you must sign up for the program of your choice within 30 days of your official start-date at Harvard, in order to access one of the Harvard programs. Please see Harvard Benefits.

    For the current Monthly Rates and Health Care Comparisons for eligible Harvard employees, please see this page.
    The Benefits office is at:
    Benefits Office
    Holyoke Center, Room 664
    Cambridge, MA 02138
    Call Center: 617-496-4001; M-F, 9 AM – 5 PM
    Walk-In; M-TH, 11 AM – 4 PM, closed Fridays
    E-mail address: benefits@harvard.edu
    Fax: 617-496-3000

    REMEMBER: Benefits will mail you the insurance package so long as your appointment is approved in the personnel database. See Bonnie to receive confirmation of your appointment.

    IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are a paid Post-Doctoral Fellow or Research Associate, and your Harvard employment requires you to live and work abroad at any time during your appointment, you are eligible for the Global Benefits Program.  See Bonnie for details.  Please notify her should your location change at any time during your appointment.  Should you begin employment abroad, covered by Global, then move to the US to continue your Harvard appointment, you may have to change to a US-based program.  There are specific requirements for being on this program, so please let Bonnie know whenever your site changes. Basic info at http://www.globalsupport.harvard.edu

    ALSO NOTE:  Whether you are a U.S. citizen, or a foreign national, if you will live and work abroad while you are on Harvard payroll, you must fill out appropriate forms detailing your time abroad.  If you are abroad more than 180 days, working for Harvard, you do not fulfill the substantial presence requirement, and your W-2 form must reflect that you were exempted from some Federal and State taxes. Do not wait until you receive your W-2 form.  Be sure your work abroad has been documented and that Bonnie has corrected your Harvard personnel file. See Bonnie for these forms.  Also, please refer to the Harvard Tax Services site.
     
  2. For what kind of insurance am I eligible if I am not a Harvard employee?
    If you have an unpaid appointment (Post-Doctoral Fellow, Fellow, Associate, Visiting Scholar, Visiting Undergraduate Research Scholar, all of which may also be unpaid at Harvard), you may be able to access Affiliated Insurance.  You must pay for this insurance in full at the time you apply for it.  Please see http://hushp.harvard.edu/am-i-eligible-hushp.

    If you are a foreign national on a Harvard-sponsored visa, and you are not on a Harvard payroll, you may wish to purchase insurance from one of the programs recommended by the Harvard International Office.  These include:
    If you are not eligible for any of the above, you must purchase insurance from outside the University.  Please see the official state government site in Massachusetts at:  http://www.mass.gov/portal/health-safety/insurance/.

    REMEMBER:  EVERYONE MUST BE INSURED!
     
  3. What happens to my insurance if my appointment changes from paid to unpaid, or when my appointment is terminated?
    Your Harvard-based insurance (and all coverage you selected, such as life insurance, long-term disability coverage, flexible spending accounts, retirement benefits, END immediately upon formal termination of your appointment.  It is your responsibility to obtain another insurance policy, or to go on COBRA.  A COBRA packet will be mailed to you within 1-2 weeks of your termination date.  If you do not receive this packet, call Crosby Benefits at 1-800-462-2235.  Information about the COBRA program is here.

    Even if you have a paid employee appointment at Harvard, undergo a break in service during which you may have an unpaid appointment, you must obtain other insurance.   You are not covered for health insurance once your paid status ends, even if you plan to return to the  insurance program you were on while you were paid.  All affiliation with that program ends once your appointment becomes unpaid.  You may be eligible to return to your original program, but you would have to re-apply to it.  You may also wish to contact the Harvard Retirement Center at 800-527-1398 for information on retirement funds.
     
  4. Am I eligible for Family and Medical Leave?
    FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) requires Harvard to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to eligible employees. Please see HARVie FMLA page for more information.

    You must fill out the Request for Family and Medical Leave Form, and send it to Bonnie, who will obtain the necessary approval and pass it along to Disability and Payroll Services. We will fill out the accompanying form, Short Term Disability Employers Statement. Your application is not complete without both of these forms. You must notify Bonnie upon your return so that she can update your personnel file in the Harvard database.

    If you have questions, please contact Disability Services at 617-496-8128

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OUTREACH
  1. Are there Harvard offices/programs to help orient me and assist me in my career development?
    There sure are! Here follows a sampling.

    FAS Office of Postdoctoral Affairs is a valuable link. They sponsor a myriad of workshops, activities, advising sessions to assist postdoctoral scholars with career and professional development needs, serving as a resource to the larger campus community, and building a sense of community among Harvard postdoctoral scholars. They post monthly event calendar which postdocs should access often! The office is currently only able to advise scholars at the postdoctoral level. But their events are open to all research scholars with formal Harvard appointments.

    The Harvard Office of Career Services supports mostly students, but research scholars may be included in many of their activities and you should visit their site too: http://www.ocs.fas.harvard.edu/

    The Harvard Office of Work and Life has lots of information about balancing your professional career with your family.

    The Harvard Graduate Council is also available to research scholars.

    The Physics Department’s URL has most of the information you need to get around Harvard and find out about our Department research, faculty, IT services, etc. Below we provide links to various Research Facilities, Centers and Programs. Join/access their events/talk lists:
    The Weekly Calendar of Physics Events
    Biophysics
    Center for Nanoscale Systems (CNS)
    Center for Fundamental Laws of Nature
    Center for Ultracold Atoms (CUA)
    Engineering and Physical Biology Program (EPB)
    Harvard Quantum Optics Center
    Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA)
    Institute for Theoretical Atomic and Molecular Physics (ITAMP)
    Laboratory for Particle Physics and Cosmology (LPPC)
    Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC)
    Nanoscale Science Engineering Center (NSEC)

    If you’re on Facebook, please "like" Harvard Physics: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Harvard-Physics/154321267932184?ref=hl.

    Please join our LinkedIn group: http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=4740923&trk=myg_ugrp_ovr.

    You may also wish to set up your own home page using your FAS account and/or at Physics (or even both if you wish). Here’s how:

    FAS: Follow the instructions at http://www.fas-it.fas.harvard.edu/faq/personal-website
    PHYSICS: To create your personal site at Physics, see: http://computing.physics.harvard.edu/websites. If the directory/folder "public_html" exists in your Physics account, then the contents will be automatically displayed at http://users.physics.harvard.edu/~username (which you can also get to using http://www.physics.harvard.edu/~username - either URL will work.)

    Example: http://www.physics.harvard.edu/~mmcfee

    Bonnie Currier (currier@physics.harvard.edu) is the Research Scholar Coordinator in the Physics Department.  She oversees all research scholar affairs, and she is your main contact for  both your appointment and visa issues, as well as the being the contact for any questions you have or events and ideas you wish to propose to help enrich our research scholars time at Harvard. Please send your suggestions to her!

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RECREATION FACILITIES

  1. Am I eligible to use the Harvard Athletic Facilities?
    Yes, so long as you are a benefits-eligible employee. See the Harvard Website for University Athletics:
  2. Am I eligible to use Harvard athletic facilities if I am not an employee?
    Yes, if you have a Harvard ID (please see above)

TAXES

  1. Do I have to pay taxes on my Harvard earnings?
    Yes, even if taxes were not taken from your monthly paychecks.

    Those paid on a benefits-eligible payroll (monthly) have federal, state and FICA taxes taken from their paychecks. They will be sent a W-2 form by late January of the year after the year they were employed at Harvard. The W-2 will have Federal and State wages and earnings declarations, and you will detach the appropriate section and send it in with your IRS income tax forms.

    Some scholars are on NIH (federal) grants and even some non-federal fellowships are required topay U.S. taxes on a quarterly basis, although they are still benefits-eligible at Harvard. Be sure you understand if you are in this tax category.

    The official site of the US IRS Department is http://www.irs.gov/.
     
  2. What if I didn’t receive my W-2 form from Harvard?
    You can order a copy by emailing the financial office or filling out a re-order form.

    It’s very important that you give Bonnie your new address before you leave the university. That helps ensure that Harvard sends your W2 form to you.
     
  3. I am a foreign national. What are my tax obligations?
    Whether or not taxes were taken from your Harvard paychecks, you will have tax obligations. See the HIO sites below that give a great amount of information for foreign nationals:
    http://hio.harvard.edu/taxesandsocialsecurity/
    http://hio.harvard.edu/taxesandsocialsecurity/HIO_Tax_FAQ.pdf
         It’s very important that you give Bonnie your new address before you leave the university. That helps ensure that Harvard sends your W2 form to you.

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VISAS AND ISSUES PERTAINING TO FOREIGN NATIONALS
  1. Do I need a visa to have an appointment or to visit?
    If you are paid by Harvard, you will need an appropriate visa, which must be sponsored by the Harvard International Office (HIO), unless you are a Canadian or Mexican national (see below). If you are unpaid, you may also receive a visa sponsored by the HIO, so long as you meet visa requirements. If you will be here for 90 days or less you may wish to enter on a Visitor’s visa. If you are a Fulbright Scholar, the Fulbright Commission sponsors your visa, but you still need a Physics appointment (See below.)

    The Harvard International Office (HIO) has extensive information on visas, orientation for foreign nationals, taxes, etc. Bonnie will contact you once she is informed about your appointment by your faculty sponsor. She will register you at the HIO so that they can “track” you, advise you on the visa appropriate for you, and sponsor your visa.

    Your contact for all issues pertaining to your visa application and further extensions should begin with Bonnie. She is the Physics Department liaison with the HIO. The HIO requires that Bonnie register you with them first, and she should be your first contact for any issues pertaining to your visa. You will eventually meet with the HIO officer who handles Physics cases, but please start first with Bonnie.

    Most of our research scholars come in on the J-1 visa. See the HIO explanation.

    If you received your education in the US and were on an F-1 visa, you should first obtain OPT status from your US university. For more information, see the HIO page.

    Then you will need to "transfer-in" to Harvard on your current OPT card from your US university that sponsored your F-1 student visa and your OPT status. Here is the form you will need to fill out, (Part I), and give to the international officer at your US university to fill out (Part II). Please have your officer send this form to Bonnie, who will attach it to your Harvard record which she will create for you: http://hio.harvard.edu/hioforms/FJStudentTransferForm.pdf.

    OPT scholars should also obtain OPT STEM extension before their current OPT card ends, which will give them an additional 17 months OPT. All OPT scholars are recommended to apply for OPT STEM extension. Sometime before your STEM extension ends, but no later than 6 months before, the HIO will sponsor an H1B1 visa for you, so long as your paid appointment at Harvard will continue. Please see Bonnie, who will need to initiate this process.
     
  2. What if I'm a Canadian or Mexican national?
    You may wish to enter the US on the TN program. It is explained at the HIO site. If you are paid by Harvard, your faculty sponsor will need to write the appropriate letter for this visa. See Bonnie to obtain assistance on getting this letter.
     
  3. What about Fulbright Scholars?
    Fulbright scholars receive their visas directly from the Council for International Exchange of Scholars, but they are required to register at the HIO, bringing all their documents when they check in there in person. First they notify Bonnie who will write the appropriate appointment letter that they will need to give to the Fulbright commission. For that they will need to submit their CV, the PA and Risk and Release form, and fill out an eFORM and send it and accompanying documents to Bonnie. They must have a Physics faculty/PI sponsor, just as all our research scholars are required to have.

    The Fulbright office will send Harvard your full application and the Institutional Reply Form (IRF). These documents must come to Bonnie so that she can obtain the necessary Physics Department officer’s signature and return them to the CIES officer.
     
  4. How do I get my current Harvard-sponsored visa extended?
    The HIO will send Bonnie a reminder that your visa is nearing the end-date. Bonnie will check first with your faculty sponsor to see if your appointment is to be extended, then submit the necessary form to the HIO. It is your responsibility to ensure that this process has taken place, however. So please check with Bonnie to make sure the reappointment documents have been submitted on time.
     
  5. What do I need to do to change my visa?
    Contact Bonnie first (not the HIO) and she will initiate this process.

    NOTE: You cannot change your visa while you are in the United States. What you may change are your documents that allow you to continue on a Harvard visa. You have to leave the US to obtain the actual new visa, which you will get at the US Consulate in your homeland, usually.

    As explained above, F-1 scholars on OPT who obtain OPT STEM extension do not need to leave the country.

    If your OPT STEM extension is within 6 months of ending, or if you have contacted Bonnie and asked her for early application, you may obtain an H-1B visa, which will also be sponsored by the HIO, at Bonnie’s instigation.

    The H-IB Visa
    The H visa is for scholars who were educated in the US on an F-1 or J-1 visa, and have completed both OPT and STEM Extension. It is also for scholars who have completed 5 years on a J-1 visa (the maximum amount of time allowed for the J-1 visa). It is also for certain scholars who have never been to the US on a J-1 visa. Please note that the HIO determines what visa is most appropriate for you, once Bonnie starts your visa case with them.

    The H visa is "employer-specific". This means that you must have an H visa for every employer, even if you work for Harvard, and work for another university or institution at the same time or at a future time. The H visa identifies the specific work one does. So if you are performing 100% effort in research, that type of research is identified on the visa application documents. If you teach in addition to perform research, both percentages of effort must be identified on the H documents. Therefore, you must be very specific about what your efforts are when we apply for an H visa for you. If you change your efforts while you are on an H, we may have to re-process it.

    Bonnie will give you a procedural checklist that she obtains from the HIO. Only when you have received this official checklist, does your H application begin. Among the documents you will be required to submit are ALL of your previous visa documents (except for visitor visas), a copy of your passport and diploma, and for an H extension, copies of you last 2 Harvard paycheck details. If your diploma is not in English, you will be required to submit a certified English translation.

    Your former visa documents include all your F-1 documents through the years. These include the many Certificates of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant F-1 Student forms signed by the officer in your US university, copies of the front AND BACK of all your visas. Don’t throw these away!

    If you were on a J-1 visa and we are sponsoring an H for you, we will need all the DS2019 forms you had through the years, in addition to the J-1 visa and white departure card, front and back. Hang onto these!

    Bonnie will put your case together, arrange for the filing fees with your faculty sponsor, and you will walk your application over to the HIO. Do not plan any travel outside of the U.S. once your H application has been submitted by the HIO.
     
  6. May I travel on my Harvard visa?
    Yes, so long as you have a current passport, a current OPT or J-1 visa (with multiple entry permission noted on the visa), the DS2019 form is signed by an HIO official, and you have a letter of appointment from Bonnie with you. (No travel once your H case is filed, however.)

    If you have been invited to attend a conference, whether in the u.s. or abroad, while you are on a Harvard-sponsored visa, and you will receive any type of funding or reimbursements from the conference, you will also need to obtain a written approval by your faculty sponsor, then present the conference information and this approval to Bonnie. She will then contact the HIO to obtain an HIO officer’s written approval for this attendance. Please be sure you obtain this approval BEFORE you leave for the conference.
     
  7. Do I pay U.S. taxes as a foreign national?
    Yes, if you received payment(s)/salary from Harvard. The Harvard International Office (HIO) has information about IRS requirements for foreign nationals. Please see their website for more information.

    The HIO also has great information about tax reporting. Check out their FAQ site.

    You will need an American Social Security number to fill out IRS tax forms. The infomration on how to obtain it is here.

    Finally, the HIO also offers access to Windstar, a web-based tax return preparation software. Use requires code access, which you may obtain from Bonnie.
     
  8. How do I ensure that the correct taxes are taken from my Harvard paychecks?
    Harvard issues all employees a W-2 statement that you will send to the IRS with your federal and state forms. Foreign nationals also receive a 1042-S form. Please wait until you receive these documents before you file.

    If you are a Nonresident Alien for any time during your appointment, you should be tax-classified and, if possible, obtain Tax Treaty Benefits. You will need to go in person to the Harvard University Financial Services office, located at 1033 Massachusetts Avenue, second floor, after you have filled out employment forms with Bonnie. Please see their information at http://vpf-web.harvard.edu/ofs/tax_services/res_con.shtml.

    REMEMBER: If you do not fulfill the substantial presence test, you must document your time abroad while working for Harvard in advance of the tax season. See the IRS publication 519. Always be sure to download the current-year publications from the U.S. IRS site:
    http://www.irs.gov/
    http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p519.pdf

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