Invitation Protocol & Visitor Guidelines

Inviting Heads of State, Dignitaries and Other High-Profile Visitors to Speak at Harvard

Harvard University regularly hosts distinguished visitors of many different nationalities, backgrounds, and beliefs and, in doing so, encourages intellectual and educational enrichment while also honoring the principles of free speech and open inquiry.

The University Marshal’s Office is the point of contact for the University and can offer advice and assistance on matters of protocol and appropriate procedures for issuing invitations to heads of state and other high-level dignitaries and officials.

All members of the Harvard community pursuing high-level invitations to speaking engagements on campus should keep in mind the following guidelines:

  • Prior consultation with the University Marshal’s Office is required for invitations to incumbent heads of  state/government, which must be extended in writing and signed by the President of Harvard.
  • The Marshal’s Office keeps careful records and tracks all outstanding invitations to heads of State/Government from across the University. The Marshal must review and approve such invitations in advance to avoid duplicate invitations and ensure proper protocol is followed.
  • Secret Service protection is mandatory for heads of state/government; the amount and type of security is determined by the Secret Service, and costs are borne by the event sponsors.
  • Additional terms and conditions may apply for those other than heads of state so it is always advisable to consult in advance on invitations to dignitaries or high-level officials.
  • Advice is also available on other matters of protocol, including proper forms of address, customs, gift exchanges, document signings, speaking formats, and Q&A requirements.

Student organizers for conferences or speaking engagements should also follow these guidelines PRIOR to issuing such invitations:

  • Inform and get approval from a senior administrator or faculty member associated with the school or department where the event will take place (i.e., HLS Dean of Students, Executive Director of the Asia Center).
  • Notify the Dean’s Office of the event details: date, location, objective, expected number of attendees, proposed speakers, and funding source.

Click here to view the full text of the university's protocol for inviting high-level visitors to campus.