Frequently Asked Questions
for New International Students
When is the ISSO Open?
Mondays and Tuesdays from 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Wednesdays from 12:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Thursdays and Fridays from 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
What should I always bring with me to the ISSO?
-Your valid passport
-Most current visa
-I-94 card (the little white card in your passport)
-I-20 (if you’re an F-1 student) or DS-2019 (if you’re a J-1 student)
Who is my International Student Advisor?
Each school or college at Boston University is assigned an International Student Advisor (ISA). To find your ISA, please visit our website at and locate the name of your school or college.
The ISSO also has an Advisor-on-Call (AOC) available during business hours to assist students in emergency situations.
How do I register for classes?
Consult with your school or college about the class registration process. Please keep in mind that as an F-1 or J-1 student, you must register for a full course of study, which at BU means 12 credits in the Fall and Spring semesters, or 8 credits per Summer Term.
For more information, please refer to the Office of the University Registrar
Where can I get my BU ID card?
You can get a BU ID card (“Terrier Card”) at the Terrier Card Office, located at the George Sherman Union (775 Commonwealth Avenue, Lower Level). You must show you passport in order to obtain a Terrier Card.
How can I find housing on or off campus?
The BU Housing website provides numerous resources for on and off-campus housing:
Where do I submit my health forms and immunization records?
Submit documents relating to your health records and insurance to Student Health Services (881 Commonwealth Avenue, West Entrance)
Where should I pay my tuition and fees?
Please visit the Student Accounting Services office to pay for your academic tuition and other fees. Student Accounting Services is located at 881 Commonwealth Avenue, Second Floor.
Where do I buy books for classes?
You can buy textbooks and other books for classes at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore in Kenmore Square (660 Beacon Street, Kenmore Square T stop)
How can I set up a bank account?
Check with individual banks for specific requirements. Most of the banks on campus require an unexpired passport and your BU Terrier Card. Neither the ISSO nor Boston University can recommend nor endorse a particular company.
For more information, please refer to the following webpage:
How can I get a cell phone?
Cell phone companies generally request their customers’ social security numbers so that they can establish whether or not their customers have good credit histories. If you do not have a social security number, many major phone companies will not require one; instead, they will ask for a deposit. The amount of this deposit will vary by company.
How can I meet other students from my country?
Go to the Student Activities Office and see if there is a club or group from your home country.
How do I set up my BU email account?
You can set up your BU email at one of the IT Help Centers on campus: in the Mugar Library (771 Commonwealth Avenue), or at 533 Commonwealth Ave in Kenmore Square. Please check your BU email account regularly for important ISSO updates and announcements.
How can I find an on-campus job?
F-1 and J-1 students may be employed at most on-campus jobs. An on-campus job is defined as a job posted by the Student Employment Office that is located on a BU campus and paid through the BU Student Payroll. Outside vendors, such as restaurants and companies, that have locations on a BU are not considered on-campus jobs.
During the Fall and Spring semesters, students may work part-time, up to 20 hours per week. You may not work more than 20 hours per week while classes are in session. During the summer break, winter intersession, and spring break periods, students may work full-time, more than 20 hours per week. However, if the summer term will be your first or last academic semester, you may only work up to 20 hours a week during the summer period.
To find an on-campus job, visit the Student Employment Office website for a list of available opportunities. After you secure a job, please come to the ISSO with your immigration documents to complete an I-9 employment form. At that time, you may also inquire about information regarding social security numbers.
Please note, J-1 students must get student employment permission from the ISSO before obtaining an on-campus job.
How can I get a social security number?
A Social Security Card provides a unique identification number that allows the United States government to monitor and tax wages earned by employees in the U.S. Although the ISSO recommends that students apply for a social security number if they intend to work, it is not necessary to have a social security number in order to be employed.
Social security card applications must be made at the Social Security Administration in Boston. Depending on your immigration status, there are different steps to take with your employer and at the ISSO before going to the Social Security Administration. Please call the ISSO, refer to our website, or visit our office to learn about the correct process for your immigration category.
Where can I complete “Semester Verification”?
It is a federal regulation that a school must report a student’s physical presence on campus at the beginning of each academic semester. Boston University students must go in person to the ISSO or another designated office to report their presence. If you do not complete semester verification within the specified time frame, you risk falling out of lawful immigration status.
To complete semester verification, please come to the ISSO or go to a designated office in your school or college. You should bring your student ID to complete verification; you do not need your immigration documents if semester verification is the only request you are making. A list of offices where you can complete semester verification can be found on the ISSO website.
How can I get a Travel Signature?
A travel signature is a signed endorsement from the ISSO that indicates you are eligible to re-enter the United States and resume your studies after travelling abroad. Only a Designated School Official (DSO) – an advisor or administrator at the ISSO – can give you a travel signature. A travel signature is valid for one year, from the date it is given, for travel to most countries. The exceptions are Canada, Mexico, and the adjacent islands: travel signatures given for travel to these countries are valid for six months.
To request a travel signature, please come into the ISSO office with your I-20 or DS-2019, your passport(s), and I-94 card. For students on the Charles River campus, this request takes one full business day to process. Students coming from the Medical Campus are able to receive a travel signature on the same business day. To allow sufficient processing time, the ISSO recommends that you request a travel signature at least one week in advance of your travel date.
Is there anything I need to do when I return to Boston after traveling internationally?
It is always a good idea to check with the ISSO to update your I-94 Departure Record and take photocopies of any new passports or visas you may have received. This is important for your own security, so that if anything happens to your immigration documents, you may be assured of having a copy on file at the ISSO.