Documents & Procedures

Once you have been admitted as a graduate or non-degree student (including Summer Study) or you have established an affiliation as a scholar (researcher, faculty member, or staff), the ISSO needs to process certain documentation to finalize your arrangement with BU. Immigration classifications such as visitors and family/dependents have unique processes.

Graduate and Non-Degree Students

See a step-by-step overview of the process from academic application to visa application in addition to the information below.

Please note that ISSO is now issuing immigration documents for programs that begin in summer 2024 and will begin processing requests for fall 2024 admits in early April.

After you have been academically admitted to the University and have submitted the required academic information and documentation to the Graduate Admissions office in your school or college, your Admissions office will work with you to gather the additional documentation necessary to obtain your immigration document from the ISSO.

Documents to Submit

Your Admissions office will forward the following documents to the ISSO for evaluation, so please submit them directly to the Admissions representative upon request:

  • Your completed International Student Data Form (ISDF) or your International Applicant Coversheet. Fill out the following information completely and accurately:
    • Enter your name exactly as it appears in your passport, even though you may have more than one way of spelling your name (especially in English).
    • Enter your date of birth in the American format: month, day, and year (MM/DD/YYYY). For example, May 12, 1978, should be written 05/12/1978.
    • Answer every question.
    • Sign and date the form.
  • A copy of the biographical page of your passport
  • Copies of all of your immigration documents if you are currently in the U.S.
  • Required financial documentation demonstrating your ability to pay for your expenses at Boston University
  • Official TOEFL/IELTS score reports (if applicable)

If you are concerned about the status of your immigration documents, you should first contact your school or college Admissions office. If your materials were sent to the ISSO more than a week from the day you contacted them, you may contact our Assistant Director for Admissions & Student Support Services at 617-353-3565 or to check the status of your immigration document.

Once you have obtained your immigration document from ISSO, there are additional steps you will need to follow. Please refer to the Travel & Visas section for information on paying the SEVIS fee, the visa application process, and other vital immigration-related topics.

Summer Study

Summer Term will collect documents from you and will forward them to the ISSO for review. ISSO staff will communicate directly with you after your file has been reviewed.

  • Students taking a part-time course of study do not meet minimum immigration requirements for sponsorship in a student immigration classification.
  • If your primary purpose for visiting the U.S. will be to engage in activities other than study (for example, tourism or a visit with friends or family) and your summer studies will be secondary or incidental to those activities, you may be eligible to enter the U.S. on a visitor visa or through the visa waiver program.
  • If your primary purpose for visiting the U.S. will be to study at Boston University, you should enroll in full-time study (a minimum of 8 credits in one summer session or 12 credits over two summer sessions) and plan to enter the U.S. in a student immigration classification.


Once you have established your affiliation with a BU department and the terms of your appointment have been clarified, the ISSO will work with you and your sponsoring department to evaluate which immigration classification is most appropriate to suit the plans of your department and your needs as a prospective scholar. In our evaluation, we will consider a variety of factors such as the appointment/affiliation terms, your educational achievements, and your US immigration history.

Please review the immigration processing request instructions to determine whether or not you will need to gather additional paperwork to your sponsoring department.

Other Classifications

If you are already in the U.S., be aware that certain immigration classifications may permit you to enroll. Note that B1/B2/WB/WT visitor status and F-2 dependent status prohibit full time study or enrollment in a degree program.  However, under certain circumstances visitor classification may be appropriate for a short-term scholar affiliation.

Please visit our Overview of Immigration Classifications for details. If your current status does not permit you to achieve your goals it may be possible to change your immigration status.  Perspective students who wish to change to an F-1 or J-1 student status, our Change of Immigration Status section provides basic guidelines for changing to student status. Scholars who may require a change to imigration status should contact us.


If the ISSO has determined that you are eligible to come to the U.S. in a visitor category, you will need an invitation letter from BU. Send your sponsoring department a copy of the biographical information page(s) from your passport (including passport expiration). They will send us this copy along with your BU appointment letter and/or an explanation of your BU affiliation, and we will assist with the wording of the invitation letter.

To determine the appropriate visitor category and the associated steps, review the requirements for entering the US in visitor classification. All visitors are required to check in with the ISSO upon arrival in the U.S.


Family members who may enter with, or later join, the principal student or scholar are limited to the principal’s spouse or children under 21 years of age.  See our Family Matters section for full details concerning necessary documents and procedures, and for information on other family members who might want to visit with you during your time at BU.

    After Processing

    If you are currently outside the U.S., you will be notified at your BU email account when your immigration document (I-20 or DS-2019) is ready.  If you are outside of the US, you will likely need to apply for the appropriate visa classification at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are in the U.S., you may be able to remain the US while you wait to begin your new program of study.

    All international students and scholars must check-in with the ISSO upon arrival.  Please review our check-in information so that you know what documents to bring, what time slots are available or if you will need to make an appointment or a reservation and if you need to attend an orientation program.