Frequently Asked Questions

Advising and Orientation

Do I have to attend Orientation?

Orientation is mandatory for every new international student at Kent State University. This includes undergraduate, graduate, sponsored, exchange, transfer and ESL students.

At orientation, you will receive important information on maintaining legal visa status, opening a bank account, work authorization and opportunities, safety, staying healthy, and many other topics. In addition, you will have the opportunity to meet other international students as well as the ISSS advisors and other OGE staff. If you do not attend, a registration hold will be placed on your account.


Do I have to schedule an appointment to meet with an ISSS advisor?

Yes, you will have to schedule an appointment with an advisor if you cannot meet during walk-in hours. Please refer to the ISSS advising schedule. All scheduling for advising appointments is done through KSU Advising.


Finances and Social Security

As an international student, can I open a U.S. bank account?

Yes. You may open a bank account at any bank you choose. The most common bank that our students choose is PNC. There is an on-campus branch in the Student Center. Learn more about establishing a U.S. Bank Account.


How do I get a Social Security Number (SSN)?

Please note: you cannot get a social security card/number without a job offer. Most providers (phone, bank, electric, etc.) WILL allow you to sign up for an account without an SSN. However, some companies do not allow you to sign up without an SSN. This only means you will be unable to open an account with that particular provider. For example, if a cell phone provider requires an SSN, then you will have to choose a different phone provider.

If you have a job offer, you will need a Social Security Employment Verification Form and a complete I-9 form. ISSS can help you with these. This page has more information about the required steps and forms.


I-20s, DS-2019s, Visas, and Legal Status

What happens if my visa expires? 

A visa is an "entry document" used to enter the U.S. If your visa expires in the U.S., there is no need for concern as long as you maintain valid F-1 status.

However, if you plan to leave the U.S., you will need a valid visa for re-entry into the U.S. Visas are issued at the U.S. Embassy abroad. Check with the U.S. Embassy/Consulate in your home country regarding visa renewal requirements.

F-1 and J-1 students must obtain a travel signature less than one year old on their I-20 or DS-2019 and are advised to take a copy of their next semester's school schedule with them. Students on OPT should have their Employment Authorization document and proof of qualifying employment.


What happens if my I-20/DS-2019 expires before I complete my program?

You must come in to ISSS as soon as possible and BEFORE your I-20/DS-2019 expires to have your document extended. You may request an extension of your I-20/DS-2019 no earlier than 120 days prior to the end date on your I-20/DS-2019.


I am out of status. What should I do? 

If you are out of status, you must make an appointment immediately to review your options for returning to status.



Can I work full time on campus? 

You can work up to 20 hours per week during the fall and spring terms. During summer, winter break and spring break, you can work up to 28 hours on campus if you are not taking classes. You do not need any special approval from ISSS to work on campus if you already have a social security number.


Can I work off campus?

You can only work off campus if you have been approved for Curricular Practical Training (CPT), Optional Practical Training (OPT), or Academic Training for J-1 students. All of these require authorization. You can find more information on CPT, OPT, and Academic Training in the ISSS Guides and Forms Library.

Internships are work and authorization must be obtained if you plan to have an internship at any time. In times of financial trouble, it is possible to apply for off-campus work authorization. If you would like more information, please make an appointment with an advisor to talk about Severe Economic Hardship.


Is it possible to obtain OPT without a job offer?

Yes. You do not need a job offer to apply for OPT.


How many hours do I need to register for if I am applying for CPT?

During the spring, summer, and fall, you must be registered for a minimum of 1 credit hour. Reminder: CPT stands for Curricular Practical Training. Its intent is to be used as a supplement to what you are learning, such as through a required internship in your program. It must also be recommended by your academic advisor.


How can a dependent in F-2 status obtain permission to work? 

They cannot. Anyone in F-2 status is not permitted to work under any circumstances.



Are there any programs for which your office cannot issue an I-20? 

Yes. A few programs’ curriculums conflict with current restrictions on online or distance learning coursework for F-1 students. For example, we cannot issue I-20’s for students enrolled in 100% online programs. Students are still welcome to apply to these programs and take the courses from their home countries.


How many credit hours are required to be a "full time" student?

Undergraduate students must be enrolled for a minimum of 12 hours (9 in-person or “traditional” hours, 3 online hours). Graduate students must be enrolled for a minimum of 8 credit hours (5 in-person or “traditional hours”, 3 online hours). These are the minimum hours needed to meet full-time student enrollment requirements and maintain valid F-1 (or J-1) student status.


Can I drop below full time?

Only in certain situations. Do NOT drop any classes before coming to the Office of Global Education to speak with an ISSS advisor. If you drop below full time without our approval, you will be considered out of status and your immigration record could be terminated.


Can I take the summer term off?

If you are enrolled full-time in the fall and spring semesters, and intend to continue your studies full-time, then you are eligible to take the summer term off.



Do I have to carry medical insurance while I am here?

Yes. As of June 4, 2015, all international students taking at least one credit hour are required to have health insurance that is comparable to the coverage provided by the Kent State University sponsored student health insurance plan. Having medical insurance is an important requirement when you are studying at Kent State. More information can be found on our Insurance and Immunization page.


I have questions about immunizations and health requirements for studying at Kent State. Who should I ask?

Please visit the University Health Services website or call them at +1-330-672-8263 for questions about immunizations and health requirements.


Am I eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine or boosters as an international student at Kent State?

Yes! You are eligible for and encouraged to set up an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine as a new international student. You can read more about the measures Kent State is taking to protect our students from COVID-19 here.



How can I use the bus system to get to surrounding cities?

The Portage Area Regional Transit Authority (PARTA) offers free travel training to anyone who wants to learn how to use the bus system to get around campus and the surrounding area. Please read the Transportation info page for more information.


I want to travel outside the U.S. What should I do?

If you want to travel outside the U.S., in order to return, you must have a valid F-1/J-1 visa, a valid I-20 or DS-2019 with a travel signature on page 2, and a valid passport (valid at least 6 months into the future). If you are planning to travel to a country other than your home country, view for travel guidelines and visa requirements.


I'm an international student. I have to go to another country for my research during the summer break. What should I do before I go there?

ISSS is not able to give any advice on entering a foreign country; you need to check the entry requirements with that country's embassy.

Before departing, make sure that you have the proper documents to return to the U.S. You will need:

  • a valid passport,
  • valid entry visa (not expired, issued for multiple entries), and
  • your I-20 or DS-2019 endorsed for travel by an ISSS advisor.

Full-time international students are not required to register for summer courses unless it is their first or last semester. There are no registration issues when traveling over summer.

Note: If you plan to be out of the country for more than five months, please see an ISSS advisor.


Do I need a new signature on my I-20/DS-2019 every time I travel?

No. Travel signatures on I-20s are valid for one year, and travel signatures on DS-2019s are valid for 6 months. If you are on OPT or an OPT STEM Extension, travel signatures are valid for only 6 months.

We recommend having ISSS review your documents any time you plan to travel outside of the country to make sure that everything is correct. You can leave your documents with ISSS for review and pick them up the following day.


My I-20 was not stamped upon re-entry into the U.S. What should I do?

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) no longer stamps I-20s/DS-2019s. You should have received a stamp in your passport indicating your date of entry and visa status. If you do not have this stamp, please contact us.