Pre-Arrival FAQs

Do you have a deadline for the New Student Visa Documentation Process?

ISSA does not have a deadline for submitting materials required for the issuance of an I-20/DS-2019. However, we recommend you do not delay.  The I-20/DS-2019 is required for the visa application process.

Do you have any scholarships or financial aid for international students?

Penn State is a public university funded primarily by government and taxpayer money. U.S. citizenship or legal permanent residency is a requirement for federal funds and Pennsylvania residency is a further requirement for state funds. 

Financial aid is not available for international undergraduate students. 

Graduate level students can contact the academic program directly to inquire about available assistantships.  Programs vary considerably in the amount of assistance available, application deadlines and procedures.  You can obtain a list of programs offered by visiting the Graduate Admissions website:  Each academic department has its own requirements and has sole discretion in awarding assistantships. 

Look for scholarship funding through organizations that specialize in financially assisting international students to study in the United States.  Many organizations have listings in financial reference manuals that can be found in public and university libraries.  Additional listings can also be found on the web.

Helpful Links:

What is an acceptable financial guarantee?

The form I-20 for F-1 visa requires students to show proof of adequate funds to cover the first 12 months of a student’s program and written support for future years of a student’s program of study.  

The form DS-2019 requires proof of funding for all years of the student’s program of study. 

Acceptable financial guarantee information can be found at the following link:  Financial Guarantee Requirements

What is an “Affidavit of Support,” or “Support Letter?”

Financial guarantors must clearly state in their own words the length and duration of the sponsorship.

The commitment on the support letter should have specific language. For example, a support letter written by a parent which states, “I will cover all of my son’s expenses for five years” is too general, whereas one which states “I will provide my son with $70,000 each year to cover his school-related expenses for up to four years” is more specific and clearly details the sponsorship.

If the student is sponsored by a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, financial guarantee documents must be accompanied by an I-134 (Affidavit of Support).

Helpful Links:

Why are financial guarantee estimated expenses higher than those found cited in other places on Penn State websites?

Most offices at Penn State build their estimates on a single set of figures provided by the Office of Student Aid. The reason the estimates differ between offices often has to do with the type and purpose of the estimates. The estimated expenses for international students includes out-of-state tuition estimates and will be in the U.S. for 12 months. In addition, health insurance is mandatory for all international students.

How and when do I pay my tuition?

The Bursar’s Office will email a semester bill to your PSU email address detailing payment methods on or around the first week of classes. It is important to note you will not receive a paper bill.

Helpful Links:

Bursar’s Office: Office of the Bursar | (

Tuition Bill Instructions: New Student Information | Office of the Bursar (

When can I get my Lion Path and Email Accounts?

Students gain access to their LionPATH and Email Accounts at various time.  Undergraduates will activate the Penn State email a few days prior to their scheduled NSO Virtual orientaiton. Graduate students will active the Penn State email after their immigration documentation is approved by ISSA Pre-Arrival Advising.

Helpful Resources:

Penn State Account Management (

Access to LionPATH (

How and when do I get access to the resources I need? | Office of Information Security (

Do I have to accept my offer of admission to receive an I-20?

Yes. ISSA cannot create an I-20 or DS-2019 for you until you have finished the admission process and accepted your offer of admission.

Should I complete the New Student Visa Documentation Process?

All incoming international students, regardless of current visa status, need to complete the New Student Visa Documentation Process.

Only students who are requesting an I-20 or DS-2019 need to upload proof of funds, but all students are asked to complete the required forms in this iStart process.

What if I do not need a Penn State I-20 or DS-2019?

We ask that you still complete the New Student Visa Documentation Process in iStart, including the optional form “I don’t need an Penn State I-20/DS-2019.”  You are not required to upload financial guarantee documents, but should complete the financial guarnatee form as a required piece of the process.

Helpful Link:

For further questions contact:

Should I complete the SEVIS Transfer Request?

This eForm is to be completed by the student who:

  • is new to Penn State;
  • has been in the U.S. within the last five (5) months on an F-1 or J-1 visa;
  • is eligible to maintain the current SEVIS ID;
  • or may be currently engaged in a period of academic or practical training (J-1 academic training or OPT).

If you meet the conditions listed above, it should be possible to complete a SEVIS transfer and maintain the same SEVIS ID. This is the preferred method for maintaining your immigration status within the U.S.

Contact your current school’s international advising office to inquire if SEVIS transfer is possible.  If you are eligible for a SEVIS transfer, please complete the SEVIS Transfer Request eForm located within the New Student Visa Documentation Process.

Helpful link:

When should I have my SEVIS record transferred?

Request to have your SEVIS Record transferred to the Pennsylvania State University within 60 days of ending your last program or the end of your OPT employment. You must complete both a ‘transfer-out process’ with your current school and the SEVIS Transfer Request eForm within the New Student Visa Documentation Process.

How will my immigration document (I-20/DS-2019) be sent to me?

The student will be sent an electronic copy of the I-20 to their personal email. The electronic copy is an original copy which the student must print, sign, and keep with them.

The DS-2019 will be mailed to the student’s residential address. The student must sign the DS-2019 and keep the original document with them.   

How long will it take to receive my immigration document?

It may take up to 3 weeks to process I-20/DS-2019 requests during peak months of April to July.  Once an I-20 is issued, it will be immediately sent to the email address on file. Once the DS-2019 is processed, ISSA will ship the DS-2019, via FedEx, to the address you confirmed when completing the New Student Visa Documentation Process.  A tracking number will be sent to your email address on file for you to track the DS-2019 delivery.

Can the end date on my I-20 be adjusted for my personal situation?

ISSA is required to use the standard length of the program determined by your academic department. We work closely with admission teams to determine the standard by when most students complete the program of study.  If you cannot complete your program within the time noted on the I-20 or DS-2019, you can apply for an extension.

Why is there no admission number on my I-20?

Pre-Arrival Advising does not enter an admissions number on the I-20. 

After you enter the U.S., you will be able to retrieve the I-94 within 24 hours from the Customs and Border Protection website (I94 - Official Website (

The I-94 will have an admission number listed on the document.  Each time you enter the U.S. you need to retrieve the most recent I-94.  Each I-94 will have a different admission number. 

Helpful Links: Preparing to Enter the United States - Custom Border Protection | Global Penn State (

I do not have a surname name, or I do not have a given name-How does this affect my document??

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requires us to use the given name for the surname for individuals who do not have a surname. Therefore, on the I-20/DS-2019, when there is no surname, we will use the given name in the place of the surname. Other offices in the U.S. may use last name unknown (LNU) or first name unknown (FNU), but inconsistencies with the I-20/DS-2019 and are not permitted by the DHS. It is not possible to live in the U.S. without a surname name. Even Beyonce and Lizzo have a surname. You should realize that FNU or LNU will become your name because most people do not understand these abbreviations.

In all instances, surname, given name and middle name should all match what is on the passport. We cannot enter special characters such as hyphens and accents on the I-20/DS-2019 as these characters are not recognized.

ISSA will issue the I-20/DS-2019 with the name the admissions office has on file or we will recommend a change based on your passport. It is important for many reasons that you are consistent in the name you use. This will affect your living in the U.S. such as driver's license applications, social security number applications, etc.

I am coming to Penn State for fall semester on an assistantship. Can I enter the U.S. in the summer and work before I begin my studies?

You can enter the U.S. only 30 days before the program start date on the I-20. You may begin work 30 days before the first day of classes if you complete Immigration Check-In, are registered as Active in SEVIS, apply for a social security number and complete the onboarding tasks with Human Resources.   

What is my residency country on the application for the SEVIS I-20/DS-2019?

Residency country means the country in which you are a legal permanent resident. Often this field will simply be the country of your citizenship.

What if I need to arrive after the semester begins?

Late arrival for a semester requires approval from your academic unit before we can alter the dates on your I-20 or DS-2019. Please note Penn State Global is not involved in academic decisions.  Pre-Arrival Advising cannot guarantee approval for late arrivals or future funding.  Arriving late comes with a host of issues for a student: jetlag, orientation to a new culture, start-up processes like Housing, Banking, Immigration Check-In, Onboarding, AND ESPECIALLY make-up work for your academic courses.

Penn State residential courses cannot accommodate a hybrid start online until you can arrive in person.

Please contact and we will provide you with access to the late arrival request form in iStart. 

Undergraduate students:

  • Are not permitted to arrive past the drop/add period, which is the first Friday after classes begin.
  • Must have 12 credits scheduled upon arrival (at least 9 credits must be in-person).
  • If you are not permitted to arrive late, please cancel your classes before you acrue charges, and contact +1-814-865-5471 to request a deferral of your admission to a future semester.

Graduate students:

  • Should not arrive more than 2 weeks late.
  • Must have 9 credits scheduled upon arrival (at least 6 must be in-person)
  • If you cannot start your classes this semester, please work with your department to request a deferral of your admission.


What is Visa Administrative Processing?

Please refer to:

Provide the U.S. Consulate with any documentation requested of you. If they ask for academic information, work with your department for letters and such.  (International Student and Scholar Advising is not involved in the academic side of your Penn State experience.) Your graduate program faculty may be of assistance in helping you with any requested documentation.

If you are not able to arrive for the start of in-person classes at Penn State in your admitted semester, please work with your department: 

Defer your admission to the next available semester.  Work with Pre-Arrival Advising to change the dates on your I-20 or DS-2019. 

How can I take care of my immunization requirements?

University Health Services (UHS) realize international students who are currently registered at Penn State University Park or are planning to attend Penn State have unique healthcare needs.

Immunizations offer safe and effective protection from vaccine-preventable diseases. The United States is experiencing a re-emergence of many diseases, in part due to factors such as non-immunized and under-immunized persons and global travel. Penn State, along with University Health Services, strongly supports the use of immunizations to protect the health of individual students and the campus community.

For the safety of our campus community, students who do not supply proper evidence of immunity may be removed from campus during a communicable disease outbreak.

For a list of required and recommended immunizations, please visit the Immunizations Overview and Requirement guidelines here: You can email with additional questions.

Is health insurance required?

All international students in F-1 or J-1 status studying at Penn State must have health insurance for the entire period of study. Any F-2 or J-2 accompanying dependents must also carry health insurance.  Your health insurance must meet the Penn State requirements: . Moreover, the US Department of State requires all J-1 exchange visitors and their dependents to maintain health insurance; willful violation of this mandate requires termination of the J-1 status.

Students must purchase Penn State Health Insurance plan or apply for a waiver by providing evidence of having health insurance that meets the waiver standards. The charge for health insurance will be placed on the student’s Bursar account.

The financial guarantee required to obtain the DS-2019 includes the amount for health insurance. Questions regarding insurance or waivers should be sent to:

Can I use health insurance from my home country?

Penn State’s Student Health Insurance Office is responsible for administering the health insurance plans for all Penn State students. Please visit the University Health Services (UHS) website for more information: Health Insurance ( With specific questions about insurance, you may contact