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International & Exchange Student Bylaw Resource Center

Understanding the OHSAA International & Exchange Student Bylaw

Since its inception in 1908, the member schools of the OHSAA have welcomed international students to our state and into the athletics programs sponsored by the member schools with certain restrictions.  Unfortunately, the history of this Association and others like ours within the USA has demonstrated that students from outside the United States are very often targets for exploitation and recruitment for purely athletic reasons.  In order to keep the playing field level for both the international student and for students who live in Ohio, to prevent displacement and to reduce the opportunity for recruiting, the membership has approved three ways by which an international student may participate in an Ohio member school.  Those three ways are described below and include what a school administrator must do to secure an eligibility ruling.

The purpose of this section on the Bylaw 4-8-1 - International Students - is to provide guidance as to the action required to ensure eligibility for certain international students. Please note that an international student residing in Ohio with his/her parents does not require a ruling under this bylaw. 

Bylaw 4-8-1 reads as follows:

For the purpose of this bylaw, an international student is a student who is not a United States citizen and who is in Ohio receiving education in an Ohio school. An international student who does not have a parent (biological or adoptive) residing in Ohio is ineligible for interscholastic athletics in Ohio unless the student can meet one of the exceptions below. 

Bylaw 4-8-1, Exception 1 Guidance

EXCEPTION 1: The international student who is a participant in a recognized visitor exchange program may be eligible for interscholastic athletics subject to the restrictions and conditions set forth below:
a. The international student may be eligible for a maximum of one school year which is the first year of enrollment at the Ohio member school.
b. The international student has not previously participated in any other visitor exchange program in the United States. If the international student has participated in another visitor exchange program in Ohio or any other state, the period of participation in that other program shall count against the one year maximum eligibility set forth in (a) above.
c. The international student is in this country pursuant to a J-1 Visa. No other visa type, passport or other documentation shall qualify the student for eligibility under this exception.
d. There shall be no evidence of a direct placement for athletic purposes into a specific member school in Ohio.
e. No more than five (5) international students from the same visitor exchange program, in one member school, shall be permitted to be eligible during any school year.
Please review the memo explaining this process here https://ohsaaweb.blob.core.windows.net/files/Eligibility/forms/FEmemo.pdf   In order to secure a ruling, please complete the form, sign and send via email to Lizzy Wilson at [email protected] .  The form that shall be used is found here https://ohsaaweb.blob.core.windows.net/files/Eligibility/forms/FEelig.pdf   When the principal or other senior administrator signs off on this form, that signature indicates personal verification of each of the requirements, including the student’s possession of the J1 visa.

Bylaw 4-8-1, Exception 2 Guidance

EXCEPTION 2: A student from a country or province outside the United States may be declared eligible for interscholastic athletics upon the submission of a court-approved document certifying the student’s adoption by a legal resident of the school district in which the student is attending. The student is not eligible until declared eligible by the Executive Director upon submission of the appropriate court documents.


The principal or athletic administrator shall send to Kristin Ronai ([email protected]):
1. Copy of the court entry approving the adoption and signed by either a judge or magistrate.
2.  Cover letter verifying that the person named in the adoption document is a bona fide resident of an Ohio public school district and the student will live with the adoptive parent(s).

Bylaw 4-8-1, Exception 3 Guidance

EXCEPTION 3 – An international student may be declared eligible if his or her participation is mandated by state law.
To secure a ruling, please complete the form, sign and send via email to Lizzy Wilson at [email protected].  The form that shall be used is found here: https://ohsaaweb.blob.core.windows.net/files/Eligibility/forms/FEcert.pdf  Please also include the student’s properly completed Form I-20 which is found here http://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/student-forms?form=Forms_I-20 .  When the principal or other senior administrator signs off on this OHSAA form, that signature indicates personal verification of each of the requirements, including the student’s possession of the F1 visa and the properly completed Form 1-20.

Bylaw 4-8-2 - Ohio Student Return from an International Exchange Program

An Ohio student returning from an international exchange program may resume interscholastic competition in the same Ohio member school from which the student left provided the student meets all requirements relative to age, semesters of eligibility as well as preceding grading period scholastic requirements upon return to the member high school.
These requirements mean that the student shall be considered to have used semesters of eligibility while studying abroad, and shall have received passing grades which count toward graduation in a minimum of five one credit courses or the equivalent in the final grading period of the exchange program (Bylaw 4-4-1). Such a student is ineligible until ruled eligible by the Executive Director’s office.
However, if a student intends to audit all course work while engaged in the international exchange program and thus receive no credit for the experience, the Executive Director’s office may consider restoration of academic and/or semester eligibility upon return to the same high school under the following conditions:
  • An application for consideration, which clearly articulates the academic program the student will fulfill, is filed with the Executive Director’s office prior to commencing participation in the international exchange program.  The application will specify the course work to be attempted and the fact that no credit will be earned for the experience.
  • The student will not participate in any sport in which he or she wishes to retain semesters of eligibility while engaged in the international exchange program.  If the student participates in either an interscholastic or non-interscholastic program, the semesters during which such participation takes place shall count toward the total of eight which are permitted. This waiver is available only for students who have completed their first or second year of high school.  
 The Principal shall submit a letter requesting the restoration of eligibility citing circumstances of the student’s situation to Kristin Ronai ([email protected]). Please note that this application for a waiver of the scholarship and semester bylaws is available to rising sophomores or rising juniors only and only if requested in advance of engaging in the exchange program.