Frequently Asked Questions
The following is a list of frequently asked questions from across the offices supporting Columbia College and Columbia Engineering collected here in one place for your convenience. You can browse by topic/department or search by keyword.
International Student Programs and Services, International Student Visas
The two most important requirements are to remain registered full-time every term, making normal progress toward your degree, and not to accept any employment, either on- or off-campus, without written permission from the ISSO, and, if necessary, authorization from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Be familiar with the information in Maintaining F-1 status. Under certain conditions status may be reinstated if lost for reasons beyond your control. You may also regain status by leaving the U.S. and re-entering with a new I-20 for a new SEVIS record.
If you are leaving the U.S. during your program of study, you need an unexpired passport, unexpired F-1 entry visa, and an I-20 which has a travel signature obtained from the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) on page 3 that is less than 12 months old at the time that you return. Please read Travel and Re-entry in F-1 Status for more information. If you are traveling within the U.S., although only your passport is needed as identification, it is recommended to carry the aforementioned documents with you in case enter a situation that requires proof of status.
Remember to have your I-20 on your person and not packed away in checked luggage since you go through inspection before claiming bags. That said, if you forget your I-20, you should ask the immigration official for an I-515 upon entry, which will allow your admission in F-1 status for 30 days. With an F-1 visa you are normally admitted to the U.S. For 'duration of status' (D/S,) but if you are missing the I-20 it is most likely you will be admitted for 30 days with an I-515. Within that 30 days you will need to come to the ISSO for another I-20 and will need to send the new I-20 and the I-94 admission proof (departure card completed on the plane or print out from new automated system) to a government office to change your stay to “duration of status.” In a pinch you can log into SSOL to print out your registration record to demonstrate full-time enrollment.
The Center for Undergraduate Engagement provides basic visa advice for study abroad candidates. Whether you need a visa to visit a third country almost always depends on your nationality, not your status as a student in the U.S. You will have to look at the website of the embassy of the country you wish to visit to see their requirements for visitors. Columbia is conveniently located in New York City where you can easily visit the consulates from around the world if you do need to apply for a visitor visa.
You may work part-time (up to 20 hours per week) on-campus for Columbia from your first semester. Paid on-campus work is an allowed incident to your F-1 status and does not require additional Optional Practical Training (OPT) authorization. To be eligible for paid off-campus work, you must have completed an academic year in valid student status before being eligible. Any paid off-campus work (wages, or other compensation like a stipend or housing) requires authorization through OPT. OPT is approved in your field of study and requires an application to the immigration agency. The ISSO will assist with this. Refer to this summary of employment possibilities.
For unpaid work on or off-campus such as volunteering or an unpaid internship, you may start right away and do not need OPT. You must be sure the position is unpaid for anyone (i.e. not just you because you want to take the job as a volunteer).
International Student Visas
- Academic Life & Advising at Columbia (8)
- Academic Success Programs (5)
- Admitted Students (15)
- Berick Center for Student Advising (39)
- Career Considerations for International Students (13)
- Classes (8)
- Columbia College (8)
- Columbia Engineering (2)
- Columbia Outdoor Orientation Program (17)
- Columbia Outdoor Orientation Program (COÖP) (18)
- Columbia Urban Experience (2)
- Columbia Urban Experince (CUE) (11)
- Currently Enrolled Students (17)
- CUSP FAQ (10)
- CUSP Summer Enhancement Fellowships (16)
- Family Weekend (19)
- FAQs for All Incoming Students (9)
- Global Ambassador Program (10)
- Graduation and beyond (5)
- How to Comply with the Policy (14)
- How to Use the Undergraduate Travel Web App (4)
- International Student Orientation Program (14)
- International Student Orientation Program (ISOP) (14)
- International Student Programs and Services (65)
- International Student Visas (8)
- JADE FAQ (6)
- Majors (3)
- New Student Orientation Program (First-year Students) (11)
- Orientation (47)
- Parent and Family Programs (19)
- Parents & Families of International Students (7)
- Parents and Families (13)
- Policies and Procedures for Student Leaders (11)
- Preprofessional Advising (3)
- Prospective International Students (4)
- Prospective Students (11)
- Residential Life (5)
- Residential Programs FAQ (4)
- Scholars Program (26)
- Student Affairs (28)
- Student Engagement (18)
- Student Life at Columbia (17)
- Summer Bridge Program (5)
- Time Away (4)
- Transfer and Combined Plan Student Orientation (4)
- Undergraduate International Travel - Programs (8)
- Visiting Student Orientation (7)