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International Student Programs and Services

What do my visa and status mean?

An entry VISA is a travel document issued by a U.S. Consulate and attached to a page in your passport that is evidence of your eligibility to be admitted to the United States in a particular status with supporting documents. After admission to a program of study, International students who require an F-1 student visa to study in the U.S. apply for a certificate of eligibility called an I-20 from the International Students and Scholars office (ISSO). The I-20 is needed to apply for the entry visa to present upon arrival.

How do I stay in status?

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.


My visa is expired/about to expire. What should I do?

An entry visa in your passport is relevant ONLY to your eligibility to be admitted to the U.S., not for remaining in the U.S. What matters while you are in the United States is maintaining your F-1 status for the duration of your academic program as reflected on your I-20. If your entry visa expires while you are in the U.S. you will have to obtain a valid one before re-entering the U.S. from a trip abroad. You cannot renew a visa in the U.S. but will have to apply for a new one at a U.S. consulate abroad, most likely in your home country.

What do I need to do if I want to travel in F-1 status?

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.


What should I do if I forget my I-20 while traveling?

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.


I would like to get an unpaid internship or volunteer off campus. What do I need to know?

Interning and volunteering offer opportunities to gain experience, build your skills, and strengthen your resume. 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). Start by using these tools:


What are the financial aid options for an international student?

Columbia does offer financial aid to international students (non-U.S. citizens). The Columbia Undergraduate Admissions reviews international students applying for admission with financial aid through a need-aware process, which means the chances of being admitted with funding are competitive. Those who seek financial aid must apply at the same time they apply to Columbia for admission. Students without U.S. citizenship or U.S.


What does Columbia require to apply?

If you are applying to Columbia College or The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science as an undergraduate candidate, please read the Application Requirements.


I want to study in the U.S. Where do I start?

Students interested in studying in the United States can start researching the process by using their secondary school’s resources (like a college or career office if one exists) or the nearest EducationUSA office. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security offers resources on the Study in the States website for further browsing.


What do FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) mean?

FERPA stands for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. Under FERPA, when a student enters university in the U.S. at any age, all rights and responsibilities to privacy of educational records are transferred to the student. Educational records can include grades, financial aid records, disciplinary records, student account information, Dean’s Office files, and Residential Program files.



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International at Columbia


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