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International Student Programs and Services

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.

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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.

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What if my internship requires that I get credit instead of compensation?

Columbia College, The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Columbia School of General Studies, do not provide credit for internships. There is no doubt that internships are valuable experiences for students seeking an introduction to a range of careers and professional cultures.  However, we expect companies to appropriately compensate students for work performed during internships. This policy is one adopted by many of our peer institutions and also is in accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act and NY State’s Minimum Wage Act and Wage Orders.

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Who needs to complete the language requirement at Columbia?

Columbia University teaches nearly 50 languages to the advanced level and over 170 languages are spoken in New York City, which makes your time at Columbia a fascinating way to connect language with culture and community. Study of a foreign language is required for Columbia College students and may be satisfied in different ways. Students who completed secondary school in a language other than English are not required to take an additional foreign language or an achievement test.

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I would like to get a job on campus. What do I need to know?

Full time F-1 and J-1 students are eligible for “casual” employment on campus, defined at Columbia as an employee on the Columbia University payroll who is performing non-exempt work (i.e., hours worked are tracked) for a limited period of time. This does NOT include work-study positions (work-study is a government subsidized financial aid program for U.S. citizens and permanent residents).

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Does the undergraduate program at Columbia offer CPT (Curricular Practical Training)?

No. CPT is employment authorization for an internship requirement or internship elective which is an integral part of the established curriculum of your school. CC and SEAS do not have an internship requirement for all undergraduate degree candidates and do not have any electives that require an internship for which academic credit is earned toward the degree. Undergraduate students may apply for OPT if they need employment authorization for summer internships. This time is deducted from the 12-month total at graduation.
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What is OPT (Optional Practical Training)?

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a benefit of F-1 student status that allows students to gain experience in their field of study by applying for off-campus work authorization. Students in F-1 status are eligible for 12 months of OPT per educational degree level. OPT may be granted and used before graduation (pre-completion OPT ) for part-time work during the school year or full time work during vacation periods.

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Do I get credit for the advanced work I did in High School?

CC and SEAS may grant up to 16 credits earned from Advanced Placement (AP), General Certificate of Education Advanced Level Examinations (A levels), the International Baccalaureate Examination (IB), and other national systems. Credit is typically awarded after the first year. A complete description of policies, credits, and/or exemptions can be found in the College and Engineering bulletins.

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What can I do to improve my English skills?

Living in a location where the language spoken is not your first or even second language can be a difficult part of adjusting to Columbia. It is useful to keep in mind that in the English speaking world, terms and phrases vary widely, so in a sense, everyone is getting used to Columbia’s language and academic rhetoric. One option for first year students looking to improve their English skills is a section of University Writing designed for English Language Learners (non-native speakers).

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Can international students go on a term abroad?

Yes. Study abroad opportunities are available for a semester, full academic year, or summer to all Columbia undergraduates. The staff of the Office of Global Programs helps students learn more about these opportunities. As an internationally-minded office, the staff is well-equipped to discuss cross-cultural issues and the benefits of enhancing students' international experiences.

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