Several immigration statuses and conditions commonly at Columbia allow a person to enter the United States without Columbia's sponsorship. Some of these categories allow for work authorization while others do not. The most commonly encountered immigration statuses or conditions are TN, F-1 practical training, J-1 academic training, and B-1/B-2.
Departments planning to offer an academic appointment to someone who is currently in the U.S. in non-immigrant student status should be sure to consult an advisor in the ISSO. International students usually hold either an F-1 or a J-1 student status. Under certain circumstances, federal law allows an international student in either F-1 or J-1 status to request an extension of stay for periods that vary by regulation, from 8 to 36 months beyond the graduation date, in order to gain practical work experience related to his or her field of study in the U.S. This work experience opportunity is called practical training (F-1 status) or academic training (J-1 status).
Columbia appointments for individuals eligible for practical or academic training should be handled carefully. It may not be possible for those in J-1 status who are subject to a two year home residency requirement to continue their appointment beyond the expiration date of the training. Individuals who come to Columbia to work in administrative or support staff positions generally are ineligible for Columbia sponsored status at the end of their training period and will therefore be limited to working only until the end of their authorized practical or academic training. If you have any questions about an appointment for someone completing a degree at a U.S. institution, please be sure to consult an advisor in the ISSO.
The B-1/B-2 status is used for short-term visits for business (B-1) or pleasure (B-2). The B-1 Visitor for Business visa classification may be used by scholars planning to pay short visits to one or several campuses in the United States. It is not intended for use by a scholar accepting any type of formal academic appointment. Those in B-1/B-2 status cannot receive a salary. An honorarium can be given to a scholar in B-1/B-2 status if the person is engaged in an academic activity lasting no more than 9 days at Columbia and the person has not received payments from more than 5 other institutions in a 6 month period. The recipient must have a US Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to be eligible and forms must be completed with the Controller's Office while the visitor is in the United States. Reimbursement is possible only for some expenses and is subject to Income Tax withholding.
A person requesting a B-1 visa must present to the U.S. Consul a letter of invitation from Columbia. The letter must state the purpose of the visit and also state that no salary will be paid by Columbia. That same letter must be presented to an immigration official at the point of entry into the U.S. and a specific request made for entrance in B-1 classification. The immigration official will note "B-1" on the scholar's entry permit (Form I-94). It is at the American Consul's discretion to grant any visa. Consuls in some countries, India for example, rarely use this classification.
The notation on the I-94 form is of the greatest importance. Often a person will have a B-1/B-2 visa for an indefinite period of time in his or her passport. But it is the presentation of the letter of invitation from Columbia that authorizes the immigration official to grant the B-1 classification at the time of entry into the U.S.
It is difficult to change from B-1 status to one more appropriate to an international scholar after entering the U.S. If such a change is allowed, the immigration official may take several months to grant a decision, during which time paid employment is not allowed.
B-2 Visitors for Pleasure cannot receive any kind of professional affiliation while in the U.S. The B-2 is strictly a visitor visa for holiday or pleasure. Please contact the International Students and Scholars Office if you need further information on this matter.
The Visa Waiver Program allows citizens of certain countries to enter the U.S. for a brief visit without obtaining a B-1/B-2 visa stamp at a consulate or embassy abroad. Visitors to the U.S. may use the Visa Waiver Program only when they are staying for less than 90 days and when they hold a return air ticket. Individuals who enter the U.S. on the Visa Waiver Program are not eligible to extend their stay in the U.S. or to change to a different non-immigrant status without leaving the U.S., obtaining a visa stamp for the new category, and re-entering the U.S. A list of currently participating countries is on the State Department website at http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/visit/visa-waiver-program.html.
Last reviewed: 11 January 2016 Last modified: 11 January 2016
Columbia University International Students and Scholars Office