Student Immigration Definitions

Obtaining F-1 Student Status at Columbia

Important Information for Students Fully Funded
by Columbia University

Transfer of F-1 Supervision

Change of Status to F-1

Message for Canadian Students

Potential Delays in Visa Issuance


Student Tax Information

Maintaining F-1 Status

Academic Certification for Travel

F-1 Travel Information

Govt Q & A for F-1 Travel

DHS Information on Arrival Problems

F-1 Extension of Stay (Current Program)

F-1 Extension of Stay to Begin New Program

F-1 Reinstatement

F-1 Work Opportunities

F-1 Practical Training (PT) Overview

F-1 Curricular Practical Training

F-1 Optional PT Before Degree Completion

F-1 Optional PT After Degree Completion

NEW STEM 24-month OPT extension

F-1 Internship with an International Organization

F-1 Leave of Absence, Suspension or Withdrawal

Student Departure Information

F-1 Reduced Course Load Request

Inviting Relatives/Friends to Visit You

Address Change Form

Applying for a Social Security Number

Important Information for Canadian Students

Obligation to Comply with Immigration Regulations

In terms of immigration regulations, the only difference between Canadians and other international students coming to the United States is that Canadian citizens are not required to apply for an entry visa at a U.S. consulate.

Some Canadians have mistakenly assumed that other regulations that apply to international students do not apply to them. Canadians are subject to the same regulations regarding employment in the United States, requirement for full-time study and all other provisions for maintaining status. Other than applying for a visa, it is important that you read about and abide by all other provisions relating to F-1 status. It is especially important for Canadian students to be vigilant about entering the United States in proper student status, as immigration inspectors are accustomed to admitting Canadian citizens as visitors.

Obtaining F-1 Student Status

To enter the U.S. in F-1 student status, Canadians must present the items listed below to the immigration inspector:

  • Form I-20 from Columbia University
  • Valid passport
  • Supporting financial documents submitted to obtain the Form I-20
  • Proof of SEVIS Fee payment
    To pay the SEVIS fee, click here and follow the instructions. Be sure to make a copy of the receipt for your own records.

After the immigration inspector reviews your documents, you will be given an I-94 Admission/Departure card to complete. Be sure to look at your I-94 card before you leave the inspection area to ensure that it has the notations "F-1 D/S" written on it. ALL international students, including Canadian students, must have a correctly annotated I-94 card to confirm current F-1 status. If your I-94 card does not have "F-1" "D/S", you are considered to be in Visitor (B-2) status, a status which does not permit study in the U.S.

If You are Already in the U.S.

Currently in a status other than F-1 - Students who do not plan to leave the U.S. before beginning studies at Columbia, and are currently in an immigration status other than F-1 are required to change status by application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In general, non-immigrants who are maintaining lawful status may apply for a change of status to F-1. You should review the detailed information in Application for Change to F-1 Student Status and consult an ISSO adviser or IAO adviser for more information or if you have questions or concerns or to review your application before submitting it to USCIS.

Currently in F-1 Status at Another Institution and transferring to Columbia - Students enrolled in another U.S. school under F-1 immigration status who are planning to enroll at Columbia University must complete a process in which the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is notified of this change. The transfer procedure begins with your current school "releasing" your SEVIS record to Columbia and qualifying for a Columbia I-20, and is NOT complete until you report to the ISSO or the IAO within 15 days of the program start date on your I-20. The first step is to get Columbia's I-20 in a timely manner. Please refer to our F-1 transfer procedures for exact details.

Continuing Students in F-1 Status at Columbia University - If you are completing one program at Columbia and are planning to pursue another degree or program at the University, DHS must be notified. The ISSO needs to issue you a new I-20 for the new program within 60 days of your completion date on your current I-20 or within 60 days of completion of your program, whichever is earlier. Contact the ISSO about qualifying for and obtaining a new I-20.

If You Will Be Accompanied By Dependents - If your dependents - spouse or unmarried children under 21 years of age - will accompany you to the U.S. or join you shortly after your arrival, you will need to provide the ISSO or the IAO with additional documentation showing your sufficient funding to meet your dependents' expenses and copies of their passport ID pages. An I-20 will then be issued for each of your dependents which they will use to enter the U.S. in F-2 status. You may request an I-20 for your dependents at any time during your stay at Columbia. Note that dependents are not required to pay the SEVIS fee.

Exchange Visitor (J-1) Visa Alternative

Another visa classification for full-time study is the J-1 Exchange Visitor status. J-1 students come to the U.S. under a contract agreement that is formally known as the Exchange Visitor Program. Students who are personally financing their studies are not eligible for J-1 status. Funding for J-1 students usually is from a government or international organization. University funding may also qualify. Please refer to and read carefully the section on Immigration Status under student immigration definitions for a summary of some of the differences between F-1 and J-1 immigration status so that you can make an informed choice.

Last Reviewed: 9 March 2011 Last modified: 9 March 2011
International Students and Scholars Office
Columbia University