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

F-1 Student Program Extension to Complete Current Program

Department of Homeland (DHS) regulations require students in F-1 status to complete their program by the expected completion date noted in item 5 on the initial Form I-20 ("...and complete studies not later than (date)___."). The stated length of study and expected completion date on the initial I-20 used to begin your current program of study at Columbia University determines whether you must apply for a "Program Extension" to remain in the U.S. to complete your program.

If you will not be able to complete your current program by the expected completion date because of valid academic or medical reasons, you must apply for a Program Extension with the ISSO, which is then responsible for notifying the DHS of this change.

THE PROGRAM EXTENSION MUST BE REQUESTED BEFORE THE EXPIRATION OF THE EXPECTED COMPLETION DATE. An F-1 student who is ineligible for a Program Extension either because of missing the deadline or not meeting the eligibility requirements listed below is considered out of status. The student may apply to the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) for reinstatement, if eligible.


  1. You must be in lawful F-1 status under the visa supervision of Columbia University.
  2. You must have maintained unbroken full-time status for every semester of your current program during which you have been in F-1 status.
  3. Delays in completing your studies must not be caused by academic probation or suspension.

Deadline: You must submit your application to the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) BEFORE the completion date on your I-20. There is no prescribed period in which to do so, except that an extension of an I-20 must take place before the current one expires.

How to Apply: Submit the required documents listed below as a single PDF file attached to an email to isso@columbia.edu.

Email Instructions: Scan your documents into ONE file in PDF format only. Submissions in any other format will not be accepted and reviewed. Do not send individual files (I-94 arrival record as one file, faculty advisor letter as another file, etc.). Do not take photos with your phone and send .jpg or .tiff files. Do not email a link to Dropbox, Google Drive or any other cloud site. You will receive an automated reply from the ISSO confirming that your email was received. Put your legal name, UNI and Extension in the subject line. Example: Joe Boxer jb1234 Extension

  1. Your I-20 and most recent arrival record accessed from https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov
  2. Financial documentation such as a bank statement or scholarship letter which shows that you have adequate resources to meet the tuition, fees, and living expenses for the additional time requested
  3. Documentation establishing valid reasons to continue beyond your I-20 time limit. This documentation will be a letter to the ISSO from your academic advisor stating the academic reasons for your need to extend your stay at Columbia and the expected date of completion of your program of study, or your school or department reflecting approval of your request for a reduced course load or medical leave of absence based on a physician's certification. Examples of compelling academic reasons contributing to a delay in completion include changes of major or research topic or unexpected research problems.
    Special Documentation Requirements for certain students:
    • Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Doctoral Students: All requests for an extension must come from your Director of Graduate Studies, not your advisor. The letter must state the expected defense date and degree conferral date.
    • Fu Fdn School of Engineering and Applied Science MS Students: Your department must send a written request for an extension to the Office of Student Affairs. If approved, Student Affairs will give you a letter (or email that you can print in advance) which explains the academic reason(s) for the extension.

The International Students and Scholars Office will:

  1. Review your application for eligibility
  2. Prepare a new I-20 extending your completion date and update your SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) record.
  3. Email you when your I-20 is ready to be picked up at the ISSO.

You must sign and date the new extended I-20

Last Reviewed: 4 June 2015 Last modified: 4 June 2015
Columbia University International Students and Scholars Office