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 Employment Before Graduation PowerPoint Slides

F-1 Optional PT After Degree Completion

Post-Completion OPT PowerPoint Slides (PDF format)

NEW STEM 24-month OPT extension

F-1 Internship with an International Organization

F-1 Leave of Ab sence, 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

Visa and Document Overview for Students in F-1 Status

Your Legal Obligations

It is essential to remember that you must take full responsibility for maintaining your status with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). That is, you are responsible for finding out, knowing, and following pertinent regulations.

If you take time early on to familiarize yourself with your obligations to the Department of Homeland Security, you should find it easy to maintain your legal status. If, however, you allow yourself to fall "out of status", it may be extraordinarily difficult to be reinstated to legal F-1 status.

The best resources to assist you in maintaining your status are this Web site, Coming to Columbia online, and the staff of the ISSO, at 524 Riverside Drive or the International Affairs Office at the Medical Center, Room 1 126B Black Bldg., 650 West 168th Street. Every effort has been made to provide reliable and accurate information on rules that govern student immigration classifications. When regulations change - as is frequently the case - the ISSO and the IAO will have current information. Feel free to come in and ask questions anytime.

Note that there are two offices that handle the immigration documents for Columbia University students. You can determine which office to contact by looking at your Form I-20. The name and address of the appropriate office is on your form.
As your visa sponsor, Columbia University has legal obligations which are met by the ISSO or IAO. International students in F-1 status are in SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System), a national database through which student immigration documents created and student records maintained. Among other things, these offices are required to make regular reports on students' enrollment status, completion of program, employment recommendations, and failure to maintain status.

A Few Words of Advice for Students

  • Familiarize yourself with "Student Immigration Definitions" before reading anything else.
  • Although most requests for documentation submitted to the ISSO or IAO usually are done on the spot while you wait, it is prudent to allow at least five business days for processing.
  • Bring with you your passport and all relevant immigration documents - including your I-20 and any previous I-20's - when you come to the ISSO or IAO for immigration information or document processing.
  • Carry financial documentation when you travel.
  • If you are the least bit uncertain about your status - for example, whether your program will be full-time, whether your permission to stay is valid, or whether you can be paid for an assistantship - check with the ISSO or the IAO immediately. Students who do not meet the full-time or normal progress requirements may have problems restoring their status. Therefore, if you believe your circumstances warrant extraordinary consideration, it is extremely important that you consult with the ISSO or IAO before registering for your program. We are here to help you and advise you.

Last Reviewed: 21 February 2011 Last modified: 21 February 2011
Columbia University International Students and Scholars Office