Student Immigration Definitions
Obtaining J-1 Exchange Visitor
Student Category Status at Columbia
Transfer of J-1 Supervision
Change of Status to F-1
Potential Delays in Visa Issuance
Student Tax Information
Message for Canadian Students
Maintaining J-1 Status
Health Insurance Overview for J-1 Students
J-1 Travel Information
DHS Information on Arrival Problems
J-1 Extension of Stay (Current Program)
J-1 Extension of Stay to Begin New Program
J-1 Work Opportunities
J-1 On-Campus Work Request
J-1 Academic Training
Employment Authorization for J-2
J-1 Leave of Absence, Suspension or Withdrawal
Student Departure Information
Home Country Residency Requirement
Reduced Course Load Request
Address Change Form
How to Obtain J-1 Exchange Visitor Status for Students
The information to follow is provided to help you get to Columbia in appropriate immigration status in compliance with the U.S. Department of State (DOS) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations.
Please note that there are two major offices that handle the immigration documents for students at Columbia University. All students studying at the Morningside campus are served by the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO). Some students at the Columbia University Medical Center are served by the ISSO and some by the International Affairs Office (IAO). You will be informed of which office will manage your paperwork after you have been admitted to the University.
What is J-1 Exchange Visitor Status?
Most students come to the United States to study in F-1 Student status. Your documents will automatically be processed for F-1 status unless you specifically request J-1 status. Some of the differences between F-1 and J-1 status are discussed in the section on immigration status under Immigration Definitions. Please read this section carefully so you can make an informed decision as to which status you wish to obtain.
Obtain DS-2019 from ISSO or IAO
If You are Outside the U.S.
Canadian Citizens- Canadian citizens do not require an entry visa to enter the U.S. from Canada, but do require an DS-2019 and a valid passport and must follow certain procedures.
How to Apply for an Initial
J-1 Entry Visa
Step 1: Make an appointment at a U.S. Consulate to apply for an J-1 Student entry visa. You will require the DS-2019 form from Columbia University at the time of your appointment. DO NOT MAKE AN APPOINTMENT UNTIL you have received the DS-2019 or are sure that you will have the DS-2019 in time for the appointment. The ISSO issues DS-2019's in the order that complete applications are received, and is unable to rush yours because you made an appointment too early. Check the following websites for more information on visa appointments.
For information about current wait times for the appointment and for visa
issuance. NOTE that the processing wait times do not include extra time
that may be required for security clearances.
Step 4: Pay the SEVIS fee
and print the receipt.
Step 7: Bring a passport-size
photo less than six months old. Check Nonimmigrant
Visa Photograph Requirements for details.
Step 9: Checklist of what
to take with you to your visa interview:
____ Form DS-2019
____ School admission letter
____ Completed visa applications (DS-156, DS-158, and, if applicable, DS-157) Remember to complete the DS-156 electronically and take a printed copy with you. Consulates have advised that the electronic version will speed up the process.
____ A photograph in the prescribed format (see Step 7)
____ A receipt for the visa application fee
____ A receipt for the SEVIS fee. If you have not received an official receipt in the mail showing payment and you paid the fee electronically, the consulate will accept the temporary receipt you printed from your computer. If you do not have a receipt, the consulate may be able to see your payment electronically if your fee payment was processed at least 3 business days before your interview.
____ Financial evidence that shows you have sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses during the period you intend to study.
____ Any information that demonstrates your intention to return to your home country after finishing your studies in the U.S. This may include proof of property, family, or other ties to your community.
Step 10. After the visa is processed, make sure you got what you requested! Check your passport to be sure you obtained a J-1 visa, and that any dependents obtained a J-2 visa. Also, be certain that the DS-2019 was returned to you, as you must have the original with you when you arrive in the United States. Sometimes, the document is returned to you in a sealed envelope, which must be presented to the immigration inspector when you arrive.
Canadian Citizens: Canadian citizens do not currently require an entry visa to enter the U.S. but DO require a DS-2019, a valid passport and proof of payment of the SEVIS
fee to enter the U.S. in J-1 student status. To pay the SEVIS fee, click here and follow the instructions. Be sure to make a copy of the receipt for
your own records.
Some Canadians have mistakenly
assumed that regulations that apply to international students do not apply
to them. Students from Canada are subject to the same regulations regarding
employment in the United States, requirement for full-time study and all
other provisions for maintaining 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.
Inside the U.S.
For details on how to transfer your J-1 status to Columbia, see Transfer of J-1 Supervision.
Currently in a status other
Because your intention at the time of admission to the U.S. is an issue with a change of status application, a change of status from B-1 or B-2 visitor status may be very difficult unless the B-1/B-2 entry visa was issued with the notation "prospective student" on it. Most problematic is that an individual in B-1 or B-2 status is prohibited from enrolling in classes until the change of status to J-1 has been approved, and there is no way of knowing how long this will take.
Requesting J-2 Status for