Admitted Students (Pre-Arrival) FAQs

Updated on August 12, 2021

Please find below answers to immigration-related questions. SEVP confirmed on April 26, 2021 that guidance originally issued in March 2020 for the COVID-19 emergency is extended for the 2021-2022 academic year. We review this information regularly and update as needed. 

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Admitted Students FAQs 

Applying for a Visa

The Department of State indicated that U.S. Embassies and Consulates are beginning a phased resumption of routine visa services based on local conditions. Students have been reporting that visa services are resuming. For the latest status of visa processing at your nearest U.S. Embassy, refer to the U.S. Embassy website for details and check the Department of State's U.S. Visa News.

If you have an unexpired visa in your passport, you do not need to apply for a new visa. You may enter the U.S. with the unexpired F-1 entry visa, even if there is another institution’s name on it. Bear in mind that the F-1 entry visa is valid to enter the U.S. only until the expiration date listed on the F-1 entry visa. You will still need to apply for an I-20 issued by Columbia.

You must obtain an updated I-20 to arrive for a later term. You can apply for your student visa only up to 120 days before your new term of arrival. We will email you to report your change of arrival plans to obtain an updated I-20. You will need your updated I-20 for your visa appointment.
 


 


 

Yes, you may use the I-20 you have to obtain the visa. Your visa will remain valid until its expiration date, even if your I-20 dates change. Report your change of arrival plans to the ISSO to obtain an updated I-20. 

Entering the U.S. (Updated May 12, 2021)

Students traveling from the Schengen Area, the UK, and Ireland with valid F-1 visas can enter the U.S., and do not need to seek a National Interest Exception (NIE) to travel. Students from those areas who are traveling on a J-1 visa may contact the nearest embassy or consulate to initiate an Exception request. Click here for more information.

Students traveling from China, India, Iran, Brazil, or South Africa with valid F-1 visas can enter the U.S. for the fall semester, and do not need to seek a national interest exception to travel. You can enter the U.S. up to 30 days before your fall I-20 start date. Students from those areas who are traveling on a J-1 visa may contact the nearest embassy or consulate to initiate an NIE request. Students in programs starting this summer may contact your department for enrollment options. Click here for more information.

CPT/OPT Eligibility

You must arrive in the U.S. within 30 days of the start of the fall semester in order for the term to count toward practical training eligibility. 

Refer to our webpages on CPT and OPT in the Employment section of our website which address eligibility. If you have additional questions, please email us at [email protected] or to [email protected] (for CUIMC students). 

Students need to study for two semesters in the US before being eligible for OPT. You must arrive in the U.S. within 30 days of the start of the fall semester in order for the term to count toward practical training eligibility.

If you have only one semester remaining in your program, you will not be eligible for OPT after completing your program.

Refer to our webpages on CPT and OPT in the Employment section of our website which address eligibility. If you have additional questions, please email us at [email protected] or to [email protected] (for CUIMC students).

Change of Status

Review the information on applying to change your status in the U.S. Typically the ISSO recommends that you travel abroad to apply for your F-1 visa. Given the current uncertainties regarding visa processing and travel restrictions, if you are considering changing your status in the U.S., the ISSO strongly encourages you to work with an experienced immigration attorney.

Deferring Offer of Admission

If you are unable to obtain a visa or will arrive late you should contact your department or admissions office and request information on your options for attending at a later time.

You should contact your department or admissions office and request information on your options for attending at a later time. You should apply for your I-20 3-4 months before you plan to arrive. 
 

You should contact your department or admissions office and request information on your options for attending at a later time. We will email you to report your change of arrival plans to obtain an updated I-20. You will not need to pay the COE Processing Fee again. 

Enrollment Requirements for New Students

Columbia University is resuming in-person instruction and activities. The University expects all students to take in-person courses for Fall 2021. Contact your academic department if you cannot arrive on campus. 

International students in the US are not permitted to take 100% online courses. 

You can count only ONE online class toward your minimum number of credits required for your full-time enrollment

Refer to the University’s Fall 2021 Instruction Guidelines for additional information.

Online Courses

You are not able to enter the U.S. if you are taking all online classes. You will need to request an updated I-20 with a later start date. You can enter the U.S. for a later term with the updated I-20 and a valid unexpired F-1 visa when you resume in-person classes.

Transfer Students

The ISSO will issue your transfer I-20 as long as you can be transferred to us by your current institution. After receiving your transfer I-20, report your arrival to the U.S. by submitting the SEVIS Report Form so we can activate your F-1 record. The University expects all students to take in-person courses for Fall 2021.


 

You may study remotely if your program allows for remote study. We are not permitted to make your F-1 SEVIS record Active while you are outside of the U.S. We will email you to report your change of arrival plans to obtain a new I-20. You will not need to pay the ISSO COE Processing Fee again. 


 

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Related Resources

Refer to the University’s Communication Updates for official announcements and reach out to your school.

Refer to Columbia University's COVID-19 Resource Guide, information on the Vaccine Page and the Vaccine FAQs that are updated frequently as new information becomes available.  

Stay informed by regularly checking University Communications in the University's COVID-19 Hub.