Admitted Students (Pre-Arrival) FAQs

Updated on December 6, 2021

Please find below answers to immigration-related questions. 

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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 December 6, 2021)

Effective December 6, 2021 all foreign adult travelers to the U.S. are required to show proof of full vaccination and a negative result to a COVID-19 test taken no more than 1calendar day before departure. For more information, see Updated Pre-departure Testing Requirements for Air Travelers to the U.S.

  • Refer to this CDC infographic for a quick summary of the current pre-departure testing requirements.

CPT/OPT Eligibility

You must arrive in the U.S. within 30 days of the start of the 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 ISSO according to your school of enrollment:

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 ISSO according to your school of enrollment:

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 has resumed in-person instruction and activities. The University expects all students to take in-person courses. Contact your academic department if you cannot arrive on campus. 

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

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.


 

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 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 Resource Guide.