Applying for a Visa (Students)

Complete the following steps to apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy. You cannot apply for or renew an American visa in the United States.


How to Apply

Before You Begin

You will need a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) from Columbia University (I-20 or DS-2019). 

Don't have one? Learn how to apply for an F or J COE (I-20 or DS-2019).

You do not need to apply for a visa if you:

  • are a national of Canada or Bermuda. You are exempt from the requirement of obtaining a visa in your passport but you do need a COE (I-20/DS-2019).
  • already have an unexpired entry visa in the same classification that was issued when you attended another school. You may use your unexpired visa to enter the United States with a Columbia I-20 or DS-2019.

Ready to Apply?

Steps to apply for a visa for students
Step 1

Complete the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (DS-160)

Complete the State Department's Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (DS-160) which is the first step in making your visa appointment.

DS-160 Overview

Read more about the DS-160 application here.

Watch this short video on how to apply online for a visa:

How to apply online for a visa

DS-160 Tips

If you do not know where you will live in New York City, use your department or school address (usually on your admission letter) or the School Address listed on your COE. This is also your U.S. Point of Contact information. The main University telephone number is 212-854-1754.

Dependents must submit their own DS-160 form to apply for a dependent visa.

Step 2

Make your visa appointment

Go to the link for the embassy or consulate where you will apply for a visa to learn about scheduling a visa appointment, procedures and requirements specific to its location.

Step 3

Gather your documents and information

Additional documents if your spouse or children will be applying for an F-2 visa:

Additional documents if your spouse or children will be applying for a J-2 visa:

Step 4

Learn what to expect at the visa appointment

Interviews are very short, so it’s important to use the limited time to clearly explain your purpose for going to the United States for a temporary time and your plans after you complete your program.

Most nonimmigrant visas require you to establish that you are going to the U.S. only for a temporary purpose, such as pursuing an academic degree or engaging in research, and do not intend to stay permanently. 

You need to show

  • that you will keep a residence abroad and expect to return there.
  • personal, professional, and financial ties to your home country.

Ink-free, digital fingerprint scans will be taken as part of your application process. They are usually taken during your interview, but this varies based on location.

After your visa interview, the consular officer will let you know if further processing is necessary for your application.

Review the Department of State's (DOS) web information on further administrative processing. If your visa processing is delayed, it is important to notify both your academic department and our office.

Step 5

Receive and review your entry visa

Check the entry visa in your passport to make sure that all the information on it is correct. It's much better to fix a problem while you are still home than to notice it when you arrive in the United States.

Your original I-20 or DS-2019 should be returned to you. You will need to show the form when you arrive at a U.S. port of entry in addition to your visa.