Applying for Your I-20/DS-2019

Congratulations on your admission to Columbia University! Now that you have been admitted to a full-time program of study, we will help you obtain the Certificate of Eligibility (COE) for F-1 (I-20) or J-1 (DS-2019) student status.

Person Applying for a COE Graphic
Orange Page Divider

Eligibility for a COE

There are two important qualifications. You must:

Orange Page Divider

Before You Apply

A COE is an official document processed by educational institutions that certifies your eligibility for F-1 or J-1 student status to visa officers at U.S. consulates,  immigration inspectors when arriving to the U.S., and other government agencies.  A COE is processed through SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System), a government database.

You will need a COE:

 

Please contact us only after 3 weeks have passed from the time you submit a complete COE application. We have a very high volume of applications that are processed in the order received. If your program begins in May, June or July, your application will have priority over fall admission.

Please review our Comparison Between F and J status chart. If you are eligible for both F and J status, you may choose the status you prefer.

Returning students will need to follow the instructions on our leave of absence page to get a new I-20/DS-2019.

If you are beginning a new program at Columbia at the same educational level or a new level, you should not continue on this page. Please follow the instructions at 
Beginning a New Program to apply for your new I-20 or DS-2019.

Orange Divider

How to Apply

Steps to Apply for I-20 or DS-2019
Step 1.

Gather your information and documents

Items 7 - 11 below are for SEVIS transfer students (in addition to the items above). Disregard if you are not a SEVIS transfer student.

Who does not need to pay?

Use University Express Mail Services (UEMS) for FedEx or other courier service. Follow these directions for UEMS shipping and have your order number available.

Step 2.

Login to Compass to apply for your COE

There are two ways to login to Compass: with a PID or with a UNI.

  • ISSO Morningside students may use either to login to Compass.
  • ISSO-CUMC students can use their PID only.

Learn more

Your PID is the 9-digit number beginning with “C” you will receive from your admissions office or department (e.g. C123456789).

Don’t have a PID?

  • Contact your admissions office.

The UNI consists of your initials plus an arbitrary number, e.g. AB123, and is part of your Columbia email address. Learn more about your UNI on the Columbia University Information Technology (CUIT) website.

Orange Page Divider

How to login to Compass

With a PID (ISSO Morningside and ISSO-CUMC)

You will need your PID to request a temporary Limited Services PIN to login to complete your application.

How to receive your Limited Services PIN

  1. Go to the Limited Services PIN Lookup page to request a Limited Services PIN. Enter your PID in the "University Identification Number" box. You will receive a confirmation on your browser screen that your request was successfully processed.
     
  2. Receive your Limited Access Pin. Your Limited Access Pin is sent to the e-mail address you used to apply to Columbia.
     
  3. Login to Compass. Make sure you have your PID, Date of Birth and Limited Access PIN ready. Please click the appropriate link below:

Not sure of your campus? Check our campus school list.
Need help using Compass? Learn more on our Compass User Guide.

Orange Page Divider

If you do not receive your Limited Access PIN

If you do not receive your Limited Access PIN within a few minutes, please check your SPAM folder. If you still do not receive it, please email the correct ISSO office only and be sure to include your PID and your preferred email address in the body of the email. In the subject line write “Limited Access PIN”:

Not sure of your campus? Check our campus school list.

With a UNI (ISSO Morningside only)

This means you have activated your UNI and created a password as instructed by the Columbia University Information Technology (CUIT) website.

How to login to Compass with an active UNI

  1. To login to Compass, please click the appropriate link below:

Not sure of your campus? Check our campus school list.
Need help using Compass? Learn more on our Compass User Guide.

If you have not yet activated your UNI via the CUIT website, you will need to activate it before you login to Compass.

How to activate your UNI to login to Compass

  1. Go to CUIT’s Account Activation page.
  2. Scroll to the bottom of the page and hit “accept”
  3. On the following page, also scroll to the bottom and hit “accept”
  4. It will take you to a page that asks you to enter your UNI (University Network ID) to activate it. Learn more about your UNI.
  5. Follow the instructions until you have successfully created a password and activated your UNI.
  6. Now you are ready to login to Compass. To login, please click the appropriate link below:

Not sure of your campus? Check our campus school list.
Need help using Compass? Learn more on our Compass User Guide.

If do not know your UNI, you will need to see if Columbia University has assigned one to you.

How to activate your UNI to login to Compass

  1. Go to CUIT’s Account Activation page.
  2. Scroll to the bottom of the page and hit “accept”
  3. On the following page, also scroll to the bottom and hit “accept”
  4. It will take you to a page that asks you to enter your UNI (University Network ID). Since you do not know your UNI, at the bottom of the page, click “Don't know your UNI? Click HERE to activate.”
  5. On the next page, you will be asked for your first name, last name, and date of birth. Leave the “Last 4 digits of U.S. Social Security Number” field blank. Once you enter the correct information, hit “search.”
  6. When you obtain your UNI, continue to activate it and you are ready to login to Compass. To login, please click the appropriate link below:

Not sure of your campus? Check our campus school list.
Need help using Compass? Learn more on our Compass User Guide.

Orange Page Divider

If your UNI cannot be found

Don’t worry, you can follow the steps above (With a PID) to login to Compass without a UNI.

Step 3.

We will contact you

Allow up to 3 weeks for us to review your application. Please don’t contact us until 3 weeks have passed.

We will notify you by email when your new I-20/DS-2019 is ready to be shipped.

Step 4.

Receive your I-20 or DS-2019

Review, sign and date. You will need to have this with you when you enter the United States.

Step 5.

Pay your SEVIS fee

Note: SEVIS transfer students do not need to pay a new I-901 SEVIS fee.

Step 6.

Apply for your visa at a U.S. consulate.

Orange Page Divider

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

F-1

If you are in F-1 status through another school—including post-completion OPT—and have not yet reached the end of your 60-day grace period—your current school must “transfer out” your SEVIS record to Columbia before we can issue a “transfer-in” Columbia I-20. Please consult our Transferring to Columbia (F-1).

J-1

If you are in J-1 student status and would like to transfer your J-1 sponsorship to Columbia, please consult our Transferring to Columbia (J-1 student). Note that the transfer of your record must be initiated BEFORE the end date on your DS-2019.

If you are married, your spouse (and children under 21 years of age) will need a dependent COE to apply for an F-2 or J-2 visa. You will need to provide proof of additional funding beyond your personal expenses. Your dependents’ information will be part of your application and their COEs will be processed and sent to you at the same time.

If you are not yet married at the time of your application but will be married before you come, you may include your future spouse in the application. However, you must be legally married at the time your spouse applies for an F-2 or J-2 visa.

If you are in a relationship but not legally married, your partner is not eligible for a dependent visa, but may apply for a B-2 visitor visa to accompany you under a provision for Cohabitating Partners described in the Foreign Affairs Manual for visa officers. Look for 9 FAM 402.2-4(B)(5).

Yes, it does. Please follow these instructions.

If you are studying at Columbia's American Language Program (ALP):

  1. Apply (from a different Columbia office) for your ALP I-20

  2. Use the I-20 from ALP to apply for your F-1 visa and to enter the U.S.

  3. After you finish your ALP program, follow the instructions on How to Apply (above) for your academic program I-20. As an ALP student you may disregard items G-I on the list of documents.

If you are studying English at another language school:

  1. Get your I-20 from your English as a Second Language (ESL) school

  2. Apply for your F-1 visa and enter the U.S. with your ESL school’s I-20

  3. After your ESL program is complete, follow the F-1 transfer instructions to transfer your SEVIS record to the ISSO.

No, this is not allowed by F-1 regulations. We are not authorized to issue I-20s for English language study. The start date of your academic program's I-20 will be the first day of the term.

Keep in mind that you are not allowed to enter the U.S. more than 30 days in advance of the program start date.

No because each I-20 will be created in a unique SEVIS record. Each I-20 would have a different SEVIS number and a different program start date. You have to start with the ESL I-20 and then transfer your ESL SEVIS record to us to process your academic program I-20.

Unfortunately, no.  If you visit the U.S. with a visitor visa (B1/B2) or with a visa waiver (ESTA) before enrolling in a program, you will need to leave the U.S. before you begin your program and return with a valid F-1 or J-1 visa and I-20 or DS-2019.

If you apply for a Change of Status in the U.S. from the government's immigration agency (USCIS), regulations do not allow you to start your academic program until your student status has been approved. Application to change status can take well over six months to be processed.

  • If your application is complete, your COE will be processed within 3 weeks. 
  • If we need additional information, we will email you to let you know what we need. Your application will not be considered complete until we have received and reviewed the additional information. 
  • When your COE is processed and ready to ship, we will email you.

If you have questions about your documents or this process please contact:

Don't know your Campus? Please check our Campus school list.

If you were recently accepted to Columbia, your record may not be in our system. Make sure you have accepted your offer of admission and paid your deposit, if applicable. If you cannot access the system after 10 business days, please contact the correct ISSO office only:

Don't know your Campus? Please check our Campus school list.

Orange Page Divider

COE Application Questions

Due to the high volume of students, we are able to answer only questions that are not answered on this page. If your question is not answered here, please contact the correct ISSO office. Email only the ISSO office for your campus, not both. 

Don't know your Campus? Please check our Campus school list.