Applying for Your I-20/DS-2019
We are currently accepting applications for Spring 2019.
- ISSO Morningside
- 2 weeks
- ISSO-CU Medical Center (CUMC)
- 4 weeks
A Certificate of Eligibility (COE) is an I-20 for F-1 status or DS-2019 for J-1 status.
You will need a COE:
- for a visa application to a U.S. embassy or consulate
- Canadians are exempt from the visa requirement
- to enter the U.S. for the first time in F-1 or J-1 status
- Also applies to Canadians
- to return to the U.S. from all trips abroad during your program
- to apply for a change of status from another nonimmigrant status
- Learn more about changing to student status in the U.S..
- to show as evidence of your F-1 or J-1 status after arrival in the U.S.
- be admitted to a full-time program of study (and maintain full-time enrollment every term)
- document the financial resources to cover tuition, fees and living expenses of the first academic year and have a plan to finance any additional time. Refer to our Estimated Expenses by School of Admission.
F and J Status
If you meet the two conditions above, you are eligible for F-1 student status. Most students come to the U.S. in F-1 status.
J-1 status has additional criteria and is less common. It is limited to students who receive at least 51% of their total expenses from:
- the U.S. government
- student’s home government
- Columbia University
- employer sponsorship
If you’re eligible for both F and J status, review our Comparison Chart to see which status is best for your personal situation.
Before You Apply
Do any of these situations apply to you?
If you are a current student at Columbia -- or on Post-Completion OPT after completing a program at Columbia -- you should not apply through this page. Follow the instructions on our beginning a new program page.
If you will study English at Columbia's American Language Program (ALP):
- Apply for your ALP I-20.
- Use the I-20 from ALP to apply for your F-1 visa and to enter the U.S.
- Before you complete your ALP program, ALP will send you instructions on how to transfer your ALP SEVIS record to the ISSO and apply for an I-20 for your program.
If you will study English at another school in the U.S.:
Get your I-20 from your English as a Second Language (ESL) school.
Apply for your F-1 visa and enter the U.S. with your ESL school’s I-20.
After your ESL program is complete, follow the F-1 transfer instructions to transfer your SEVIS record to the ISSO.
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
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
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).
How to Apply
Prepare your documents
- A copy of admission letter/email
- The identification page of your passport
- Financial Certification Form (Refer to the Estimated Expenses for your program.)
- Evidence of Financial Support (Refer to the Funding Documents Checklist.)
- Passport identification page of each dependent, if applicable
- If you're currently in the U.S., a copy of your I-94 arrival record
The processing fee is required and cannot be waived.
The International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) uses UEMS (University Express Mail Service) for shipping your I-20 or DS-2019. Follow the instructions in your online application to order and pay for your shipment.
Log in to Compass to apply for your COE
There are two ways to log in to Compass: with a PID or with a UNI.
Apply for your COE with your PID
Your PID is the 9-digit number beginning with “C” you will receive from your admissions office or department (e.g. C123456789). If you don't have a PID, contact your admissions office.
- Use your PID to request a Limited Services PIN.
- Receive your Limited Services PIN at the e-mail address you used to apply to Columbia.
- Log in to Compass using your PID, Date of Birth and Limited Services PIN by clicking the appropriate link below:
PID Login Issues
If you do not receive your Limited Services 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 Services PIN”:
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 ISSO office for your campus only:
Apply for your COE with your UNI (Morningside students only)
Your UNI is assigned to you by your school and consists of your initials plus a number, e.g. AB1234, and is part of your Columbia email address. Learn more about your UNI on the Columbia University Information Technology (CUIT) website.
UNI Login Issues
We will review your application
Complete applications will be processed per the processing time indicated above.
We will email you if we need additional information.
We will email you your SEVIS ID when your COE has been issued.
Receive your COE
We're not permitted to email COEs. Please review the information on your I-20 or DS-2019 for accuracy when it arrives.
If you have questions not addressed on this page, email the ISSO office for your campus.