Applying for Your Transfer I-20

WHAT IS A TRANSFER I-20

If you are eligible for a transfer I-20 (as described below) and are admitted to a full-time program at Columbia, you must request that your school transfer your electronic F-1 SEVIS record to us so that we can issue a transfer I-20 for you. A “SEVIS transfer” is different from an “academic transfer.” The transfer of your SEVIS record can take place at the same degree level or when you are changing levels (e.g. BA to MS).

There are several benefits to a SEVIS transfer vs a new initial I-20:

  • You maintain the same SEVIS ID number
  • You do not pay another SEVIS fee for a new SEVIS record 
  • You may remain in the U.S. in between programs

ELIGIBILITY

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Enrolled at Another School
  • You are currently in valid F-1 student status as an enrolled student at another school or are within your 60-day grace period following the completion of your program. 
  • You have been admitted to a full-time program at Columbia.
  • Your program at Columbia will begin no more than five months after your current completion date.
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On OPT
  • You are currently in valid F-1 status on OPT, or within your 60-day grace period following the completion of your OPT.
  • You have been admitted to a full-time program at Columbia.
  • Your program at Columbia will begin no more than five months after your employment end date.
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Other Situations
  • Summer Session only: you do not need to transfer your SEVIS record to study at Columbia during your summer vacation if you will return to your current school in the fall.
  • Students Admitted for the Spring: The earliest transfer date is September 20.
Step 1.

Prepare Your Documents

Start your preparation and application early. The transfer needs to be completed before your program begins.

Step 2.

Log in to Compass to Apply for Your I-20/DS-2019

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

OPTION 1: Apply 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.

  1. Use your PID to request a Limited Services PIN
  2. Receive your Limited Services PIN at the e-mail address you used to apply to Columbia.
  3. Log in to Compass using your PID, Date of Birth, and Limited Services PIN by clicking 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.

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. In the subject line of your email, write “Limited Services PIN.” Be sure to include your PID and your preferred email address in the body of the email.

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

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

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

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OPTION 2: Apply for your I-20 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.

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

UNI Login Issues

Don't worry! You can follow the steps above (with a PID) to login to Compass without a UNI.

Step 3.

Establish Your Transfer Date with Your Current School

Contact your international student adviser at your current school to establish the date on which you want them to transfer your electronic SEVIS record to Columbia. We cannot process an I-20 for you until your record is transferred to us. 

Columbia's transfer form is electronic. In the "immigration status" of the I-20 application in Compass:

  • you will find our SEVIS school code.
  • you will enter your current school’s international adviser contact information and then they will be emailed our electronic transfer form.

Keep in mind as you choose a transfer date that:

  • if you're currently on OPT, your transfer date must be after your last day of employment. You cannot continue working on OPT after your transfer date.
  • if you will be returning from a trip abroad after your transfer date, you will need to re-enter the U.S. with Columbia’s I-20.
Step 4.

ISSO Will Review Your Application and Email Your Transfer I-20

We will email you if we need additional information.

After your SEVIS record is transferred and your application is complete, we will process your transfer I-20 within 2 weeks. 

When you receive your I-20, please review the information on it for accuracy.

VISA AND TRAVEL INFORMATION

Do I need a new F-1 visa?

If you have an unexpired visa in your passport, you do not need to apply for a new visa. You may use the visa you have, even though the previous school's name is on it.

If you have an expired visa and are traveling outside of the U.S., you will need to apply for a new visa, but you are not required to pay the SEVIS fee again.

Can I travel outside the U.S.?

If you plan to travel abroad after your transfer date, you must return to the U.S. with:

  • I-20 issued by Columbia University
  • Unexpired visa
  • Unexpired passport

You can return to the U.S. with your Columbia I-20 at any time before your program begins.

Can I remain in the U.S.?

Transfer students are not required to depart the U.S. in between programs. You may remain in the U.S. even if your F-1 visa is expired as long as you have applied for your Columbia I-20.

RELATED INFORMATION

If you are currently a Columbia student and planning to continue your studies at another US school, please see Transferring Out of Columbia (F-1).

If you are a currently J-1 student and planning to have your active SEVIS record transferred from your current J-1 sponsor to Columbia, please see Transferring Your SEVIS Record to Columbia (J-1 Student).

For more information about traveling, see Documents Needed to Travel.

For more information about your status, see Guidelines to Maintaining Status (Students).

For more immigration-related information, see Admitted Students (Pre-Arrival) Frequently Asked Questions.

If you have questions not addressed on this page, email the ISSO office for your campus.

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