Guidelines to Maintaining Status (Students)

You have come to Columbia to pursue academic objectives and that’s where your focus belongs. By being aware of and complying with the following regulations, you will avoid problems that can interfere with your program of study. 

Maintaining Status

Understand Your Two Statuses

International students need to be mindful of two statuses while at Columbia. 

You have an academic status with your school of enrollment and an F or J immigration status.

How to Maintain Your Lawful F/J Student Status

Guidelines to Maintaining Status

Please follow the instructions at Reporting Your Arrival in the first week. This will activate your SEVIS record. It's mandatory!

Learn how to renew your passport here.

Use the scheduled registration dates on the Registrar's webpage

Full-time enrollment may differ from school to school, but generally it is:

  • 12 points for Columbia schools and programs that use the credit point system for registration (except for Law and Social Work, OR
  • one residence unit for schools/programs using the RU system

If you’re not sure if you’re enrolled full-time, check your enrollment status at Student Services OnLine (SSOL )or check with your school.

Online classes: You can count only ONE online class toward your minimum number of credits required for your full-time enrollment. For example, you can take one online 3-credit course toward the 12-credit minimum. If you want to take an additional online class for a 15-point course load, it is permitted because it's beyond the minimum required for full-time status. 

If you only need one course to complete your program of study in your final term, the course cannot be online or distance learning.

There are limited exceptions that may allow you to be registered for  a “Reduced Course Load” (RCL).

  1. Final Term of a Degree Program. You are allowed to be less than full-time in the final term of your degree program if you do not need a full-time course load to complete degree requirements-- unless your academic program has a minimum registration requirement each term for all its students. This does not require permission or further action.
  2. Other eligible exceptions based on academic or medical reasons require you to receive authorization from us before dropping below full-time, withdrawing from classes, or taking a leave of absence. Follow these instructions to Request a Reduced Course Load

The only type of employment that does not require an application and written authorization is on-campus employment, up to 20 hours/week. Working without authorization is considered a serious violation of your immigration status. Learn more about employment options.

While in the U.S., you must keep your I-20 / DS-2019 up-to-date by informing us of any pertinent changes.

Here are the changes you need to report:

  • Apply for an extension before the end date if you need more time to complete your degree.
  • Inform us if you are finishing earlier than the end date on your I-20 or DS-2019. We need to change the date, and you need to be informed of deadlines.
  • Be sure you have a travel signature on your most recent I-20 or DS-2019 that will be less than 12 months old on the date you return from a trip abroad.
  • Request a transfer of your SEVIS record to another school if you are going to continue your studies elsewhere.
  • Inform us if you are beginning a new program at Columbia. You will need a new COE for it.
  • Inform us if you are leaving your program before completing it.
  • Inform us if you are changing to another nonimmigrant status or if you become a permanent resident (“green card”).

Follow the instructions for Changing Your Address.

Once you have completed your studies and any authorized post-graduation employment under F-1 or J-1 status, you have an additional grace period that allows you to remain in the U.S. to prepare for departure.

F-1 status: 60 days

J-1 status: 30 days

This includes current and expired passports.You may need them in the future:

  • to document your employment history and compliance with U.S. immigration regulations or
  • for other immigration and visa applications.