ISSO COVID-19 Admitted Student FAQs

Reviewed on October 20, 2020

Please find below answers to immigration-related questions. Be aware that this situation is fluid and federal guidance may change. We review this information weekly and update as needed.

 

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Admitted Student FAQs

Applying for a Visa

As of this summer, the Department of State indicated that U.S. Embassies and Consulates are beginning a phased resumption of routine visa services based on local conditions. Students have been reporting that visa services are resuming. For the latest status of visa processing at your nearest U.S. Embassy, refer to the U.S. Embassy website for details and check the Department of State's U.S. Visa News.

If you have an unexpired visa in your passport, you do not need to apply for a new visa. You may enter the U.S. with the unexpired F-1 entry visa, even though the previous institution’s name is listed on it. Bear in mind that the F-1 entry visa is valid to enter the U.S. only until the expiration date listed on the F-1 entry visa. You will still need to apply for an I-20 issued by Columbia.

You must obtain an amended I-20 to arrive for a later term. You can only apply for your student visa up to 120 days before your new term of arrival. Report your change of arrival plans to the ISSO to obtain an updated I-20 for a new term. You will need your updated I-20 for your visa appointment.


 


 

Yes, you may use the I-20 you have to obtain the visa. Your visa will remain valid until its expiration date, even if your I-20 dates change. Report your change of arrival plans to the ISSO to obtain an updated I-20. 

CPT/OPT Eligibility

We understand that there are visa and travel challenges, but new students are expected to arrive at the beginning of the term if possible. You should contact your department and request information about your options for arriving late. 

To inquire whether you will be eligible for CPT and OPT, please email us at isso@columbia.edu or to cumc-intl-students@columbia.edu (for CUIMC students)

The ISSO will reach out to you to provide you with instructions on obtaining a new I-20 electronically. You will not need to pay the COE Processing Fee again. Note: this program structure of Fall A and Fall B may not pertain to your program.

We understand that there are visa and travel challenges, but new students are expected to arrive at the beginning of the term if possible. You should contact your department and request information on your options for attending at a later time. The ISSO will reach out to you to provide you with instructions on obtaining an updated I-20 electronically. You will not need to pay the COE Processing Fee again.


To inquire whether you will be eligible for CPT and OPT, please email us at isso@columbia.edu or to cumc-intl-students@columbia.edu (for CUIMC students).

Change of Status

Review the information on applying to change your status in the U.S. Typically the ISSO recommends that you travel abroad to apply for your F-1 visa. Given the current uncertainties regarding visa processing and travel restrictions, if you are considering changing your status in the U.S., the ISSO strongly encourages you to work with an experienced immigration attorney.

Deferring Offer of Admission

If you are unable to obtain a visa or will arrive late you should contact your department or admissions office and request information on your options for attending at a later time.

You should contact your department or admissions office and request information on your options for attending at a later time. We are currently accepting I-20 applications for Spring and Summer 2021 only. We will begin accepting I-20/DS-2019 applications in March 2021 for Fall 2021.

You should contact your department or admissions office and request information on your options for attending at a later time. The ISSO will reach out to you to provide you with instructions on obtaining an updated I-20 electronically. You will not need to pay the COE Processing Fee again. Your SEVIS ID number will remain the same. Therefore, if you have already paid the SEVIS Fee, you will not need to pay it again.

You should contact your department or admissions office and request information on your options for attending at a later time. The ISSO will reach out to you to provide you with instructions on obtaining a new I-20 electronically. You will not need to pay the COE Processing Fee again.

Enrollment Requirements for New Students

To date, we have not received updated government guidance specific to the Spring 2021 term. The existing guidance states that New/Initial students in F-1 status may apply for a visa and enter the U.S. to enroll in a U.S. school for the Fall 2020 term only for a full course of study that is not 100% online.

Refer to Columbia's Methods of Instruction offered during the 2020-2021 academic year for definitions of Online, In-person, Hybrid, and HyFlex courses. Students in F/J status must be enrolled full-time and make normal progress toward their degree. See explanation of full-time enrollment here

Online Courses

Since your program will be online only this Spring, new international students who are currently outside the U.S. are not able to enter the U.S. this Spring. You will need to request for an updated I-20 with a later start date. You can enter the U.S. next year with the updated I-20 and a valid unexpired F-1 visa when hybrid/in-person classes resume.

Transfer Students

The ISSO will issue your transfer I-20 as long as you can be transferred to us by your current institution. Per the current guidance, you are able to stay in the U.S. and take classes in any format from anywhere in the U.S. to maintain your F-1 status. After receiving your transfer I-20, submit your SEVIS Report Form so we can activate your F-1 record.

Yes, you may study remotely. As a transfer student, we are not permitted to make your F-1 SEVIS record Active while you are outside of the U.S. Report your change of arrival plans to the ISSO, then we will contact the government agency, SEVP, to request that they maintain your existing SEVIS record. We will contact you when we have more information or if we are unable to retain your existing SEVIS record.

As a transfer student, you may return to the U.S. and take classes in any format from anywhere in the U.S. to maintain your F-1 status. However, given the current uncertainties regarding travel restrictions, be sure to check our Travel Resources information in the ISSO Covid-19 and Fall 2020 Hub page.

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Related Resources

Please refer to the University’s COVID-19 Resource Guide for an official announcement and reach out to your school.