Study and Research Abroad with Student Status

If you are about to embark on a study abroad program, or are leaving the U.S. for doctoral field work or MFA thesis project, learn how to maintain your status to avoid problems when you return to your program of study at Columbia.

Plane in flight

You may need to apply for a visa to enter the country in which you will study. Please check with the consulate of your destination for their visa requirements.

This GlobalTravel website centralizes information and tools for all members of the Columbia community whose study, research, or teaching involves international travel.

Make sure your registration record is up to date at the end of the first two weeks of the semester.  This applies to students in Columbia study-abroad programs, and MFA and doctoral students conducting research toward their thesis/dissertation degree requirement. Check your registration record in SSOL to be sure you are registered for the term.

This will maximize the time in which you can return to the U.S. without the signature expiring. A travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019 is valid for 12 months from the date it is signed. Learn how to get a travel signature.

If you need a new travel signature while you are abroad, go to our webpage on Travel Signatures and I-20/DS-2019 Reprints and follow instructions for obtaining an I-20/DS-2019 reprint with an updated travel signature. Do not break your student status by entering the U.S. in visitor status.


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Employment Eligibility When You Return to Columbia

When you return to Columbia and are enrolled for the term, you continue to be eligible for on-campus employment, part-time during the academic year and full-time during a recess period.

If you are abroad in the spring term, it may be difficult to get pre-completion OPT authorization for the summer because of timing issues.

1) The earliest you can apply is 90 days in advance of your requested start date

2) It can take 3 months or sometimes more for USCIS to process an application.

You may want to consider working outside the U.S. instead. 

If you are abroad in your final term, keep in mind that you will not be able to enter the U.S. after your I-20 program end date to apply for OPT.

Return to the U.S. before the program end date and apply while you're here.

1) The earliest you can apply is 90 days in advance of your completion date. 

2) It takes 2-3 months for USCIS to process an application.

Refer to our webpage on Travel During OPT to learn about the documents you need to re-enter the U.S.

You are eligible for Academic Training when you come back to Columbia if you maintained your J-1 status with full-time enrollment while abroad.

If you are abroad in your final term,  you cannot return to the U.S. in J-1 status after the program end date of your DS-2019.  You may need to travel back to the U.S. during your final term before the program end date to apply for AT, which will extend your DS-2019.

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If you are abroad during the spring term, you still need to comply with your tax filing obligations if you spent time in the U.S. during the previous calendar year.

If you have income to report, the deadline for the tax return to be received by the tax authorities is generally April 15th. If you had no U.S. income you will need to send the IRS form 8843 to the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) by June 15th.

Don't worry! We provide free access to Sprintax, a nonresident tax preparation software for your federal tax return. If you need to file a state tax return as well, you may choose to use Sprintax for an individual fee

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