Your First Weeks (Students)

What to Do in Your First Weeks in the U.S.

It's mandatory to report your arrival within a week of your arrival. This is a government requirement and will activate your SEVIS record. The online form meets the requirement—you do not need to report your arrival in person.

Student Service Center has compiled information for all new students at Morningside Campus, at all levels of study. This includes photos for ID cards and information about mandatory Columbia health insurance. MMR immunization documentation, paying your bill, activating UNI, etc.

For CUIMC students, check with your school and/or department.

Full-time status is defined by the Registrar and varies by campus (Morningside Registrar | CUIMC Registrar). Most often, it is either a minimum of 12 credit points or one resident unit. Check with your school if you’re not sure. Make sure you register for full-time course load as it is required to maintain your F-1 or J-1 student status and must be done by the end of the second week of classes. Your school will give you instructions for registration for classes. You can check your registration status (full-time, part-time, half-time) in your SSOL record on the Grades and Registration page. Check this YouTube playlist for more information about maintaining your status.

Let them know you’re here. This is optional but recommended. There are more than 100 consulates in NYC not including the Missions to the UN, Trade Commissions, Cultural Delegations, etc.

ISSO will conduct an information session about your F‐1 / J‐1 status in the United States as part of your program orientation. You will receive this information directly from your school and/or programs.

Our topics will include:

  • How to maintain your legal status
  • Rules for traveling and re‐entering the U.S. during your academic program
  • Eligibility for on and off‐campus employment during the academic year, summers, and after graduation.

If you have missed the orientation, watch the ISSO portion here.

You should apply for an SSN as soon as possible if:

  • you have authorized employment at Columbia.  An SSN is a required part of the paperwork to get paid.
  • You are receiving a "non-work" fellowship stipend as a first-year doctoral student in F-1 status, and will later have research or teaching responsibilities under the terms of your fellowship.
  • You are in J-1 student status.

Learn about the application and procedures on our SSN application page.

Review Resources for Students where you will find information about finding housing, setting up a bank account, purchasing phone plans, and many more resources available to you during your time at Columbia.