International Students

All international students must check-in with the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO).  All immigration and status related questions must be directed to ISSO.

Maintaining Lawful F-1 Status

Work Eligibility for F-1 Student


Maintaining Lawful F-1 Status
(ISSO F-1 Status Link)

It is very important to maintain your F-1 student status.  As an F-1 student, you must adhere to the following guidelines: 

  1. Keep an unexpired passport valid for at least 6 months into the future.
  2. Notify the ISSO of your address upon arrival and any time you change addresses.
  3. Maintain full-time enrollment and normal, full-time progress toward your degree or certificate; this means 12 or more credits per semester in SEAS.
  4. Obtain PRIOR authorization from the ISSO (if eligible) BEFORE dropping below a full course of study, withdrawing from classes, or taking a leave of absence.
  5. If you leave the US without completing your program of study, complete your program early or change to another non-immigrant status, notify the ISSO so that your record in the DHS data base accurately reflects your current situation.
  6. Do not accept any employment, either on- or off-campus, without written permission from the International Students and Scholars Office and, if necessary, authorization from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

    Working without proper authorization is considered by the DHS as the most serious violation of its regulations. If you refer to your I-94 card, you will see the statement, "Warning: a nonimmigrant who accepts unauthorized employment is subject to deportation." It is most important, therefore, that you consult with the ISSO before you accept an offer of employment or begin to work. We will advise you whether it is possible for you to work and assist you with the appropriate procedures. It is illegal to begin to work while waiting for authorization; you must have the appropriate authorization first. Students in F-1 status are allowed to work on-campus for the University for a maximum of 20 hours per week during the academic year (unlimited during vacation periods) but MUST complete an I-9 form at the ISSO.

  7. Make timely transfers of your F-1 supervision if you enroll at Columbia after attending another school in the United States.
  8. Obtain extensions, as needed, of your permission to stay in the U.S. before your I-20 expires.
  9. Once you have completed your studies and any practical training that is authorized, you must leave the U.S. or change to another immigration status within the appropriate time allowed.
  10. Carry a copy of your passport and I-94 card with you at all times. When traveling outside the New York City area, you should bring the original I-94 card, I-20, and passport with you.

If applicable, comply with all Special Registration Procedures for Certain Foreign Nationals.

Work Eligibility for F-1 Student
(ISSO F-1 Work Overview Link)

If you receive an offer from an employer, you must obtain the approval of the IEOR Department and ISSO prior to work.

The following is a list of all opportunities to obtain authorization to work in the United States if you are in F-1 immigration status. Each category may allow for authorization under different circumstances and at different times during your stay in the U. S. For detailed information on a particular category, please click on the subject heading.

On-Campus Work - Full-time students are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week during the academic year. On-campus employment means that you are paid by Columbia University or working at a University location with an employer that is providing services to students, such as the Bookstore. On-campus employment requires an I-9 Employment Verification Authorization form to be completed by you at the ISSO in advance of beginning to work.

Practical Training (with compensation) - This is defined as employment related to your field of study and is available during and after completion of your studies. The following is a list of the categories of practical training:

  1. Curricular practical training (before completion of your studies) is defined as employment pursuant to a required or optional internship which is an integral part of the established curriculum of your school.
  2. Optional practical training is defined as employment related to your field of study. It is authorized in variable increments, deducted from the maximum of one year of optional practical training per educational level, and is available in the following variations:

1.      optional practical training after completion of your studies.

2.      optional practical training before completion of your studies with three possible variations:

  • practical training during the annual vacation. The annual vacation must follow at least two consecutive terms of fulltime enrollment and is usually taken in the summer.
  • practical training when school is in session, provided that employment does not exceed 20 hours per week
  • practical training following completion of all course requirements for the degree except the thesis or equivalent.

Non-Compensated (Non-Paid) Training - If an organization offers you non-paid employment, you may engage.  However, employers may require you to earn academic credit.  The IEOR Department will permit graduate students to earn academic credit towards their degree.  Refer to Internships for more information.  Alternatively, if the employer permits, you may receive recognition (non-academic credit) on your transcript.

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