International students planning to graduate in May should review the following information pertaining to:
- Receiving an official letter for visiting relatives
- Leaving the United States after graduation
- Seeking employment in the United States
- Continuing as a student in another program at Columbia University
- Continuing as a student at another university in the United States
For guests who live outside of the United States and need proof of a student’s graduation in order to receive permission to visit, an official letter (on Columbia University letterhead) confirming student status and graduation date may be provided.
CC and SEAS undergraduate students should contact their CSA adviser.
SEAS graduate students please submit information here.
All e-mails should have the subject line “Request for invitation letters” and should include the following information:
- Student’s name
- Student’s school (Columbia College or The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science)
- Degree program (i.e. BA, BS, or MS)
- Each relative's name (exactly as it appears on passport)
- Relation to the graduating student (i.e. mother, father, aunt, etc.)
- Country of citizenship/origin
- Dates of visit (for the purpose of attending graduation ceremonies)
Please allow a minimum of one (1) week for your letters to be completed. Two (2) original copies per guest will be provided, unless requested otherwise. Signed letters will not be mailed and must be picked up in person in the designated office.
If you are planning to leave the United States after completing your program, F-1 regulations allow you to remain here up to sixty (60) days beyond your completion date of May 22, 2014 (i.e. until July 20). Any time beyond that, even a day, is a violation of your status. Please note that the grace period only allows you to remain in the U.S. after graduation, not to depart and return to the U.S. during this time.
You should not stay beyond the expiration of this "grace period," or you will be in violation of your status.
You may apply for permission to work in your field of study as part of your F-1 status after completing a program of study. This is called Optional Practical Training (OPT). F-1 regulations require students to submit an application for OPT authorization to the USCIS (part of the Department of Homeland Security) BEFORE the end of your grace period—provided you don’t leave the U.S. before applying. The earliest to apply if graduating on May 21, 2014, is February 20, 2014, and the 60 day grace period ends July 20, 2014.
You must still be in the U.S. at the time of application, and you may request a start date within the 60-day grace period following completion of your program. The application must be received by USCIS by July 20, but it is prudent to send it in earlier.
Complete information on the OPT application process is available on the ISSO website and there will be six (6) information sessions held throughout the spring 2014 term in addition to the sessions below.
Don’t miss the deadline and lose your eligibility to work!
Job Search Skills Workshop & ISSO Presentation for International Students
September 24, 2013
10:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m. EDT
Career Workshop for International Students with the ISSO,
November 12, 2013
2:00–4:00 p.m. EST
If you are going to enroll in a new program of study at Columbia in fall 2014, you will need to get a new I-20 for the new program. This entails showing new funding documents.
Contact the ISSO about qualifying for a new I-20, and apply for the new I-20 before the end of the 60-day grace period so you will be considered a continuing rather than a new student and maintain the same SEVIS number (you won’t have to pay a new SEVIS fee of $200). Your SEVIS record will automatically "time out and complete" after the 60-day grace period UNLESS you apply to the ISSO for an extension for a new program.
More information can be found on the ISSO website.
If you plan to attend a university other than Columbia next term, Columbia must "release" your SEVIS record to the next school before the 60-day grace period expires. The ISSO must enter a "release date" in your SEVIS record before July 15, 2014, but the date itself may be later.
The release date is the date on which your SEVIS record becomes accessible to the international office of the new school, enabling them to issue a new I-20 for you and take over supervision of your F-1 status. Often, the international office of the new school will have a “transfer-in” form they will want you to have completed by the ISSO.
Please read through the ISSO website on F-1 Immigration Status thoroughly and, if you still have questions, contact an ISSO adviser by phone, email, or in person. Please bring all relevant documents with you when you visit the office.