About the Application for Visa Certificate of Eligibility (I-20 or DS-2019)

Congratulations on your admission to Columbia University and welcome to the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) web site for online submission of your Application for Visa Certificate of Eligibility (AVC).

A Certificate of Eligibility is a document issued by the ISSO for an admitted student that is evidence of your eligibility for a non-immigrant student status in the United States. New students who will study full-time in F-1 Student status receive an I-20 form. You must obtain your I-20 form before you may apply for an F-1 entry visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad or a change of status if you are already in the U.S. in another status.

All applications and supporting documents for a Certificate of Eligibility are submitted to the ISSO. Most I-20 forms are issued by the ISSO. Students admitted to the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the Programs in Occupational and/or Physical Therapy and the Institute for Human Nutrition at the Columbia University Medical Center campus will have their I-20 issued by the International Affairs Office at CUMC.

Teachers College students must apply for the I-20 with the Teachers College Office of International Services (OIS). Email for information on the application process.

Canadian nationals do not need visas to enter the U.S. but must apply for an I-20 and pay the SEVIS fee before appearing at immigration inspection at a port of entry.

Dependents: If you are married and plan to bring your spouse and any children under 21 years of age, they may apply for F-2 visas (dependents of F-1 visa holders), if funding to meet their additional expenses is documented. The amounts for the 2014-2015 Academic Year are U.S. $1,000 monthly for your spouse and U.S. $500 monthly for each child. Your dependents may join you at any time during your studies.

The ISSO will not issue an I-20 for the F-2 visa for dependent spouse and/or child(ren) of students admitted to the Graduate School of Business EMBA-Global programs. Dependents who will accompany students attending the week-long class blocks at Columbia should apply for a visitor visa.

Couples in relationships not recognized as marriage are not eligible for dependent status. Partners may apply for a B-2 Visitor visa. For information about B-2 status for partners and a link to the U.S. Department of State cable about B-2 for cohabiting partners, see the Domestic Partners section of the ISSO’s web site at

Important Information about Summer Session

If you need a Certificate of Eligibility to attend the Summer Session, you must tell us which sesssion you will attend in the Remarks section at the bottom of the online application form. The available sessions are Session D (May 26 - July 2), Session Q (July 6 - August 14) or Session X (May 26 - August 14).

If you are an F-1 student at another U.S. institution who will study at Columbia during your summer vacation and return to your institution for the fall term, you DO NOT need a new I-20 from Columbia.

Important Information about English Language Study Before Starting an Academic Program

The ISSO cannot issue an I-20 if you will study English before the start of your academic program. If you wish to study English during the summer before you begin your academic program, or if you are required to study English by your school of admission, you must obtain your I-20 Certificate of Eligibility from the English language school you will attend. Apply for your F-1 entry visa with the I-20 from the English language school.

When your English studies are finished, you need to request a transfer I-20 from the ISSO to begin your academic program. Most students will not need a new F-1 entry visa and most students will be able to “transfer” their F-1 SEVIS record from the English language school to the ISSO. Read the information about Transfer by F-1 Students to Columbia University for an overview of the process.

How To Transfer Your English studies SEVIS record to the ISSO

1. Submit the online Application for Certificate of Eligibility. Select Pick Up at the ISSO as the delivery option for your transfer I-20.

2. Submit the required supporting documents as described on the Application for Certificate of Eligibility web site

3. Give the Transfer In Form to your school’s Designated School Official (DSO) for their signature. Your school’s DSO will release your SEVIS record to Columbia University on or soon after the date your English studies end.

4. If you attended Columbia's ALP, you do not need to submit a Transfer In Form. ALP and ISSO work closely together on the transfer process.

5. After you receive email from the ISSO that your I-20 is ready, come to the ISSO to pick it up and complete the transfer process. Your transfer must be completed within 15 days of the start of classes for the term or you will lose your F-1 student status.