International Students

International Students

Newly-admitted, international Postbac Premed students must complete additional steps prior to matriculating, which include completing the Certificate of Eligibility, and in some cases sitting for the American Language Program Essay Exam.

Consult the website for Columbia’s International Students and Scholars Organization for information about making the transition to Columbia, the international student orientation program, and other activities for international students.

Applying for a Visa

Upon admission, international students must complete the online Certificate of Eligibility.
The International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) offers many services for the international community of students, interns, and scholars at Columbia University. The ISSO provides immigration-related and document services including the Application for Visa certificate.
In addition to a complete Certificate of Eligibility coversheet, you will need to submit the following documents with official English translations to the ISSO:
  • a copy of the identification page of your passport
  • a copy of your letter of admission from the School of General Studies
  • a letter from you describing how you will finance your course of study
  • financial documentation that covers all expenses for one year and describes reasonable means of support for future years
The ISSO will review your documentation and send the I-20 form. This is required to apply for an F-1 student entry visa at a U.S. Consulate in your home country or to complete the SEVIS transfer process for students already in F-1 status.
I-20 forms are usually sent four (4) weeks after the ISSO has all required documentation and your application is complete. Your Certificate of Eligibility will arrive two to six business days after shipment, depending upon your location. Please be sure to allow for time delays.

American Language Program (ALP) Essay Exam

Before registering for classes all admitted students whose native or predominant language is not English are required to take the ALP Essay Exam, offered by the Columbia University American Language Program (ALP), even if they have taken the TOEFL, the Duolingo English Test, SAT, ACT or Online GS Admissions Exam prior to admission. The results of this placement examination will be used by the student’s academic advisor to determine the appropriate academic plan for the first semester. Students will be required to take additional English language courses if their scores on the placement examination are below level 10.

To view upcoming dates, or to register for an exam, please click here.

Arriving at Columbia

What should I do before arriving?

Before arriving, students should review the Getting Started section of the International Student and Scholars Office website (ISSO). It provides information regarding entry to the U.S. and initial weeks at Columbia. Questions regarding student status and visas should be directed to the ISSO.

I arrive several days before the semester commences. Where can I stay?

If you are interested in obtaining University Housing, you are advised to complete the online housing application as soon as possible (login information is included in your acceptance packet). Please ensure that your selected housing date corresponds to your anticipated arrival date. Students arriving before the specified arrival dates will be required to find temporary accommodation in the area.

For more information on housing, consult the GS Housing page and the University Apartment Housing website.


Columbia University International Students and Scholars Office
524 Riverside Drive
New York, NY 10027
Telephone: (212) 854-3587
Fax: (212) 854-3966