Resources for International Students

The Department of Chemistry is home researchers from all over the world, and its international students are an integral part of the chemistry community and the Columbia Community at large. The Department’s graduate student council maintains at least one international student representative to advocate for the unique needs of international students.

For many international students, moving to the United States and especially New York City can be intimidating. Visit the Living in New York page for more information about housing, banking, shopping, and more.

The ISSO is the go-to resource center for all international students. They provide provides orientation, immigration and document services, and other programs and workshops for international students. Their offices on the main campus are located at 524 Riverside Drive, just north of Sakura Park across the street from the Grant Memorial. The ISSO is open four days per week (closed Wednesday) from 10:30 AM – 4:00 PM throughout the academic year, and three days per week (closed Wednesday and Friday) from 10:30 AM – 4:00 PM during the Summer. On open days they have telephone hours from 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM.

You can find more information about the ISSO’s programs and operations here:

F-1 Student Status: Most international students will receive F-1 Student Status in order to study in the United States. You should apply for the F-1 visa at a US consulate, or if you are already in the U.S., you will need to apply for a change of status. Both of these visa applications will require an I-20 form from Columbia. This form certifies that you are attending Columbia as a full-time student.

J-1 Exchange Visitor: If you have substantial funding from sources other than family or personal funds, you should apply for J-1 Exchange Visitor Status. For example, if you are conducting research at Columbia temporarily as part of your studies at a foreign university or have a research fellowship from a foreign government, you will likely need to apply for J-1 status. There are restrictions that apply to J-1 status that do not apply to F-1 status. If you are not sure which visa you are eligible for you should contact the ISSO.

You can find more information about applying for a student or exchange visitor visa on the ISSO website, here:

Your visa from Columbia is only valid as long as you are a full-time student. If you plan to stay in the U.S. after graduation, you must apply for a different immigration status and may need your future place of employment to sponsor your application. ISSO can help you apply for extended visas including the OPT visa, but the process can take several months. You should contact the ISSO early in your 5th year of study to ensure that you are taking the necessary steps to maintain legal status in the U.S. after graduation.

Many student organizations at Columbia are created for international undergraduate and graduate students. Chemistry students have historically played an active role in these organizations. To learn more about each group, visit their websites. If you know of a student group that is missing from the list or has an updated website, please contact [email protected] to have it added.