The International Center staff provides comprehensive support services to Columbia College’s international community including students, faculty, staff, and their dependents. The Center also plays a critical role in compliance for the college overseeing reporting requirements for the Department of Homeland Security.
The staff advocates for international students relating to interactions with government agencies, community organizations, and campus offices. The staff disseminates information regarding changes in U.S. immigration law to students and the campus community; advises students of their responsibilities to abide by the regulations governing their status; and assists students in achieving their academic goals and becoming an integral member of the campus community. Information is also provided to students, faculty, and staff on changes in institutional policies and processes that affect international students. A variety of programs and services are developed to enhance understanding, foster dialog and raise cultural awareness in all aspects of campus life.
Students in F-1 student status must adhere to the regulatory requirements outlined in the United States Federal Register, Part 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Graduate students must register for and complete 6 semester hours each semester of enrollment. Failure to comply with this requirement constitutes a violation of status and can impose serious consequences.
Upon their initial arrival on campus, international students must attend International Student Orientation and check-in with the International Center. Students must complete the Immigration Check-In Form and bring the following documents: a valid passport, visa (stamp located inside the passport), and all I-20 forms (Certificate of Eligibility for Non-Immigrant Student) issued throughout the duration of their studies in the United States. These documents will be reviewed and photocopied for the student’s file. At this time, the International Center staff will register the student in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
Under SEVIS reporting requirements, the Designated School Official (DSO) must report the following information for each student no later than 30 days after the program start date:
- Full-time enrollment
- Student dropped below full-time without prior approval by the DSO
- Student failed to enroll
- Current address - defined as where the student is physically residing
- Start date of next term or semester
For students in initial status, the deadline for reporting is 30 days from the program start date on the SEVIS I-20 Form. For continuing students, the deadline is 30 days from the beginning date of the term.
The DSO at the College enters data and keeps records on all international students as well as their dependents. The DSO is required to update information in SEVIS within a given time period regarding certain events related to a student or the dependent spouse/child. These reportable events include, but are not limited to:
- Change of legal name
- Change of address, both in the U.S. and abroad
- Failure to maintain status or complete the educational program
- Early completion of the program prior to the end date on SEVIS Form I-20
- Disciplinary action taken by the school against the student as a result of a conviction of a crime
- Any other notification about the student’s status
Students must report a change of name or address to the International Center within 10 days of the change. The DSO will update this information in SEVIS within 21 days.
As part of the record-keeping requirements under the F-1 regulations, the College must maintain the following information about each student:
- Date and Place of Birth
- Country of Citizenship
- Residential Address, both in the United States and abroad
- Enrollment status: Full/Part-time
- Date of Beginning of Activities
- Degree Program and Field of Study
- Practical Training Recommendations
- Termination Date and Reason
- Documents Required for Admission to Columbia College
- Credits Completed Each Term/Semester
- Photocopy of Form I-20
Curricular Practical Training
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is defined as employment which is an integral part of an established curriculum, including: “alternate work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum which is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school.” Source: [8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(i)]. Students may participate in CPT prior to completion of a degree program. CPT employment may not delay completion of the academic program.
To be eligible for CPT, students must meet the following criteria:
- Full-time enrollment for one academic year prior to requesting CPT authorization
- Maintain lawful F-1 status
- Have a job offer
- Enroll in a CPT approved course during the CPT experience
Part-time CPT: Employment for 20 hours or less per week is considered part-time. Though there is no limitation upon the length of time for participation in part-time CPT, students must be simultaneously enrolled in classes full-time in order to maintain lawful F-1 status.
Full-time CPT: Employment for more than 20 hours per week is considered full-time. Please be aware that 12 months or more of full-time CPT will invalidate eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT). During the academic year (fall and spring semesters), students must be simultaneously enrolled full-time in order to maintain lawful F-1 status.
CPT is processed and authorized each semester. Contact the International Center, Missouri Hall 232, for specific guidelines regarding CPT requests or to receive a copy of the college’s CPT policy.
Optional Practical Training
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is defined in the Federal Regulations as temporary employment directly related to a student’s field of study. During OPT, a student remains in F-1 status. The end result of the OPT request process is an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued by United States Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS).
To be eligible for OPT, students must meet the following criteria:
- Full-time enrollment for one academic year prior to requesting OPT authorization
- Maintain lawful F-1 status
The standard period of OPT eligibility is a maximum of 12 months. Students may apply for part-time OPT prior to the program completion date. Part-time OPT is deducted from the 12-month limit at 50 percent. Students in F-1 status may become eligible for an additional 12 months of OPT by completing a program at a higher educational level.
Contact the International Center, Missouri Hall 232, for specific guidelines regarding OPT applications or to request a copy of the college’s OPT policy.