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
Enrollment in Online Courses
International students who are approved to enroll in online courses may only count one course, or 3 credit hours, per semester toward the total required to maintain a full course of study. Other courses must be traditional and in-seat. Note: Students are not limited to take only one online course; however, only one online course counts toward maintaining a full course of study. Student enrollments will be checked each semester for compliance. For example, a graduate student taking three semester hours of in-seat course work and three semester hours through online has met the full course of study requirement while a student taking six hours of online courses has not. Please refer to the Registration Processes section for academic eligibility requirements to enroll in online coursework.
In order to maintain F-1 status and ensure compliance with U.S. immigration law, it is very important that students communicate with the International Center staff throughout the duration of their program at the College.
Withdrawing from Classes
If an emergency develops and an international student must withdraw from the College prior to completing the program, the International Center must update SEVIS to indicate that the student has been authorized for early withdrawal. Once the SEVIS record is updated to reflect the withdrawal authorization, the student has a “grace period” of 15 days within which to depart the United States. Without DSO approval for early withdrawal, the student has no grace period and must depart immediately. For more information on the Total Withdrawal process, please see the section of the catalog Grading and Academic Standing and click on Withdrawal.
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:
- The student has been lawfully enrolled on a full time basis, in a Service-approved college, university, conservatory, or seminary for one full academic year. An academic year is defined as two semesters of course work.
- Is currently in valid F-1 status
- The student will continue to be enrolled for a full course of study during the CPT
- The training is directly related to the student’s major area of study
- Enroll in a CPT approved course
Part-time CPT: Employment for 20 hours or less per week is considered part-time. During the fall and spring semester, students must be simultaneously enrolled full-time in order to maintain lawful F-1 status. There is no limitation for participation in part-time CPT.
Full-time CPT: Employment for more than 20 hours per week is considered full-time. Students may request full-time CPT during designated break periods, including the summer months. Students who have been authorized for 12 months or more of full-time CPT willb e ineligible for Optional Practical Training.
CPT is processed and authorized each semester. Contact the International Center 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 for specific guidelines regarding OPT applications or to request a copy of the college’s OPT policy.
To ensure that non-immigrant students are able to cover any medical expenses in the U.S., it is required that all international students purchase the insurance plan provided through the College. Students in F-1 or J-1 status are eligible for coverage under the international student plan. Charges for medical insurance premiums are posted to the Columbia College student account upon enrollment for any number of credit hours. Students pursuing Optional Practical Training will be given the opportunity to continue insurance coverage.
Insurance charges will be divided in two segments and assessed each semester. Students are responsible for charges posted to their student account, and may make payments according to the college’s Deferred Payment Policy. For questions and details about the mandatory insurance program, please contact the International Center.