International Student Services
International Student Services staff provides comprehensive support services to Columbia College’s international student community. International Student Services 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; 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 available 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. Students must register for and complete 12 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 attend International Student Orientation led by International Student Services staff. Students complete the Immigration Check-In Form and provide the following documents: a valid passport, visa stamp, and I-20 form; Certificate of Eligibility for Non-Immigrant Status. The documents will be reviewed and photocopied for the student’s file. At the start of each Semester, International Student Services staff will verify enrollment and 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:
- Current address defined as where the student physically resides
- Phone number
- Full-time enrollment
- Approval for reduced course load
- Failure to enroll
- 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 Designated School Officials maintain certain immigration records on international students and their dependents in the United States. 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 International Student Services within 10 days of the change.
As part of record-keeping requirements under 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 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, an undergraduate student taking nine 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 in-seat course work and 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 important that international students communicate with International Student Services staff throughout the duration of their program.
Withdrawing From Classes
If an emergency develops and an international student must withdraw from the College prior to completing the program, International Student Services will 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 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. International Student Services staff process and authorize CPT requests according to government regulations and college policies.
CPT eligibility criteria include:
- 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: Per government regulations, part-time employment is defined as 20 hours or less per week. 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: Per government regulations, full-time employment is more than 20 hours per week. Students may request full-time CPT during designated break periods, including summer and winter break. Students who have been authorized for 12 months or more of full-time CPT will be ineligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT).
CPT is processed and authorized by semester. Contact International Student Services 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 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services processes and adjudicates OPT applications. If approved, the student will be issued 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 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 be eligible for an additional 24 months of OPT by completing a STEM program. Students become eligible for additional periods of OPT after completion of a higher degree level.
Contact International Student Services for specific guidelines regarding OPT eligibility or to request a copy of the College’s OPT policy.
Columbia College encourages students to go abroad. Education Abroad offers a variety of opportunities for students to earn credit while experiencing the world up close, building cultural awareness and enhancing language skills. Opportunities include semester exchanges as well as summer and short-term programs.
Students participating in an exchange program at one of our international partner universities must enroll in the ABRD 144 course. Students pay tuition to Columbia College and retain institutional scholarships up to the cost of tuition. Room and board fees are paid to the host institution. Students are responsible for travel costs and incidental expenses related to their international experience.
Students enrolled at an exchange partner institution can choose to receive a pass/fail letter grade instead of a standard letter grade at time of registration. These students can enroll in multiple non-major specific courses as pass/fail per session or semester while still being eligible for the Dean’s List. Major courses must be taken for a standard letter grade. For more pass/fail information, please visit Grading and Academic Standing.
The College also offers multiple opportunities for short-term experiences abroad through our partnership with Missouri Study Abroad Intercollegiate Consortium (MOSAIC), the Central College (IA) study abroad consortium, and Webster University’s (WINS) network.
Any student participating in an education abroad program must submit an Education Abroad Application as found here. To help defray costs to education abroad, students may apply for financial aid through the Columbia College Enrollment Service Center. Federal financial aid, such as the Pell Grant or student loans, can be used to help finance education abroad. Students may also apply for the Columbia College Education Abroad Scholarship. For more information, go here.
Main Campus Day Only
To ensure that non-immigrant students are able to cover 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 may elect to continue insurance coverage.
Insurance charges will be 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 International Student Services.
English for Academic Purposes Program
The Columbia College English for Academic Purposes (EAP) program serves learners of English by providing courses designed to support development of English language skills for academic study. EAP is an academic unit of the Language and Communication Studies Department. It is offered only through the Day Campus. Prospective students must meet the English Proficiency Requirements set by the College in order to qualify for admission. Details on the EAP program can be found under Language and Communication Studies programs on the English for Academic Purposes (Day) page.