Current Full-Degree International Students
The International and Intercultural Student Programs staff is available to answer any of your questions about visas, travel, adapting to life in the US, and more. For general inquires, please contact (212) 854-1777 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who to contact:
- To get a new signature on your travel documents, simply stop by 10 Milbank, Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm, and a staff member will be happy to sign your form I-20.
- To request a new copy of your form I-20, a letter of invitation for parents for commencement, or any other form or letter, please contact Mark Farrell at email@example.com.
- For general questions/concerns about visas, as well as inquiries about OPT and CPT, email Diana Sousa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to contact us:
- All appointments take place in 10 Milbank Hall.
- Walk-in hours are on a first-come, first-served basis.
The US higher education system can differ significantly from the education systems that international students are familiar with in their home countries. Academic culture varies from country to country and even among institutions in the same country. Compiled here are resources to help international students adjust to the Barnard classroom and achieve success in their studies throughout their college career.
Formal Classroom Culture
Interaction with professors in the context of the classroom is relatively informal, and often students interact with one another and their professor by raising their hand to speak. On the first day of class, professors usually discuss the syllabus which is the plan the class will follow for the remainder of the semester. Watch the video to be familiar with the ways professors and students related to one another in the college classroom.
Informal Classroom Culture
In US college classrooms, students usually dress casually. In many classrooms, it is permissible to bring a snack during class, as long as it is not distracting to other students or professor, though certain professors may not allow students to eat during class. If you must miss a class, it is polite to notify the professor and follow up with a fellow student to ask if they would be willing to share their notes from the class that was missed. Watch the video to learn more informal culture cues in the US classroom.
It is not uncommon for international students to face language barriers in the classroom and outside of it - even for students coming from another English-speaking country! Especially in a diverse place like New York City, countless accents and colloquialisms may confound even the most well-adapted students. Check out the video to hear about other international students' experiences with language barriers.
In the US, academic integrity is an integral expectation that higher education institutions have for every student. Plagiarism in the US may be defined differently than in an international student's home country. To be successful in the Barnard classroom, all students should be familiar with the tenants of academic integrity. Each Barnard student is expected to uphold the Honor Code, and violations of the Honor Code are taken very seriously. In addition, this video link includes several vignettes on different topics related to academic integrity including: plagiarism, group project etiquette, and sharing tests.
Adapting to a new culture can be exciting and challenging. International students not only adapt to the culture of the United States, but also to the culture of New York City and even more specifically, to the culture of Morningside Heights and Barnard College. Anticipating culture shock and preparing for ways to acclimate to your new home are essential steps to getting the most out of your Barnard experience. Here are some resources and basic information to help international students not only survive, but thrive as they transition to their new home.
Identifying Culture Shock
Culture shock is inevitable. How an international student prepares for culture shock and reacts to it can affect her cultural and academic success. This video shows one student's response to life in a US university.
Responding to Culture Shock
In this two-part presentation, a Columbia Peer Advisor discusses some common misunderstandings international students face when they are adjusting to a new city, a new school, a new phase of life, and a new culture - all at the same time! The presentation includes some advice on how to handle culture shock and adjust to your new circumstances. Barnard international students can also take advantage of the resources on campus - talk to an adviser from the Office of International and Intercultural Student Programs (OIIS) or make an appointment through the Furman Counseling Center.
Riding the Subway
The New York City subway system can be intimidating at first, but navigating becomes easier when you are equipped with proper tools. To begin with, the MTA website has information on delays, directions, buses, and trains. This video has basic navigation and etiquette tips for riding the subway.
One of the best ways to make the most of your studies abroad is to make friends with students from the local culture. Making friends across cultures can seem daunting, but many times, it is simply a matter of understanding some basic social cues. The video on the left offers some simple tips related to common issues international students face when making friends with people in the United States. Of course, it is important to remember that everyone has unique ways of communicating, and this video offers some general suggestions for getting to know new friends in the US.
Get Involved on Campus
There are many ways to get involved on campus, both at Barnard and Columbia. Get involved with the Student Government Association (SGA) to get to know other students of all classes. Keep up-to-date with the McIntosh Activities Council (McAC) for fun events on campus, like Midnight Breakfast and Big Sub. Volunteer on campus or around NYC, and make new friends while staying healthy through organized sports and intramurals. There are also hundreds of clubs and organizations related to various topics of interest, including a host of Cultural Clubs and Organizations that represent issues and groups from all around the world. If you have an interest that is not represented yet, establish a new club!
This page contains important information about maintaining your F-1 status, along with other important terms and regulations.
Maintaining Lawful F-1 Status
Under United States immigration law, it is your personal responsibility to maintain lawful F-1 student status. Begin by reading the "Instructions to Students" on page two of your I-20. By following those instructions, as well as the guidelines listed below, you should be able to maintain lawful F-1 student status with little difficulty. You must maintain lawful student status if you wish to enjoy the benefits associated with it, such as on-campus employment, practical training, and the ability to re-enter the United States when you travel.
If you follow the guidelines listed below, you should be able to maintain F-1 student status. You should also make every effort to attend mandatory meetings scheduled by the OIIS. These mandatory meetings will provide up-to-date information regarding your visa. You should always read carefully any communication from OIIS and respond promptly to OIIS staff.
1. Keep an unexpired passport valid for at least 6 months into the future. Contact your country's consulate in NY or embassy in Washington, D.C. for instructions if you need to extend your passport while in the U.S.
2. Notify the OIIS of your address upon arrival and any time you change addresses. Upon your initial arrival in the U.S. to study at Barnard, you must notify the OIIS of your local address. Thereafter, you must notify the OIIS of any change in address within 10 days of moving. The OIIS is responsible for updating your address electronically in your SEVIS record.
3. Maintain full-time enrollment and normal, full-time progress toward your degree or certificate. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations require that you register during the University's published registration period. Failure to do this will result in a violation of your F-1 status. You are expected to maintain full-time registration and make normal progress toward your degree. At Barnard, full-time is defined as being enrolled in 12 or more credits each semester during the academic year.
4. Obtain PRIOR authorization from the OIIS (if eligible) BEFORE dropping below a full course of study, withdrawing from classes, or taking a leave of absence. There are very limited exceptions to the full-time requirement, so you must consult the ISSO in advance of any drop below full-time status, or you will be in violation of your visa requirements.
5. If you leave the US without completing your program of study, if you complete your program early, or if you change to another non-immigrant status, notify the ISSO so that your record in the DHS database accurately reflects your current situation.
6. Do not accept any employment, either on- or off-campus, without written permission from the OIIS and, if necessary, authorization from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Working without proper authorization is considered by the DHS as the most serious violation of its regulations. If you refer to your I-94 record, you will see the statement, "Warning: a non-immigrant who accepts unauthorized employment is subject to deportation." Therefore, it is critical that you consult with the OIIS before you accept an offer of employment or begin to work. We will advise you whether it is possible for you to work and assist you with the appropriate procedures. It is illegal to begin to work while waiting for authorization; you must have the appropriate authorization first. Students in F-1 status are allowed to work on-campus for the University for a maximum of 20 hours per week during the academic year (unlimited during vacation periods).
7. Make timely transfers of your F-1 supervision if you enroll at Barnard after attending another school in the United States. DHS regulations specify that you must use the Visa Certificate of Eligibility (I-20 or DS-2019) issued by the school you are attending (or plan to attend) when entering the U.S. Consequently, make sure that you use Barnard's Certificate of Eligibility. You are required to report to the OIIS shortly after your arrival and no later than the beginning of the semester.
8. Obtain extensions, as needed, of your permission to stay in the U.S. before your I-20 expires. If you have valid academic or health reasons for requiring more time to complete your program than that which is authorized on the Barnard I-20, you must request a program extension through the OIIS. Come to the OIIS as soon as you know that you will need an extension and at least 30 days before the completion date noted on your I-20 in order to have enough time to obtain any necessary documents.
9. Once you have completed your studies and any practical training that is authorized, you must leave the U.S. or change to another immigration status within the appropriate timeframe. This means that you are allowed to stay for the period of time to complete a program of study plus academic or practical training and a grace period. Those in F-1 status have a 60-day grace period in which to depart the U.S. or change to another status.
10. Carry a copy of your passport and I-94 record with you at all times. When traveling outside the New York City area, you should bring your most recent I-94 record, I-20, and passport with you.
We encourage you to contact the OIIS if you have any questions about maintaining your F-1 status.
Important terms and regulations
- Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)
- Designated School Official (DSO)
- I-94 record
- Form I-20
- Identification Documents
- Renewing F-1 Visas
- Dropping below a full course load
Student and Exhange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)
SEVIS stands for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. It is a secure internet- based system that allows schools and the U.S. immigration service to exchange data on the visa status of international students. Current information is transmitted electronically throughout an F-1 or J-1 student’s academic career in the United States. Barnard must comply with the SEVIS reporting requirements. Failure to comply could result in the loss of the college’s ability to accept international students in the future.
How SEVIS Works
- After Barnard admits an international student, Barnard issues an I-20 or DS-2019 through SEVIS. The new bar-coded I-20 or DS-2019 form is then sent to you.
- The student visits the U.S. Consulate abroad, and the consulate confirms that the I-20 or DS-2019 the student is carrying is a valid document. If everything is in order, the consulate issues the visa.
- An immigration officer at the airport reports to SEVIS the student’s entry into the United States.
- When the student arrives on campus, she reports to the international student adviser or a designated school official and registers online to confirm her intention to enroll in a full course of study.
- The college continues to provide regular electronic reports through SEVIS throughout your time at Barnard.
- Finally, SEVIS records the student’s departure from the United States.
Designated School Official (DSO)
A DSO is the school representative who advises you on immigration matters, maintains your SEVIS F-1 record, and acts as the liaison between the student and USCIS. Leigh Ellen Johnson is the Primary Designated School Official (PDSO); Mark Farrell is an additional DSO.
Your passport must be valid at least six months into the future at all times. You may apply for a renewal of your passport in your own country during a vacation abroad or through your country’s embassy, consulate or mission in the U.S. Regardless of your visa type, you should be sure to bring your passport to the international student adviser soon after you arrive so that a copy of the ID page can be made for your file.
When you go to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate nearest you in your home country and present a new Form I-20, the consular official will place a visa stamp on a page inside your passport (except Canadian citizens). This visa gives you permission to apply for entry to the U.S. It indicates the type of visa you have been given for your stay in the U.S. and the expiration date. Also, it will indicate how many times you can enter the U.S. using that visa (i.e., single, two, multiple). The length of time you are authorized to stay in the U.S. is determined by the date on your I-20 or DS-2019.
All non-U.S. citizens are issued an I-94 record when they arrive at a U.S. port of entry. All international students, regardless of visa type, should retrieve their record each time they enter the country, and keep this record with their Form I-20, passport, and other important documents. It will include your USCIS status, date of entry, and the length of time that your status is valid. A notation of “D/S” means that your F-1 or J-1 status is valid for the “duration of status” or the time it will take to complete your current degree program as a full-time student.
This is one of the forms used to document your maintenance of F-1 student status. Barnard issues it once you have been accepted and have provided financial documents that show your ability to pay for all your expenses as you pursue your studies. The Form I-20 is used to obtain your F-1 visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. After your initial entry in the U.S., your Form I-20 ID (student copy) must be properly signed by a DSO in the OIIS on the third page before you leave the United States. Signatures for travel are usually valid for six months.
Many countries require every person to carry an identity card. The United States has no such requirement. There is no national identity card. You should, however, carry identification with you at all times. To cash a check or purchase goods with a check usually requires two forms of identification. In the U.S., people normally use their driver’s license and a major credit card. Often, international students substitute their passport for the driver’s license and their valid Barnard College ID card for a credit card.
Renewing F-1 Visas
When you received your visa stamp inside your passport, an expiration date was also noted. If your visa expires while you are studying in the U.S., there is no need to renew it as long as you are staying in the U.S. However, if you travel abroad, you must plan to renew it. If you fail to renew your visa while you are abroad, you will be denied re-entry into the U.S.
It is NOT possible to renew your F-1 visa inside the U.S. You may renew your visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country to which you are traveling (preferably your home country because countries other than your own may impose stricter requirements or may be unwilling to renew a visa for a citizen or resident of another country). You will need a new Form I-20 from Barnard and updated financial documentation in order to renew your visa.
If you follow the guidelines below, you should have no problem maintaining your student immigration status. If you have questions about any of the information in this handbook, you should seek the advice of the international student adviser.
Dropping Below a Full Course-Load
International students must not drop below a full course of study after classes have begun without prior authorization from the international student adviser, who will authorize the reduced course load on SEVIS. “Full time” means 12 credits per semester.
Students who are experiencing medical difficulties can reduce their credit load or take the semester off and not do any coursework. Documentation from a licensed medical doctor or psychologist is required, as well as permission from the relevant Class Dean. Then the international student adviser in the OIIS may authorize a reduced credit load in SEVIS. You must obtain all of these approvals in order to drop below full-time status.
While you are in F-1 status, you are permitted to leave the U.S. and re-enter in F-1 status provided you present the required documentation. If you intend to re-enter the U.S. and continue your full-time course of study, you must always be admitted to the U.S. in F-1 status. This section provides detailed information on the requirements for traveling outside the United States and re-entering in F-1 status. The following topics are addressed:
Documents Required for Re-Entry in F-1 Status
You are required to carry the following documents with you to re-enter the U.S. as an F-1 student. We encourage you to use this section as a checklist to ensure that you have everything you need to successfully re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status.
- Passport valid for at least 6 months into the future: Some countries have the expiration dates of the passports automatically extended for 6 months based on an agreement with the U.S. If your country of citizenship is on this list, you may enter the U.S. using your passport until its actual expiration date. Check here to see if your country is on the list. If your passport will expire, contact your consulate.
- Canadian citizens do not require an entry visa to enter the U.S. from Canada, but DO require an I-20. All Canadian citizens entering the U.S. are required to show a passport.
- Unexpired F-1 visa valid for further entries: You should always be aware of the expiration date and the number of entries allowed on your visa. Most visas have "M" written under entries. This means that there is no limit on the number of entries for which you can use your visa. If your visa is expired or you have already used the number of entries you are allowed, you will need to apply for a new F-1 visa in order to re-enter the U.S. An exception to this requirement exists for travel to certain countries.
- Valid I-20 recertified within 6 months of the date on which you will return to the U.S. Recertification (travel signature) is on page 3 of the I-20. It indicates that you are maintaining valid F-1 status. Only staff at the OIIS is authorized by the Department of Homeland Security to sign your I-20. Each signature is valid for 6 months, although you may have the I-20 signed more frequently if you wish.
The OIIS can only sign your I-20 for travel if you are maintaining valid F-1 status. You must plan ahead to get your I- 20 signed before you leave the country.
If you will be outside the U.S. for more than 5 months, please see Extended Stays Outside the U.S.
We also recommend that you carry the following documents with you. It is possible that an immigration officer could ask you for these documents.
- Receipt of SEVIS I-901 Fee (if applicable). For information on who is required to pay this fee, go to www.fmjfee.com
- Current financial documentation issued within the last 3 months.
- Proof of full-time enrollment. You can request an enrollment verification from the Registrar.
Travel to Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean
If you are traveling only to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean (except Cuba and Bermuda) for fewer than thirty days, you may return to the U.S. with an expired F-1 entry visa in your passport. To qualify for this privilege, you must:
- Be in lawful F-1 status.
- Have an unexpired I-94 card indicating your F-1 status in your passport when you enter the U.S. Do not surrender the I-94 card when you leave the U.S. If you do, you will not be eligible for visa revalidation.
- Have a current, recertified I-20 in your possession.
- Have a passport valid at least six months into the future on the day you return to the U.S.
- Travel only to one of the destinations named above and for fewer than thirty days. For example, you cannot use automatic revalidation to enter Canada, depart to another country, return to Canada, and then return to the U.S. within 30 days.
- Not apply for a U.S. visa while in Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean. If you apply for a U.S. entry visa during your visit to one of these destinations, you must wait for it to be issued before you return. If your visa application is denied by the American consulate, you are not allowed to use automatic revalidation to return to the U.S. You will be required to travel to your country of citizenship to apply for a new visa.
- Have an F-1 visa (expired or valid) in your passport or an approval notice for change of status to F-1 and the invalid visa of your previous non-immigrant status in your passport.
- Be a citizen of a country other than Syria, Iran, Sudan or Cuba. Nationals of these countries are not eligible for visa revalidation. If you are a national of one of the above countries, you must always have a valid visa in your passport to enter the United States.
Travel for Canadian Students
Canadian citizens do not require an entry visa to enter the U.S. from Canada, but DO require an I-20. All Canadian citizens are required to show a passport to enter the United States.
Those entering the U.S. to study should request F-1 status at the border and must always show the Form I-20 and supporting financial documentation to the immigration inspector at the port of entry. Be sure to check your I-94 card before you leave the inspection area to ensure that the I-94 card was properly notated with F-1, D/S. Often, your I-94 card will not be removed from your passport when you leave the U.S., and you will not receive a new one when you re-enter. This is not a problem. Just be aware that if the I-94 card is removed, you must get a new one with the F-1 notation when you re-enter.
Travel While on Post-Completion Occupation Practical Training (OPT)
The entry requirements while you are on OPT are similar to the requirements while you are a student; however, you will need to show some additional documentation. The Department of Homeland Security allows for re-entry while on OPT "to resume employment after a temporary absence."
All individuals who have applied for post-completion OPT must carry the following documents:
- Passport valid for 6 months into the future
- Valid F-1 entry visa, unless using visa revalidation
- I-20 recertified within the past 6 months. Please note that this is a change in the length of validity of recertification. Recertification is generally valid for one year, but once you are on OPT, it is valid for only 6 months.
- If you have applied for OPT, but not yet received the EAD, you must also carry the following:
- Original receipt notice issued by the Vermont Service Center confirming your request for OPT.
- Original receipt notice issued by the Vermont Service Center confirming your request for OPT.
- If your OPT has been approved, you must also carry the following:
- EAD card
- Letter from employer confirming that you are employed or have been offered employment. Please note: this letter must be for the duration of your OPT and not for a permanent position.
The guidance from DHS states that if an individual has been approved for OPT and leaves the U.S. prior to receiving a job offer, the OPT authorization ends. If you are planning to leave the U.S. and do not have all of the required documentation, please speak with an advisor at the OIIS.
If you require a new entry visa while on OPT, be aware that there is no guarantee that you are eligible for one. You are required to establish non-immigrant intent every time you apply for a non-immigrant visa. This may be harder to establish when you are working rather than studying. If you have an expired F-1 entry visa, speak with an OIIS advisor before planning a trip abroad.
Extended Stay Outside the U.S.
If you leave the U.S. and do not register during the normal academic year for your program, your record in the SEVIS database will be terminated. If you are registered full-time while outside the U.S., contact the OIIS to verify that your F-1 status will remain valid.
Travel within the United States
In general, special permission is not required to travel within the U.S. We recommend that you carry your passport, I-94 card, and I-20 with you whenever you travel outside the New York metropolitan area.
Travel to a Third Country
When traveling to a third country (a country other than the U.S. or your home country), you are responsible for knowing whether you need an entry visa for that country. Travel to Canada and Mexico is common from the U.S.
Persons from many countries are required to obtain a Canadian entry visa when entering Canada from the U.S. Visas may be obtained from the Canadian Consulate General at 1251 Avenue of the Americas (at 50th Street, telephone (212-596-1600). Consult the Canadian Consulate General for visa regulations concerning your country before making travel arrangements.
Tourist cards or visas may be required for travel to Mexico. Information is available from the New York Consulate General of Mexico, 27 East 39 Street, telephone (212) 217-4600.
Students are allowed to work on campus (within the Morningside Heights campuses of Barnard College or Columbia University) from the time they register. Employment on campus must be limited to 20 hours per week when classes are in session, but can be full-time during vacations. For on-campus employment, you will not need approval from any external government agency. Barnard Babysitting and Barnard Bartending (except the manager positions) are not considered to be on-campus employment. If you have any doubts about what is considered on-campus employment, consult the international student adviser.
To be eligible to work off-campus, an F-1 student must have been enrolled at Barnard for an academic year. Off-campus employment must be authorized by USCIS and recommended by the international student adviser. Types of off-campus employment are summarized here, with more detailed information below:
- Optional Practical Training (OPT): Employment that is directly related to your field of study and is limited to a maximum of 12 months of full-time employment. Application is made to the USCIS. Students in STEM-Designated Majors are eligible to apply for an OPT extension of 24 months.
- Curricular Practical Training (CPT): Employment pursuant to "a curricular practical training program that is an integral part of an established curriculum. Curricular practical training is defined to be alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school" [8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(i)].
- Severe Economic Hardship: Employment due to unforeseen and severe economic difficulties that arise after initial enrollment at Barnard. Circumstances may include substantial changes in the value of the home country’s currency, unexpected financial difficulties of your sponsor, or unexpected medical bills. Application is made to the USCIS.
- Employment with an International Organization: Employment with a recognized international organization, such as the United Nations or the World Bank. These international organizations are authorized to hire their own nationals to work in their offices in the United States.
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
OPT (Optional Practical Training) is employment authorization for the purpose of “practical training” in your major area of study, either during or following completion of your studies. “Practical training” includes both paid and unpaid work for at least 20 hours per week.
In order to be eligible, you must have a valid F-1 visa. For Post-Completion OPT, you must have completed all of the course requirements for the award of your degree. For Pre-Completion OPT, you must have completed one academic year of study and be currently enrolled as a full-time student at Barnard. Note: You may not apply for OPT (pre or post) if you are currently withdrawn from the College for any reason. Once you have been readmitted, you must complete one full academic year before you can qualify for OPT.
You are eligible for a maximum of 12 months of full-time OPT employment while in F-1 status, for each degree level (i.e., 12 months for a Bachelor’s degree, 12 months for a Master's degree, 12 months for a Ph.D.) Think of it as a bank account of 12 months of work eligibility; any time spent on Pre-Completion OPT will be deducted from your 12 months of eligibility and will shorten your time available for Post-Completion OPT.
OPT STEM Extension
Certain government-designated STEM degree-holders (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) may be eligible for an additional 24 months of OPT. To verify whether your degree program qualifies for a STEM extension, please check the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) STEM extension list.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
According to the F-1 Student regulations set by the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), CPT is employment pursuant to "a curricular practical training program that is an integral part of an established curriculum. Curricular practical training is defined to be alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school." [8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(i)]
The Barnard College curriculum does not require that all degree candidates complete an internship, and Barnard College does not award credit for internships. However, international students at Barnard may apply for CPT by taking a 1-credit independent study class. For more information, please contact the International & Intercultural Student Programs Office.
If you are interested in pursuing an internship off campus, you may also consider using Pre-Completion OPT. More information on Pre-Completion OPT can be found here. If you have additional questions, please make an appointment with an adviser in the International & Intercultural Student Programs Office.
Obtaining a Social Security Number
A Social Security Number (SSN) is only assigned to people who are authorized to work in the United States. Social Security Numbers are used to report your wages to the government. If you want to obtain a job on or off campus, you will need to apply for an SSN.
To apply for an SSN, you can visit the nearest Social Security Office at 123 William St., 3rd floor, New York, NY 10038 (open Monday through Friday, 7:00 AM to 4:00 PM). The application form, called an SS-5, is available at the Social Security Office, or it can be downloaded from the government's website at www.ssa.gov. For detailed information on how to apply and what to bring to your appointment, please read this helpful document on International Students & Social Security Numbers.
You should receive your Social Security card within about two to three weeks. When you receive your SSN, you must inform the Registrar in 107 Milbank Hall. The SSN will replace the nine-digit “temporary SSN” that was given to you when you first registered at Barnard.
International Students' Tax Obligations
The information printed in this section is intended as general guidance on your obligations as an F-1 student to file certain tax forms each year you are in the U.S. It should not be interpreted as tax advice. Specific instructions are available at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website (www.irs.gov). All tax forms must be filed by April 15 of each year. The forms are available on the IRS website, under “Forms and Publications.”
Every international student must file a tax form. If you are an F-1 or J-1 student who has been in the U.S. for five years or less and had no earned income or scholarships the previous year, then you need to file Form 8843 by April 15. Interest from a bank account is not earned income.
If you had any U.S. source of earned income or scholarship, you will need to file:
- Form 8843
- IRS Form 1040NR-EZ or Form 1040NR
- NY State Forms IT-203 and IT-203-ATT (if your income was greater than $7,500)
Each employer for whom you worked during the past calendar year is required to issue you a W-2 before the end of January. If you are filing Forms 1040 or IT-203, you need to attach copies of the W-2 when you file these tax forms.
If your employer withheld Social Security and Medicare (FICA) taxes from your salary, as a non-U.S. citizen, you are entitled to a refund of these taxes. You may request the refund from your employer. If the employer is unable to refund these taxes, you may file IRS Form 843 and Form 8316 for a refund from the IRS.
If you have any questions or need federal non-resident tax forms, call 215-516-2000 (Monday to Friday, 6:00 AM to 2:00 PM) or send an email via the website, http://www.irs.gov/. For N.Y. State non-resident forms, call 800-225-5829 (free call) or 518-485-6800 (outside the U.S. and Canada) (Monday to Friday, 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM) or visit the website http://www.tax.ny.gov/.
To download tax forms and publications, go to Columbia’s ISSO website (www.columbia.edu/cu/isso/tax/) or IRS website (www.irs.gov/formspubs/index.html). In addition, CINTAX is a web-based non-resident tax preparation software program designed primarily for students, scholars, trainees, and researchers to aid in preparing their U.S. federal income tax return. It prompts you to respond to a series of simple questions. From your answers, it will determine whether you qualify as a non-resident for tax purposes and, if so, will complete the federal tax form 1040NR-EZ of 1040NR and the 8843, a form required of all those in F or J status, regardless of any income. The completed relevant forms can be printed, reviewed, signed, and sent.
There can be immigration consequences for failing to file tax forms. For example, applicants for a change from F-1 to H-1B (the professional worker visa) can be asked by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service to submit copies of previous years’ income tax forms as part of the H-1B application. Applicants for permanent residency (“green cards”) can be asked to show copies of tax forms filed for previous years. A person who appears at a U.S. consulate abroad for consular processing of a permanent residency visa application may be asked to produce U.S. income tax forms from their previous years in the U.S.