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International Postdocs

bullet' International Student and Scholars Office / International Affairs Office

bullet' Proof of Doctoral Degree
bullet' Tuition Exemption for English Classes

bullet' Workshops for International Postdocs
bullet' Cultural Groups for International Students and Scholars

International Student and Scholars Office (ISSO) and the International Affairs Office (IAO)

Nearly 43% of all postdocs come to Columbia from international locales. But if one excludes residency postdocs from this total, the figure jumps to 71%. Serving this large population are two offices for International scholars housed on the Medical Center and Morningside Heights campuses. They are the International Students & Scholar’s Office (ISSO) and the Columbia University Medical Center International Affairs Office (IAO). Both offices assist international students and scholars with, among other things, documentation matters.

All candidates for postdoctoral appointments who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents (“green card holders”) must obtain a visa prior to starting their appointment at the University. As a result, visa issues should be addressed prior to the issuance of a letter of appointment or an offer of extension of an appointment. Your departmental administrator will advise you of the required procedure.

Immigration documentation is handled by ISSO and IAO. If you are here on a J-1 visa, with Columbia sponsorship, the name and address of the appropriate university office is on your Form DS-2019 (issued by the Department of Homeland Security/SEVIS) provided with your visa information.

Although some requests for documentation submitted to ISSO and IAO may be filled on the spot, it is prudent to allow at least five business days for processing. You should bring your passport and all relevant immigration documentation (including your Form DS-2019) with you when you go to ISSO or IAO for information or document processing.

Each Postdoctoral Officer is responsible for maintaining his or her appropriate status with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and knowing and following pertinent regulations. Postdoctoral Officers should familiarize themselves with their obligations to DHS by visiting the DHS website. If you hold a J-1 visa, you may also visit the ISSO website. If you are uncertain about your status, check with ISSO or IAO immediately. You should also consult with ISSO or IAO before visiting the District Office of the U.S. Immigration Service. If you take time early on to familiarize yourself with your obligations to the Department of Homeland Security, you should find it easy to maintain your legal status. If, however, you allow yourself to “fall out of status”, it may be extraordinarily difficult to be reinstated to legal J-1 status.

In addition to providing assistance with immigration documentation, ISSO’s website contains a wealth of information for international postdoctoral applicants. All non-U.S. citizen applicants should visit the "Incoming" section of the site, specifically the following two guides: “Coming to Columbia: Essential Information for Scholars” and “Immigration Overview for Scholars”. IAO also maintains immigration information on its own website.

ISSO Contact: Jane Acton Chung (212-854-6356)

IAO Contact: Kathleen McVeigh (212-305-8165)

For information on United States Income Tax Treaties for all countries, please visit http://www.irs.gov/businesses/international/article/0,,id=96739,00.html

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Proof of Degree

In order to become a postdoc, the candidate of interest must have his/her MD or PhD; depositing the Ph.D. for defense at a later date is not sufficient. If the dissertation has been successfully defended, but the degree not yet awarded, a letter from the applicable university’s registrar should be obtained, stating the date on which the degree will be conferred. If the letter is not written in English, it must be accompanied by an official English translation.

If you have any questions about your documentation, please contact the following people:

Morningside Campus: Pearl Spiro, Assistant Provost, Academic Appointments

Medical Center: April Armstrong-Studivant, Assistant Director of Faculty Affairs

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Tuition Exemption for English Classes

Through the School for Continuing Education, Columbia offers English Language Classes through the American Language Program.

For Postdoctoral Research Scientists/Scholars, Postdoctoral Research Fellows, and Postdoctoral Clinical Fellows who attend the American Language Program, the Tuition Exemption Program pays for one course per per term up to a maximum of two (2) per academic year (all sessions during the summer term count as one term.) The program does not pay for other courses, nor for any courses taken by family members or children. There is no waiting period.

In order to apply for Tuition Exemption for the American Language Program, you must pick up the proper forms from the Office of Human Resources or contact OPA.

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Workshops for International Postdocs

OPA organizes several workshops throughout the year for our international postdocs. Please visit our events calendar for more detailed information about our upcoming programming.

The International Student and Scholars Office (ISSO) also provides informational programs and workshops. For a list of upcoming ISSO programming please visit the ISSO events calendar.                                                                                                          back to top


Cultural Groups for International Students and Scholars

Acclimating to life in New York City can be difficult for any new postdoc, but the challenges increase for our international postdocs, who often have to adjust not only to a new lifestyle, but a vastly new culture, language, and working environment.

To assist with this transition, the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs has begun to collect a list of resources at Columbia that provide communities familiar to them. Please feel free to reach out to the following associations and organizations: 

Chinese Students and Scholars


Columbia University Hellenic Association http://www.columbia.edu/cu/hellenic/index.html 

Hindu Students Organization


Hong Kong Student and Scholars Association http://www.columbia.edu/cu/hksss/about.htm 

Indian Student Association at Columbia


Iranian Students Association


Japanese Students and Scholars


Korean Graduate Student Association http://www.columbia.edu/cu/kgsa/greeting1112.html 

The Organization of Pakistani Students


Polish Student Society


Russian International Association


Vietnamese Student Association


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