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Office of International Services
Teachers College, Columbia University
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Office of International Services

Before & After Arrival > Pre-Departure Tips: Before You Leave

Pre-Departure Tips: Before You Leave

The following is a checklist of useful tips to consider before leaving for New York.

Making Travel Plans and Reservations


If you are arriving from overseas, make your travel reservations well in advance, especially as flights to New York during late summer months tend to fill quickly. In making your reservations and travel plans keep in mind the following:

  •     If you are a new F-1 or J-1 student you may not enter the United States more than 30 days before the start date indicated on your I-20 or DS-2019 form, even if you already have a visa.
  •     The OIS recommends that you schedule your flight to arrive during business hours (9am - 5pm, EST), so that you can more easily contact TC offices if you require assistance.
  •     If you are arriving before your on-campus housing move-in date, or if you do not have firm long-term housing plans, make sure that you have made arrangements for temporary accommodations (hotel reservations, temporary stays with friends or relatives, etc.) before you have left for New York.
  •     Plan your arrival in New York by reading information on this or other web site. You should acquaint yourself with transportation options into the city, including subway / taxi / bus. Unfortunately, the OIS is unable to meet or greet individual students at local airports. However, we can provide further information about transportation options if you email your arrival information to us at tcintl@tc.columbia.edu

Packing Your Items


Unfortunately, Teachers College is unable to receive or store packages or household items sent in advance. We strongly recommend that you travel lightly, and arrange for additional books, clothing, and other materials to be sent to you after you have arrived and settled in your long-term housing arrangement.
Before Leaving for the Airport / Port of Entry

Check to see that you have the following documents before leaving for the airport or your Canadian border crossing:

  •     Your airline or train ticket, or e-ticket reservation (if applicable)
  •     An unexpired passport valid at least 6 months into the future
  •     An unexpired F-1 or J-1 visa (Exception: Canadian citizens do not need to have visas)
  •     Your Form I-20 or DS-2019 from Teachers College
  •     Your admission letter(s) and financial documents
  •     Information about your long-term or temporary housing arrangements
  •     TC's address (525 West 120th Street, Manhattan)
  •     Proof of payment of the I-901 SEVIS fee
  •     Traveler's check and small amounts of cash for airport / daily expenses for the first few days (see our Money Basics section for more information about money-related issues)

Most airlines recommend checking in at least 3 hours prior to departure for international flights. Similarly, Canadian nationals are recommended to arrive at airports or ports of entry with plenty of extra time prior to departure, as your immigration and academic documents will need to be reviewed by an immigration inspector.
Office of International Services
Teachers College, Columbia University
Box 7, 525 W 120th Street
New York, New York 10027-6696
Phone: (212) 678-3939 ♦ ~ Fax: (212) 678-3990 ♦ Email: