Visa Basics

Application for I-20 or DS-2019


Now that you have been admitted to a full-time program of study at Teachers College, you must request a Form I-20 or DS-2019. The Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) is responsible for the issuance of I-20s and DS-2019s on behalf of Teachers College.

A Form I-20 is necessary to apply for an F-1 student visa and to enter the U.S. as an F-1 student. A Form DS-2019 is necessary to apply for a J-1 Exchange Visitor (student) visa and to enter the U.S. as a J-1 student.

How to Obtain a Form I-20 or Form DS-2019

Newly admitted students must complete the Initial I-20 or DS-2019 Request and Financial Documentation eForms. Student receiving funding from an indivial sponsor, such as a parent or other relatives, must download and submit a completed Sponsor's Affidavit of Support.

What is F-1 Status: 

F-1 status is the most common type of status used to study in the United States. F-1 status is for full-time academic and language students who are pursuing a degree or certificate. If you decide on F-1 status, you will need to apply for a Form I-20.

If you plan to bring your spouse and/or children with you, you must also consider the following:

  • They will need to obtain F-2 dependent I-20s from Teachers College.
  • F-2 spouses may not work in the US and may not enroll in school full-time.

What is J-1 Status? 

In order to be a J-1 student at TC, at least half of your funding must come from a source other than personal or family funds. If you decide on J-1 status, you will need to apply for a Form DS-2019.

If you plan to bring your spouse and/or children with you, you must also consider the following:

  • They will need to get J-2 dependent DS-2019s from TC.
  • J-2 spouses may apply for work permission and may study in the US. Please note that J-2 work authorization should not be for the funding of the J-1's education.
  • Dependents should accompany their J-1s when traveling in and out of the US.
  •  J-1 exchange visitors and J-2 dependents must carry full health insurance while in the United States meeting US Department of State requirements
  • J-1 exchange visitors and J-2 dependents may be subject to a "two-year" home residency requirement; if subject, they are required to return to their country of permanent residence for at least two years following completion before becoming eligible for U.S. permanent residency or certain kinds of U.S. working visas

The application should be submitted to the OISS only AFTER you have been admitted to a full-time program of study at TC. Follow the instructions on the application and provide all required documents as indicated on the form. The OISS cannot process an application unless all required documents have been submitted and approved.

If you are already in the U.S. in F-1 status at another institution, and intend to enroll at Teachers College, you must submit an F-1 Student Transfer Form to Teachers College via TC-Compass in addition to your I-20/DS-2019 application. Please visit the F-1 Transfer Process page for aditional information.

Once your application has been submitted and reviewed, the OISS will issue a Form I-20 or Form DS-2019. The application process usually takes up to 14 business days. You will receive further information regarding I-20 / DS-2019 document delivery, visa and immigration procedures, and other important matters once the I-20 or DS-2019 has been prepared and made available for delivery.

Helpful Hints and Information

Documents will be processed in the order in which they are received. Once the OISS receives your applications and all supporting documents, it will take approxiamtely 14 business days to issue a Form I-20 or Form DS-2019, provided that no additional information is required, your tuition deposit has been received and processed, and, if you already hold F-1 or J-1 status at another school, your F-1/J-1 transfer 'release date' has been reached. The Form I-20 or DS-2019 will be mailed to the address provided on the eForm by first class mail or international airmail, free of charge. Express service is available for a fee (consult the eForm instructions form).

When you receive your I-20 or DS-2019, be sure to review the form to ensure that all the information is accurate. You must also carefully read all enclosed materials. You are responsible for maintaining lawful student status while you are a student in the United States. Immigration regulations change from time to time. Therefore, It is important that you attend the immigration workshops offered by the OIS. You are also encouraged to consult the OIS staff with any questions you may have about your rights and responsibilities while in F-1 or J-1 status. 


If you are in or plan to enter the United States in another non-immigrant status, you may or may not need to obtain F-1 or J-1 student status in order to study at Teachers College. For example, most dependents (such as H-4 dependents) are permitted to study while accompanying their family members in the U.S. However, many non-immigrant statuses carry immigration restrictions on employment that may make it desirable to seek F-1 status. Contact the Office of International Services at tcintl@tc.columbia.edu with specific questions about your individual situation. 

The following immigration classifications are not permitted to study or to lawfully accept employment while in the U.S.

  • Tourists (individuals admitted in WT / WB or B-1 / B-2 status) are not eligible to study while in the United States, but must obtain F-1 or J-1 status as appropriate.
  • F-2 dependent spouses may be subject to restriction of study and may need to switch to F-1 or J-1 status as appropriate.

The following immigration classifications are permitted to study, but may not lawfully accept employment while in the U.S.:

  •     H-4 dependents of H-1 temporary workers
  •     TD dependents of TN (NAFTA) workers

The following immigration classifications are permitted to study full or part-time, and may apply for employment authorization incident to their status:

  •     Dependents in E-2 or L-2 status
  •     Dependents in G-4 status
  •     Dependent spouses in J-2 status

If you are the primary visa holder and your immigration status depends on employment (i.e.: A-1 diplomat, H-1 temporary specialty occupation worker, G-4 international organization employee, etc.), you will need to switch to F-1 or J-1 status if you decide to terminate your employment. Otherwise, in most cases you may study 'incident to status,' i.e., as long as you continue to fulfill the terms and obligations or your current immigration status.

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