International Students


GS senior, Yanyang Chen, learned a lot as a Marketing Intern at Sinovet (Beijing) Biotechnology Corporation.  Watch the video to learn more!


Whether you’re hoping to secure an on-campus job, an internship opportunity off-campus, or a full-time job after graduation, it is essential that you have a strong understanding of the career resources that are available to you.  In addition, as an international student, you will also need to be familiar with how your visa status plays a role in your career search.  See below for timelines as well as answers to frequently asked questions that can help you throughout the process.

Undergraduate International Students Timeline

Graduate International Students Timeline



Avery Cambridge, Chanel Thomas, Natallia Savitskaya, Fatima Diallo and Xinyu Guan (from left to right) in India during their international internship experience as part of the 2014 Columbia Experience Overseas (CEO) program.



Is there a list of internships or jobs that are open to international students on LionSHARE?

At the Center for Career Education, there is not a list available of internships or jobs that are open just to international students. However, we encourage all students to review positions that are posted on LionSHARE.  LionSHARE is an online database available exclusively to students and alumni served by the Center for Career Education (CCE).  Each employer determines eligibility requirements and states them in the job/internship descriptions so you must read internship and job descriptions closely.  The following resources are also helpful in the job search for international students:

  • Visa Jobs is a resource that provides information on top visa sponsors annually.
  • GoingGlobal offers lists of employers who have sponsored visas in the past. Use your UNI and password to log in.  Once logged in, go to the “H1B Info” tab at the top for the list of employers.
  • Uniworld provides a directory of US firms in foreign countries and foreign firms in the US.

Additionally, it is very important to meet with a CCE Career Counselor to discuss your career search.

What should I take into consideration when looking for a job or internship?

Columbia University international students are hired by employers due to the unique skillset and experiences that they bring to the workplace, which could potentially being familiar with a second language and/or culture.  As an international student, it is important to be knowledgeable about the hiring process and documentation that may be required for employment in the respective country.  Please note that for visa-related questions regarding working in the United States, it is important to review the Columbia International Students & Scholars Office (ISSO) webpage, consider attending ISSO workshops, and/or meet with a representative at the ISSO.  Review the ISSO Activities, Programs and Calendars webpage for more information.  

A few specific considerations you should review in regards to eligibility include the following:  

  • Location of the internship or job, i.e., is it in the U.S. or another country?
  • Your visa/work authorization for the location of the internship or job
  • How long you have been in full-time student status in the United States
  • Requirements specified by the employer for the internship or job
  • Whether the position is paid or unpaid (Note: for off-campus positions in the United States, any wages or other compensation like a stipend or housing requires authorization through Optional Practical Training (OPT). OPT is approved in your field of study and requires an application to the immigration agency. The ISSO will assist with this process. Refer to this summary of employment possibilities)


What is OPT (Optional Practical Training)?

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a benefit of F-1 student status that allows students to gain experience in their field of study by applying for off-campus work authorization. For more information regarding OPT, please review the Columbia International Students & Scholars Office (ISSO) webpage, consider attending ISSO workshops, and/or meet with a representative at the ISSO. 

I would prefer to use all of my OPT after I graduate.  What are other ways I can develop skills or gain experience in the meantime?

There are a variety of ways to expand your skillset.  First, consider joining a student organization on campus to begin to network with students, employers and alumni.  In addition, many student organizations have leadership opportunities to expand your knowledge of a particular industry or job function.  For example, you could work on your communication skills by being on the external relations committee of a student group.   Or, you could learn more about engineering practices by gaining hands-on, volunteer experience with Engineers without Borders.

In addition, volunteering is also an area to pursue to connect you with others and develop a variety of different skills.  Community Impact at Columbia University is a great resource for on-campus volunteering.  If you are interested in off-campus experiences, Idealist and New York Cares provide a number of volunteer opportunities.  You can gain hands-on experience by working on-campus, since these roles do not require you to use OPT.  For more information regarding on-campus jobs, review the on-campus jobs webpage.

Many students choose to intern internationally to gain experience without using OPT. The Columbia University Center for Career Education offers the Columbia Overseas Experience (CEO) program to undergraduate students which provide international internship opportunities in a wide range of industries.  Or, consider reviewing the International Resources page on CCE’s webpage, which provides an array of international opportunities.


How do I learn more about my visa status?

 Check with the Columbia International Students & Scholars Office to learn about your visa status before starting your job search.  In conjunction, work with counselors at CCE to discuss your job search and create a plan.


What if my internship requires that I get credit instead of compensation?

 Columbia College, The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Columbia School of General Studies, do not provide credit for internships. There is no doubt that internships are valuable experiences for students seeking an introduction to a range of careers and professional cultures.  This policy is one adopted by many of our peer institutions and also is in accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act and NY State’s Minimum Wage Act and Wage Orders. CCE has posted some helpful information regarding unpaid internships.


How do I find an on-campus job?

 On-campus jobs are a great way to gain experience throughout your time as a Columbia student.  See our On-Campus Jobs Tip Sheet as well as visit CCE to discuss your job search strategy with a counselor.  Note that full time F-1 and J-1 students are eligible for “casual” employment on campus, which means you are paid by Columbia University. This does NOT include work study positions (employment for US citizens who qualify for help in financing their education). On-campus work is limited by immigration regulations to part-time (maximum of 20 hours /week), except during official school vacation periods.


How do I find an off-campus job?

Interning and volunteering offer opportunities to gain experience, build your skills, and strengthen your resume, though visa restrictions may apply.  Review and become familiar with the career resources provided by CCE, including the Find an Internship or Job webpage.  As an international student, before working in any position off-campus, you must connect with ISSO to review work authorization requirements.  Please review the Optional Practical Training (OPT) information on ISSO's website (see links on left side of page). Additional information for Canadian and Mexican citizens can be found here.  Generally, F1 students are eligible only after two semesters of being registered full time in student immigration status, and J1 students are eligible after one semester.


How and when do I talk to an employer about my visa status?

Review this white paper entitled, “When in the Hiring Process do I Reveal that I’m an International Student?”  It provides tips on how and when to talk to an employer about your visa status. It is very important to be well-informed of your visa status and the hiring process.



(Photo taken by Char Smullyan at 2014 Engineering Consortium Career Fair)


I have questions about taxes.  Where do I get more information?

 Please connect with the Columbia International Students & Scholars Office or an accountant to ask any tax-related questions.


What additional resources are available to me?

 English language skills:

There are resources at and outside of Columbia to help you further refine your English language skills.  See below for a short-list of opportunities available:


Fellowship Information:

If you are interested in learning more about fellowships, please check out the following resources:


I’ve heard that networking is an important part of the job search process in the United States.  I’m unfamiliar with networking because it is not as common in my host country.  How do I learn how to network?

 Networking is the process of making connections and building relationships that provide you with information, advice, and further contacts, all of which will enhance your ability to make informed career decisions and tap into unadvertised internship/job vacancies. Networking can take place in a group or one-on-one setting. Even if you are not accustomed to networking in your host country, do not worry, as it is very common for many students at this stage of their career to learn the basics of networking.  See the Networking section (section 3) of the CCE Career Planning Guide for more information and resources.


What should I do after graduation?

 Beyond graduation, there are several options that are available to you as an international student:

  • Graduate school/Post-baccalaureate:  In order to specialize in a particular field as well as to extend your length of stay in the United States or in another region of the world, students have the option to pursue graduate school or some form of higher education.  For more information, review Graduate School – Factors to Consider.
  • Job Search: As a student, you can conduct several job searches which include:
    • “Heading home” for employment: Employers that are located back in one’s home country may have interest in hiring Columbia graduates, due to the strong academic skills as well as knowledge of the local culture and language.  In many cases, multi-national companies may be helpful to consider since they have offices in various locations around the world.   Should you be considering opportunities in your home country, take advantage of any trips back home throughout your time at Columbia to expand your network in your home country.  Beyond family and friends, also check to see if the Columbia Alumni Association or Columbia Global Center has a presence in your home country. 
    • Working outside of the USA: Many employers that have locations outside the United States have interest in hiring Columbia University international students due to the language fluency as well as cross-cultural understanding.   In this case, there may be fewer visa requirements for international students trying to obtain work authorization in the United States, dependent on the country.  For more information on how to conduct an overseas job search, check out Find a Job/Internship for helpful career advice as well as consider specific global resources and job postings such as: Going Global and CCE’s International Resources. Also, Uniworld provides a directory of US firms in foreign countries and foreign firms in the US which can help in locating global employers.
    • Working in the USA: Should you wish to work in the United States during your academic career or after graduation, it is crucial that you are familiar with the documents, timelines and resources related to your visa status.  In many cases, students that are familiar with their visa documents and status will come across as more confident when interacting with an employer, which can help during the hiring process.   In addition, check out the various resources available on the Find a Job/Internship webpage.


As always, connect with a career counselor at CCE to discuss job search strategies and tips as well as ISSO to obtain visa-related information throughout your career search.