Learn about Visa Status and Authorization

Learn about visa status and authorization for foreign individuals at Columbia University.


Types of Visas

There are many different types or classifications of visas.  Each classification of visa is determined by the purpose of entry. For Universities, the most common classifications of visa are:

  • Visitors: Temporary visitors for business (B1 Visa)
  • Academic Students: (F1 Visa)
  • Temporary Workers:  Specialty Occupations (H1B Visa)
  • Exchange Visitors: (J1 Visa)

Allowable Payments per Visa Type

Visit Allowable Payments by Visa Type for a table that details what payment authorizations are allowed by visa type:

  • Honorarium
  • Salary
  • Expense Reimbursement
  • Per Diem

Documents Associated with Status & Authorization


Issuing country’s permission for the individual to travel.


Non-immigrant classification while within the U.S. as determined by the DHS

  • Temporarily authorizes you to be in the U.S.
  • Determines eligibility for payments or reimbursements.

Note: A visa is generally not required for citizens of Canada and Bermuda, but a valid unexpired passport is generally required. A visa or passport is generally not required of a Mexican national, but a border crossing card, or similar stamp in a passport, is generally required.

I-94 (or ESTA Receipt #)

Notes length of authorized stay in U.S Visa Waiver Program

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens of participating countries to travel to the United States without a visa for stays of 90 days or less when they meet the following requirements:

  • Travel purpose must be permitted on a Visitor (B) Visa
  • Cannot receive any salary or income
  • Only reimbursements and honorarium (under certain circumstances) allowed
  • Unallowable purposes: student, employment, permanent residence

The Honorarium Rule allows for foreign individuals within an academic environment under visa types B-1, B-2, W-T (Visa Waiver Tourist Program), W-B (Visa Waiver Business Program), Visa Exempt Canadians or Mexicans with Border Crossing Cards to:

  • Perform academic services such as lectures
  • For periods up to 9 days at a time
  • For no more than 5 institutions per 6 month period
  • Not available to visa types such as H-1b, A, G, O, P

The Honorarium Rule does not apply to other entities other than higher education or nonprofit or government research institutions. It is not applicable to services that are not usual academic services.

Remember that an Honorarium is a “thank you” payment, usually to an outside party. It is NOT a payment for an invoice, to an agent, to a student.

Honorarium payments are subject to withholding, and from the IRS tax perspective considered a payment for service.

Form I-94 is the DHS arrival/departure record issued to aliens who are admitted to the U.S. This visitor must exit the U.S. on or before the designated departure date. Transactions should occur during the authorized length of stay.

Important note: I-94 Form is being phased out for air/sea arrivals and replaced by an electronic travel record. Paper I-94 form with stamp remains for land arrivals.

Members of Visa Waiver Program should utilize the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) in place of the I-94.

Allowable Payments by Visa Type

To view eligibility for payments or salary, based on DHS and IRS guidelines, please visit Allowable Payments by Visa Type

International Students & Scholars Office (ISSO)

To view international student guidance for departments, please visit the ISSO Website for more information. 


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