Visiting Scholars/Scientists

       Visitors who will teach or participate in a University research program must be appointed as officers of instruction or officers of research. Visitors who want to take courses for credit or otherwise have a formal affiliation with the University should enroll as students. Visitors who do not qualify for academic appointments but who wish to use the facilities of the University to pursue their own research may be designated as visiting scholars/scientists on the recommendation of the dean, director, or department chair in the academic discipline of the proposed visiting scholar/scientist. Recommendations at the Morningside and Manhattanville campuses require the prior approval of the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs. Recommendations at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center require the approval of the CUIMC Office of Faculty Affairs. These approvals must be obtained before the individual receives an invitation from the school or department and before the request for UNI and J-1 visa sponsorship, if applicable, is sent to the International Students and Scholars Office.

       The visiting scholar/scientist designations are courtesy designations which carry no formal association with the University. Visiting scholars/scientists may not claim a University affiliation for the purpose of applying for grants and contracts or in publications or other correspondences. They may indicate their designation, including the dates they held this designation and the names of the faculty/officers of research who served as their sponsors during this period, in the section of their curriculum vitae where they list the “fellowships, grants, and honors” they have received (not in the “Appointments” section).

       The title of visiting scholar/scientist is generally reserved for persons in one of the following categories:

  • scholars from American universities and colleges outside the New York metropolitan area;
  • scholars who work or reside in the greater New York area and are on leave from their home institutions;
  • members of research laboratories or institutions;
  • officials and former officials of governmental or nongovernmental organizations, such as the United Nations, and their affiliates;
  • practicing professionals and creative artists; 
  • graduate students enrolled in a degree-granting program in the Humanities, Social Sciences, or certain professional fields at another academic institution who are on leave from their home institution to do independent research with no collaboration, training, or mentorship from any Columbia faculty member or officer of research; and
  • other persons who will contribute to the intellectual life of the University.

       Individuals may be visiting scholars/scientists for up to one year. An extension for up to one additional year is granted rarely and only when the department chair, director, or dean provide compelling justification for the extension.

       Since persons with this designation do not hold appointments, they receive a special Columbia University identification card which allows them limited library borrowing privileges. They are not given office space and are not entitled to administrative assistance. Visiting scholars/scientists are responsible for arranging for their own financial support and benefits. They may not be paid compensation from a University account, given a fellowship, or reimbursed for expenses without the prior approval of the Office of the Provost. They may, however, receive an honorarium for participating in a conference or giving an occasional lecture if they are United States citizens or permanent residents or, in the case of nonresident noncitizens, if they have an appropriate visa and the prior authorization of the Office of the Provost.

       Visiting scholars/scientists may audit lecture courses with the permission of the instructors. Auditing of summer courses also requires the permission of the Dean of the Summer Session. Visiting scholars/scientists may also use the Dodge Fitness Center and the University’s other recreational facilities on payment of a fee.

       Foreign nationals and their home institutions will need to undergo “restricted party” screening using Visual Compliance before any commitment is made to the individual and before the request for the designation is submitted to the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs. Once the department or school has received the approval from the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, the department or school should contact the International Students and Scholars Office to a J-1 visa for the individual to visit the University. Foreign nationals cannot hold the designation of visiting scholar/scientist if they have a visitor visa status (B-1 or B-2 visa or are traveling under the ESTA Visa Waiver Program). Upon submission of all the documentation required by the US government, the International Students and Scholars Office will issue the DS-2019 form needed to support the J-1 application. Federal regulations require that the applicant for J-1 status have sufficient funds for the period of stay at Columbia and that the applicant meet the health insurance requirements of the Exchange Visitor Program while in the US.

Next Section: Seminar Associates

Updated September 29, 2023