ILAS Visiting Scholars Program FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Program Benefits

No, "Visiting scholar" is a courtesy designation that does not signify a formal association with the University. Individuals named to these titles may not claim a University affiliation for the purpose of applying for grants and contracts and should not represent themselves in their publications and correspondence as having a University affiliation.

ILAS is not able to offer office space to Visiting scholars.

Yes, Visiting Scholars are given access to the libraries, including online collections, plus borrowing privileges for the duration of your designation.

Visiting scholars are not allowed to take courses for credit, however, they may informally audit a class with the permission of the faculty member teaching that class.

Yes, Visiting Scholars are welcome to participate in all events organized and sponsored by the Institute for Latin American and all its affiliate programs.  In addition, the majority of events organized by other Insitutes, Centers, and Departments of the university are open to Visiting Scholars.

Application Process

Yes, there is an administration fee of $300 for ILAS, and a DS2019 fee of $500 for the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) for the processing of visa requests.

Visiting Scholars are allowed to stay for one year with the possibility to extend their visit for an extra year for a maximum of two years.  Visiting Scholars are able to come for visits shorter than one year.

You will need to submit a formal letter explaining why an extension is needed and justifying the need for the extra time. These requests will be reviewed by the Provost’s Office and will be under their discretion to approve it, or not.

No, decisions are made on a rolling basis during the academic year. However, applications should be submitted at least three months prior to your proposed start date, to allow sufficient time for ILAS and University review, as well as the visa application process.

Applications should be submitted at least three months prior to your proposed start date, to allow sufficient time for ILAS and University review, as well as the visa application process.

As part of the application process you must obtain an endorsement from a faculty member at Columbia.  This includes faculty in the School of Arts and Sciences, as well as other Schools like the School for International and Public Affairs (SIPA), the Schools of Journalism, the Business School, and the Law school.  Faculty at Barnard College or Teachers College cannot serve as sponsors.

Please visit the following websites to identify potential for advisors. Applicants are expected to reach out to potential advisors directly to inquire about their interest in serving as a sponsor of their application:

Institute of Latin American Studies

School of International and Public Affairs

Department of Anthropology

Department of Economics

Department of History

Department of Political Science

Department of Sociology

Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures

No, Visiting Scholars must obtain an endorsement from a faculty member at Columbia.  Although Barnard College and Teachers College are affiliated with Columbia, they are independent institutions and Columbia guidelines for Visiting Scholars do not permit having faculty sponsors from these institutions. 

Results are typically communicated within one month of receiving a complete application.


Once an application has been approved by the university, we will coordinate with the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) at Columbia to obtain a DS2019 document which Visiting Scholars use to apply for the J-1 visa in their home country.

No, it is necessary to obtain  a J1 visa in order to come as a visiting scholar, regardless of the length of your stay.

No, it is necessary to obtain a J1 visa in order to come as a visiting scholar.

Logistics for Accepted Fellows

Information technology at Columbia, including access to University email, is served by CUIT. In order to access and use the University computing network, you must have a network ID (UNI) and password. Your UNI and instructions for activating it will be sent to you with your official acceptance letter from the provost.

Housing in New York City is expensive and difficult to obtain, so be sure to allow ample time to arrange a place of residence. Unfortunately, scholars are not eligible for University housing. Some useful links for your housing search follow:

For more information about schools in the area, visit the Office of Work/Life.

U.S. Department of State regulations require all J-1 visa holders and their dependents to have health insurance, with specified minimum coverage, while in the United States. We encourage you to review the helpful information compiled by Columbia's International Students and Scholars Office.

Once you have secured a faculty sponsor and been accepted to the program, you must be able to prove sufficient funding for the length of your stay. The University requires a bank statement indicating the amount of funds available in your account. In addition, you must procure a letter from your university or company indicating your status and the amount of funds, if any, it will be contribute to your research. Note that the total of all grants, savings, and salary must be enough to cover the following:

  • $3,000 per month for the visiting scholar
  • $1,000 per month for a spouse
  •  $500 per month for each child

For instance, you would need to show $4,300 per month if you were to come with your spouse and one child.

You will need:

  • Passport
  • Evidence of Columbia affiliation
  • Local address
  • Columbia ID

Be sure the bank officer is aware that you are a nonresident. You may be asked to complete a form called W8-BEN for nonresidents so that your interest will not be taxed. View bank locations in neighborhoods near Columbia. Note that Santander has a branch on the Morningside campus in Alfred Lerner Hall open Monday through Friday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Some carriers may offer student discounts, but it is best to check with the stores owned by the mobile provider directly rather than authorized dealers. Some scholars bring an “unlocked” phone from home and buy a U.S. SIM card from a mobile provider. Here are some mobile phone options.

Each state has its own Department of Motor Vehicles that administers the issuance of driver’s licenses. New York State honors foreign licenses for drivers who are here temporarily, but you must have a certified English translation. We recommend you bring an International Driving Permit (available only from your home country) to use with your license; the IDP alone is not valid to drive with. Visit New York State's Department of Motor Vehicles to learn about obtaining a driver’s license or non-driver ID card to learn how to apply. Also refer to Driving in the United States.

IDNYC is a government-issued identification card available to anyone living in New York City who is age 14 and older, regardless of immigration status. Discounts and free membership to 40 museums and cultural institutions. Learn how to apply.