Visiting Scholar Guidelines

Visiting Scholar Guidelines

If you are interested in becoming a Visiting Scholar, please take a minute to read this policy document and to familiarize yourself with the resources available to you during your visit. You will need approval of a faculty sponsor who will then recommend you to the Chair of the Department of Sociology. If you are coming from overseas and planning to spend more than three months here, please allow at least two months processing time for your visa. This website has helpful information too:  International Students and Scholars Office

While you are a guest in the department, we will not be able to provide you with housing, secretarial services, office supplies and equipment, computers, printers, mail services, or telephones. It may be possible to provide you with shared desk space, but space is not guaranteed to visitors. If you are given a desk, you will also need off-hours access to the building which may be arranged in the department office. If you are not given a desk, you will be able to use the libraries which all have wireless Internet connections for your laptop but you will not be able to enter the building in the evening or on weekends. 

Columbia University is an extraordinary place to work.  We have many libraries and study centers and, while you are here, you will also have access to the City of New York which is an amazing resource. If you have questions, please stop by the department office and we will be very happy to help you find answers.  Once you are on campus, please let us know which E-mail address you will be using while you are staying with us so that we can make sure you receive notices and invitations to all department events. You may also want to friend us on Facebook (Columbia University Department of Sociology) and follow us on Twitter (@columbiasoc).

The department staff will be happy to give you directions to libraries and to the various research centers on campus where we have affiliations. You will need to present your Columbia identification card to the security guard when you come into Knox.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I be able to use the Columbia University library system?

            Yes! The individual library hours are on the Columbia University website and your ID card will give you reading privileges.  If you need to take books out of the library, please stop by the Visitors Center at Butler Library near the entrance and they will issue you a borrower’s card. The fee is paid by you directly to the library at the time they issue the card and it costs about $30 per month.

Will I be able to attend department events?

            Yes!  You are welcome to attend any and all department events, or talks in our regular colloquium series.  You will also be able to attend any public events in Knox and on the Columbia campus.

Will I be reimbursed for my expenses?

            Unfortunately, no. The Faculty Handbook which governs the Visiting Scholar Program does not permit payments to visitors.

Will I be able to send and receive packages in the department?

            Unfortunately, no.  The Faculty Handbook which governs the Visiting Scholar Program does not permit secretarial assistance or services.  However, there is a US Post Office and a FedEx office very near the campus and we will be happy to help get you and your packages to one or the other locations.

Do I need a key to get into the building?

            If you are not provided with a desk space, you will be able to enter the building any time between 8:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. upon presenting your Columbia ID to the security guard at the desk in the lobby. 

            If you are provided with desk space, you will also be able to enter the building after hours with the Columbia ID card.  Please note: this card will not give you access to any other Columbia buildings except the libraries during business hours.

Will I be able to take courses while I am here?

            The Faculty Handbook which governs the Visiting Scholar Program does not permit you to take courses but you may sit in on lectures with the permission of the instructor.

            If you would like to take courses and need the academic credit for taking courses, please consult the website for the School of Continuing Education.  Visiting Scholars are not Columbia students, so to become a Columbia student you will need to enroll as a student.  Please make plans early if you would like to do this because it may impact your visa status if you are coming from overseas.

Will I be provided with a computer and a printer while I am here?

            Unfortunately, no.  You will be able to check your E-mail account at any open access computer terminals on campus.  These are located in all the libraries and in many campus buildings, such as Lerner and Kent.

Once I leave Columbia University at the end of my affiliation as a visiting scholar, will I be able to continue to use my UNI, my Columbia E-mail address, or the library databases?

            Unfortunately, no.  Current and active affiliation with Columbia is necessary to use the electronic resources of Columbia University.

Am I eligible for Columbia-sponsored housing?

Unfortunately, no.  You will need to secure housing outside the Columbia housing system or locate a legal sublet within the system.


Visiting Scholar Policy

The University is host to many visitors who do not hold academic appointments but use its facilities and participate in its activities. To accommodate the needs of these individuals and recognize their contributions to its intellectual life, the University has created a courtesy designation,visiting scholar/scientist, which is conferred according to the policies described in this chapter of the Handbook. This is a designation that may be given to visitors and others who do not hold University appointments.

Regardless of whether they receive a courtesy designation, visitors may not be paid for providing services to the University and may not engage in work that would normally be performed by officers or staff. Those who are engaged in research at Columbia are expected to comply with the University’s policies designed to ensure that their work is conducted safely and in a professional manner. In particular, visitors who will participate in laboratory research must receive appropriate safety training and be familiar with the University’s policies concerning laboratory safety and the handling and disposal of hazardous materials. If their research involves human subjects, they need the approval of the appropriate Institutional Review Board (IRB).

Visiting Scholars/Scientists

Individuals who do not qualify for appointments as officers of instruction or research but who wish to use the facilities of the University to pursue their own research may be named visiting scholar or visiting scientist. This status is conferred by the Associate Provost and Director of the International Students and Scholars Office on behalf of the Provost on the recommendation of the dean, director, or department chair in whose academic discipline the proposed visiting scholar/scientist has an interest. 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 who are not teaching at the University or participating in a research project sponsored by it;
  • scholars who work or reside in the greater New York area and are on leave from their home institutions;
  • graduate students from other American universities and colleges;
  • members of research laboratories or institutions;
  • staff and students of foreign academies and universities;
  • officials and former officials of governmental or nongovernmental organizations, such as the United Nations, and their affiliates;
  • practicing professionals and creative artists; and
  • other persons whom the Associate Provost determines will contribute to the intellectual life of the University.

Visitors who will teach or participate in a University research program must be appointed as officers of instruction or research rather than designated visiting scholars/ scientists. Those who want to take courses for credit should enroll as students. In unusual circumstances, the Associate Provost may authorize exceptions to these restrictions.

Individuals may be named visiting scholars/scientists for up to one year. The designation ordinarily may be renewed for no more than one additional year. Further extensions are granted rarely and only when the department chair, director, or dean making the request can demonstrate that there is a compelling justification for waiving the normal limitations on the duration of the designation.

Visiting scholars/scientists are given free reading privileges in the libraries and may obtain four-week borrowing privileges on payment of a monthly fee. They 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 Marcellus Hartley Dodge Physical Fitness Center and the University’s other recreational facilities on payment of a fee.

“Visiting scholar” and “visiting scientist” are courtesy designations that do 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. They should not include this designation on their curricula vitae.

Since persons with this designation do not hold appointments, they receive a special Columbia University identification card. They are not given office space and are not entitled to secretarial 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 special approval of the Associate 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 aliens, if they have an appropriate visa and the prior authorization of the Associate Provost.

Foreign nationals will ordinarily need a J-1 visa in order to visit the University. Upon submission of all the documentation required by the United States government, the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) on the Morningside campus or the Immigration Affairs Office (IAO) at the Medical Center 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 United States. The application for the DS-2019 is available from the ISSO or the IAO. It is accompanied by detailed guidelines on its completion and on the government regulations with which applicants for a J-1 visa must comply.