International Student Services
Viterbi Admissions and Student Engagement (VASE) Office works closely with the Office of International Services (OIS) to assist our international students during their time at USC. Viterbi graduate students must obtain approval from VASE advisors before submitting forms to OIS.
Please visit the links below for more information on policies and requirements for international students.
International students must be registered for a full course of study during fall and spring semesters. For Master’s students, a full course of study is 8 units in the Fall and Spring semesters. For PhD students, full-time enrollment is 6 units in the Fall and Spring semesters.
Registration is not required in Summer semesters, unless it is the student’s first or last semester. International students who plan to be enrolled for less than full-time must submit the Reduced Course Load form. There are only a few exceptions to the full-time enrollment requirement for the Fall and Spring semesters as listed below. Each exception has its own criteria, which are outlined in detail on the OIS website.
- Academic Difficulty RCL (once per degree level)
- Medical RCL
- Final Semester RCL (once per degree program)
Warning!If you already have a RCL approved, do not drop any classes unless you have spoken with an academic advisor.
Viterbi RCL Policies
- Academic Difficulty RCL: minimum 4 units (3 units for PhD students)
- Students cannot take a CPT and an Academic Difficulty RCL during the same semester
- Final semester RCL is not done automatically. If you are in your final semester of your degree program and are taking less than 8 units, you must complete and submit a RCL form.
OIS RCL Resources:
- Guidelines on Maintaining Your Student Status
- Exceptions to the Full-Time Enrollment
- OIS RCL information
** F-1/J-1 students should not drop below full-time enrollment until they have received authorization from OIS. Students who drop below full-time enrollment without the proper authorization from OIS will be considered out of status. **
The deadline for submitting the Reduced Course Load form is the last day to add/drop for that semester.
Step-by-Step Instructions to Request a RCL:
- Register for courses in the Fall or Spring semester.
- Complete the RCL form.
- A VASE advisor will review your RCL form within 5 business days and determine your eligibility for a RCL. You will receive an email notifying you when your RCL is approved or if additional information is required.
- Please allow 5 business days to receive notification before following up with the VASE office.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is designed for students with F-1 visa status. It is designed to provide students with an opportunity to gain actual employment experiences in your chosen profession for a maximum of one year, before or after completing a degree program, to complement your academic work. OPT is approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Viterbi Admissions and Student Engagement (VASE) is responsible for completing the Graduation Verification section on the OPT I-20 Request form.
OIS OPT Instructions
F-1 international students interested in applying for OPT must review the OIS OPT Instructions. It includes important details about eligibility requirements, application timeline, reporting requirements, and other pertinent topics related to OPT.
Important Dates and Deadlines
The entire application process, from time of submission to OIS for your OPT I-20 to receipt of the Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) can take up to 3 months, so plan accordingly.
- Employment information (Job offer) is NOT required to apply OPT.
- Apply up to 3 months before graduation date.
- OIS must receive the OPT Application no later than 3 weeks BEFORE graduation.
Step-by-Step Instructions to get OPT Graduation Verification:
- AFTER you register for your final semester: most MS students must complete an Application for Graduation and submit it to their academic departmental advisor. Students in the AME, CS, EE, and ISE department should submit their application to graduate online at MyViterbi.
- When your major department has processed your Application to Graduate and completed a degree check, your STARS report on OASIS will become available for review. Check your STARS report on OASIS to make sure all requirements for your degree have been met and contact your graduate advisor if there are any discrepancies.
- Review the OIS OPT Instructions.
- Complete application in the OIS OPT I-20 Request System. E-mail your OPT Graduation Verification Form to firstname.lastname@example.org and a VASE advisor will review and e-mail you back the signed form.
- Upload the signed OPT Graduation Verification Form to the OIS OPT I-20 Request System. OIS will notify you via e-mail when your OPT I-20 is available for pick-up. You will pick up your OPT I-20 from the OIS office located at the Royal Street Structure, Suite 101.
- Fill out your information in the top section of the PhD Verification of Completion form and email it to your Academic Department Advisor. Please request that your Academic Department Advisor verifies the items in the middle section, e-signs the form, and emails the form back to you.
- Review the OIS OPT Instructions.
- Complete application in the OIS OPT I-20 Request System. Sign the form electronically and “save as” to your computer using your name as the file name. This preserves the electronic signature capabilities that allow us to process your form. Scanned forms are not accepted.
- Email the PhD Verification of Completion and the OPT Graduation Verification forms email@example.com for a VASE Advisor signature on the Graduation Verification section on the OPT Graduation Verification Form. Please put “OPT Signature Request” in the subject field of the email. Once signed, the VASE Office will email the forms back to you.
- Upload the signed OPT Graduation Verification form and the PhD Verification of Completion form to the OIS OPT I-20 Request System. OIS will notify you via e-mail when your OPT I-20 is available for pick-up. You will pick up your OPT I-20 from the OIS office located at the Royal Street Structure, Suite 101.
International students are given a specific period of time to complete the academic program requirements. Students who are unable to meet the academic program requirements by that date, a program extension form must be submitted to OIS before the expiration date.
Program Extension Resources & Forms
Important Dates and Deadlines
- A program extension must be filed at least 3 weeks BEFORE the I-20 expiration date.
- OIS processing time for program extension is 2 weeks.
- The expiration date of the I-20/DS-2019 has not yet passed.
- Continuously maintained the F-1/J-1 student status.
- The delay in completion of program must be due to one of the following reasons:
- Compelling academic reason (change of major, change in research topic, unexpected research problems, etc.)
- Compelling medical reason (documentation is required from Student Health Center or U.S. licensed medical physician)
- Must have sufficient funds to cover the additional time needed to complete program requirements, which includes tuition and living expenses of $1000 per month.
- Delays caused by academic probation or suspension are not acceptable reasons for a program extension.
Step-by-Step Instructions to Request a Program Extension
- Meet with the graduate advisor in your major department to determine what remaining requirements need to be met and for in-depth academic advisement.
- Complete a Program Extension form from OIS. Please “save as” the form to your computer using your name as the file name. The electronic signature function must be operational. We cannot accept scanned forms.
- Obtain proof of funding: Tuition plus $1000 per month for living expenses through a funding letter or bank statement.
- Email the form and your proof of funding for approval and signature by a VASE Advisor. Master’s students should email to firstname.lastname@example.org; and PhD students should email to email@example.com. The advisor will contact you with any questions. Please thoroughly explain your need for a Program Extension in your email.
- Submit the Program Extension form along with the proof of funding to OIS at least 3 weeks before the expiration date of the I-20.
** Please note: If you are using a Mac, please use an Adobe Reader to fill out the OIS forms or we will receive a blank form.
Additional International Student Resources
- Memorial Day Closure May 20, 2020OIS will be closed on Monday, May 25, 2020 in observance of Memorial Day. We will resume regular hours remotely on Tuesday, May 26, 2020.
- Let’s Talk: International Student Edition April 28, 2020What is Let’s Talk? Let’s Talk is a weekly drop-in opportunity to spend 30 minutes with a clinician from USC Counseling & Mental Health. Let’s Talk: International Student Edition is specifically for international students, who may be experiencing stress related to being far from home or far from campus in these challenging times. An outreach […]
- Alexis Arellanes Joins the OIS Staff April 22, 2020The Office of International Services is excited to announce Alexis Arellanes joined our team as International Services Intake Coordinator on April 14, 2020. Alexis will serve our students and scholars (virtually) alongside Qiuyang Zhao. A southern California native, Alexis attended the University of San Francisco and earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Legal […]
- How Are You Making the Most of Physical Distancing? April 7, 2020Ever since Governor Newsom announced the Safer at Home order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, California residents have been staying in and practicing physical distancing – only stepping out of their homes for necessities. While this is no doubt an essential precaution to ensure public health and flatten the curve, months indoors can start […]
- Zoom Group Advising April 6, 2020OIS will offer group advising sessions via Zoom. Refer to the OIS eCalendar to view upcoming session topics. Please join us.