International Student Services

The Viterbi Graduate and Professional Programs (GAPP) 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 GAPP 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)
    Do not drop any classes unless you have spoken with an academic advisor and your RCL has been approved.

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:

** 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:

  1. Register for courses in the Fall or Spring semester.
  2. Complete the RCL form.
  3. A GAPP 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 GAPP office.
If you are a PhD Student:
Being enrolled less than full-time can negatively impact your funding. Therefore, all PhD students requesting an RCL must email either Jennifer Gerson or Tracy Charles to set up an appointment discuss their funding status while on RCL.

Please visit the Viterbi CPT website for more details.

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). The Office of Graduate & Professional Programs (GAPP) 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.

OPT Resources & Forms:

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.

  • Apply up to 3 months before.
  • OIS must receive the OPT Application no later than 3 weeks BEFORE graduation.

Step-by-Step Instructions to get OPT Graduation Verification

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Review the OIS OPT Instructions.
  4. PhD students must also fill out a PhD Verification of Completion form and submit to the GAPP Office
  5. MS students: Complete application in the OIS OPT I-20 Request System. E-mail your OPT I-20 Request Form to and a GAPP advisor will review and e-mail you back the signed form. PhD students: Meet with a GAPP advisor (OHE 106) to complete and sign the Academic Advisor Graduation Verification section on the OPT I-20 Request form.
  6. Upload the signed OPT 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.

Remote OPT Graduation Verification Requirements 

Students who are in their final semester and working outside of the greater Los Angeles area may have the Graduation Verification section of the OPT form processed remotely by the Office of Graduate & Professional Programs (GAPP) if the following criteria are met:

  • Student is participating in a CPT outside of the greater Los Angeles area.
  • Student has no activity restrictions on their record.
  • Student has submitted the Application to Graduate form to their major department.
  • Student has an updated STARS report with no outstanding academic concerns (examples include MG, IN).
  • Student has a GPA of 3.00 or better.

Follow these steps to request remote OPT Graduation Verification:

  1. Send an e-mail to (Master’s students), or to (PhD students) with the following:
  • your full name
  • your 10-digit ID number
  • scan and attach your completed OPT form in PDF format (Pictures of forms will not be accepted.)
  1. You will receive a reply on the next business day to let you know if the remote request is approved and the signed OPT form will be attached.
  2. It is your responsibility to submit the signed form to OIS. GAPP is not responsible for submitting your OPT forms to OIS.
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.

Eligibility Requirements

  • 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

  1. Meet with the graduate advisor in your major department to determine what remaining requirements need to be met and for in-depth academic advisement.
  2. Complete a Program Extension form from OIS.
  3. Meet with a GAPP advisor for approval and signature. Be prepared to thoroughly discuss your need for a Program Extension.
  4. Obtain proof of funding: Tuition plus $1000 per month for living expenses through a funding letter or bank statement.
  5. 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.

RSS USC Office of International Services News and Updates:

  • Changes to the Optional Practical Training I-20 Request Process for USC International Students February 6, 2018
    Effective February 12, the USC Office of International Services (OIS) will launch an online system for F-1 international students requesting Optional Practical Training (OPT) I-20s, as well as alumni requesting STEM OPT or CAP-GAP I-20s. This system will replace the current paper-based process. The online OPT I-20 request system will be available Monday, February 12 […]
  • Canadian runner, Kyra Constantine, sprints for the Olympic Rings November 20, 2017
    Canadian sprinter, Kyra Constantine, was on a mission and she set her sights on the University of Southern California. The 19-year-old sophomore made a decision years ago about the path she desired for her athletic career: to run track at an American University. During her younger years she played basketball, participated in karate, and ran […]
  • Preda’s Prelude: The Rise of an Opera Aficionado November 2, 2017
    Can you sing in 21 different languages? This diva can. Strolling by the lakeside with her friends, 14- year-old Irena Preda’s gift was actualized. The Slovenian native did not know the power she possessed until this very day when her friends looked upon her in awe of the voice that had not been heard by […]
  • Valid U.S. Address Required for All International Students October 26, 2017
    Immigration regulations require all international students to report any change in their local address in OASIS within 10 days of moving. This information will be updated in students’ SEVIS records. Step-By-Step Instructions on Local U.S. Address Entry in MyUSC/OASIS Account Login to myUSC Under My Services Menu, click on “OASIS” Select “Other Services” tab on the top of […]
  • Students Enjoy Tea with President Nikias October 24, 2017
    Thursday, October 12, fourteen USC students and I waited for a very special guest in USC’s Tutor Campus Center Presidential dining room. That guest was C. L. Max Nikias, the president of USC. We were invited by President Nikias to share in an afternoon of snacks, tea, and conversation. He divulged that it is important […]