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!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:
- 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.
Fall 2019 RCL online form will be open August 5.
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 I-20 Request Form to email@example.com and a VASE advisor will review and e-mail you back the signed form.
- 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.
- Fill out a PhD Verification of Completion form, and have it signed by your Academic Department Advisor.
- Review the OIS OPT Instructions.
- Complete application in the OIS OPT I-20 Request System.
- Meet with either Tracy or Jennifer in (OHE 106) bringing the PhD Verification of Completion form and the OPT I-20 Request form for the signature Graduation Verification section on the OPT I-20 Request form.
- Upload the signed OPT 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.
- Meet with a VASE advisor for approval and signature. Be prepared to thoroughly discuss your need for a Program Extension.
- Obtain proof of funding: Tuition plus $1000 per month for living expenses through a funding letter or bank statement.
- 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.
Additional International Student Resources
- Things To Do Over Fall Break 2019 October 15, 2019Fall break is coming up this Thursday and Friday, bringing us a much-needed break from midterms! To help you make the most of your 4-day weekend, we’ve compiled a list of things to do over the break: Driving out The great thing about living in Los Angeles is that you can access vastly different landscapes […]
- Healthcare in America 101 September 19, 2019The health care system in the United States may be very different from the health care system in your home country. International students may find the information on the USC Student Health page helpful. This information is general to health care in the U.S. but does not apply to all cases.
- OIS Closed for Labor Day Holiday August 30, 2019The Office of International Services will be closed on Monday, September 2, 2019 in observance of Labor Day. OIS will reopen on Tuesday, September 3, 2019 at 8:30 AM. We hope you have a fun and safe holiday!
- Adjusting to U.S. Classroom Culture August 26, 2019It’s the first week of classes, which is a very exciting time in any student’s life. As an international student, you may find that the classroom culture is very different from what you’re used to – it’s not just what you learn, but also how you learn! Here are a few ways in which the […]
- STEM OPT Extension: New Reporting Instructions August 2, 2019If you are a student on the 24-month STEM OPT Extension and you received an email from SEVP, or if you have general questions about reporting requirements, please click the link above for more information.