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 5 months, so plan accordingly.
- Copy of diploma or transcript from the Registrar's Office is not required
- A job offer is not required to apply
- OIS recommends graduates apply for OPT as soon as possible
- USCIS does not offer expedite services for OPT
- While on approved OPT, students must report their employment and updates to personal contact information- refer to OIS's OPT Employment Reporting Requirements
Step-by-Step Instructions to get OPT Graduation Verification:
MS students can begin to submit their OPT Request for Summer to VASE: May 10, 2021.
- 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, BME, CEE, CS, ECE, 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.
- Submit your VASE OPT Graduation Verification signature request online. A VASE advisor will review your request and the form will be emailed to you once signed. Before submitting the form to OIS, please sign the form and place a check in the box next to the statements.
- Upload the signed OPT Graduation Verification Form to the OIS OPT I-20 Request System. Students will be notified by email to download and print their signed OPT I-20 from the OPT I-20 Request System once processed by OIS.
Please read the instructions completely before proceeding.
- Review the OIS OPT Instructions (do not download the OPT Verification of Completion form from this site. Please use the one linked in Step 2 below).
- Fill out the OPT Graduation Verification form. This is a DocuSign Powerform that will generate both the PhD Verification of Completion form, the OPT Graduation Verification form, and route them to your Department Academic and VASE Advisors for processing. Once the forms have been signed by your Department Academic and VASE Advisors, you will receive the signed form back via email. Please allow 2-3 business days for processing. Please check your spam folder if you do not see the DocuSign emails in your inbox.
- Complete an application in the OIS OPT I-20 Request System. You will not need to download the OPT Graduation Verification form from this site as you will already have it from Step 2.
- Upload the signed OPT Graduation Verification, and the PhD Verification of Completion forms from Step 2 to the OIS OPT I-20 Request System. Students will be notified by email to download and print their signed OPT I-20 from the OPT I-20 Request System once processed by OIS.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
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.
- Obtain proof of funding: Tuition plus $1000 per month for living expenses through a funding letter or bank statement.
- Complete a Program Extension form and attach your proof of funding letter. If you are using a bank statement, please redact sensitive information. Once a VASE Advisor has signed your form, you will receive an email back from DocuSign with your signed form attached. Please allow 2-3 business days for processing.
- 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 safelist DocuSign on your email so that it does not go to your spam folder.
- International Students with Financial Need Can Apply for COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Funds May 27, 2021On May 14, the Department of Education issued a final rule stating that international students are now eligible to receive funding for emergency grants offered by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSAA or HEERF II), and the American Rescue Plan Act of […]
- National Interest Exceptions (NIE) for Students Traveling from India, China, Brazil, South Africa, Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland May 1, 2021On April 29, 2021, the U.S. government issued a proclamation suspending entry into the U.S. of nonimmigrants who were physically present within the Republic of India during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the U.S. effective May 4, 2021. On April 30, 2021, the Department of State issued a National […]
- DHS Extends Existing Guidance for the 2021-2022 Academic Year April 26, 2021Dear Students: As USC plans for a return to campus for the Fall 2021 semester with primarily in-person classes, the Office of International Services (OIS) would like to share some information to help international students determine their academic plan. Please read the rest of this message carefully, as it contains important information pertaining to international […]
- Did you receive a stimulus check from the U.S. government? April 20, 2021The U.S. government provided three rounds of Economic Impact Payments (stimulus checks) to all resident aliens and U.S. citizens in 2020 and 2021. If you received the stimulus check, you either appropriately qualified as a resident alien or you filed your taxes incorrectly and should have filed as a nonresident alien. Any individual qualified as […]
- Commencement FAQ for International Students April 16, 2021Updated 4/14/2021 1. Can international students who are currently in the U.S. (i.e., enrolled in classes for spring 2021 or graduated in 2020 and are currently on OPT) attend commencement? California state health officials have confirmed the graduating classes of both 2020 and 2021 may attend commencement ceremonies in person. This applies to international students […]