COVID-19 FAQ for Viterbi International Students
Updated September 24, 2020
I understand your aspirations, your tenacity, and your dreams. We will continue pursuing all possible avenues and options to ensure that your education and degree progress will be affected as minimally as possible by the unprecedented pandemic and the ensuing actions.
2020 Fall First Semster Student
Newly admitted students who are already in the United States (undergraduate transfer students or new graduate students coming directly from another degree program at USC) can remain in the country and maintain F-1 status while completing a full course load online this fall. The USC Office of Admission I-20 processing team will assist these students. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have not already received your USC transfer I-20.
Students must complete Passport Verification (PPV) and enroll in a full course load for fall 2020. You are permitted to take online classes while in the United States and can study in F-1 status since your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record will be activated after PPV. To avoid complications at the port of entry, do not depart the United States until your SEVIS record has been activated. View the PPV instructions.
Students can take their classes online for the fall semester. We cannot predict how things will progress in the coming months, although we hope that normal operations will resume in January and that all USC students will be able to return to campus at that time. New students will need an updated I-20, and continuing students should refer to the travel section of USC’s Office of International Services website.
We will work with each student to discuss their options once we know what course instruction will look like for Spring 2021. After completing Fall 2020, a student also has the option to take a Leave of Absence until they can arrive.
As long as continuing students enroll in a full course load and maintain their immigration status, USC will continue to keep their Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) records active even if they are outside the United States for more than five months.
The five-month temporary absence provision will begin on May 15 for students who were enrolled for the spring 2020 semester but returned to their home country and did not enroll for the summer 2020 semester, and do not intend to enroll for the fall 2020 semester. These students should complete and sign the Leave of Absence (LOA) form. Please contact VASE advisors to sign this form.
RCL - CPT - OPT
Yes. You will need to request RCL (including Academic Difficulty and final semester RCL) if you are enrolling in less than full time course load.
To maintain active F-1 status, continuing students and new students currently in the United States are required to maintain a full course load during this temporary transition to alternative instructional methods. Continuing students outside the United States must maintain a full course load if they wish to retain an active Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record.
There is no immigration enrollment requirement for new students outside the United States. However, students should confirm with their academic advisor regarding the minimum course enrollment requirement for their program.
To maintain your SEVIS record, you should not fall below the full course requirement unless you have been permitted to do so either through a Reduced Course Load (RCL) or Leave of Absence (LOA) approval from your academic advisor and USC’s Office of International Services.
Note: No extra academic difficulty RCLs are available due to COVID-19, but a final semester RCL is still possible.
Below are the full-time unit requirements:
- Undergraduate students: 12 units
- Master’s students: 8 units
- Doctoral students: 6 units
In response to COVID-19, for the spring and summer 2020 terms, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) allowed students to engage in Curricular Practical Training (CPT) remotely in the United States or abroad – provided the student is enrolled in the appropriate USC internship course, and either the employer has an office outside the United States, or the employer has a method to assess student engagement and the attainment of learning objectives remotely.
Students should obtain a letter from their employer documenting the remote work agreement. Note that USC's Office of International Services will not collect this information. Students continue to be required to maintain their immigration status while on CPT and must successfully fulfill the requirements of the internship course in which they are enrolled. Failure to complete the requirements of the internship course will render the student ineligible for future CPT work authorization.
In the coming days, we expect to receive further information about how the July 14 announcement from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will impact our continuing international students during the fall semester.
You can enroll in the online courses if you are outside of the US.
Current regulations state that you must be present in the United States when submitting your Optional Practical Training (OPT) and OPT STEM applications. You cannot mail your application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) from abroad. You must be present in the United States at the time USCIS issues a receipt number to acknowledge acceptance of your packet.
The application requires an I-94 number, which is only valid while you are in the United States. If you depart the United States, you will not have a valid I-94 and your application will likely be rejected. If you are able to re-enter the United States before your I-20 program end date, you can apply for OPT up to 60 days after the program end date listed on your I-20.
USC and other universities have made this issue known to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and have urged the agency to provide special accommodations for OPT application rules due to the COVID-19 situation. We will share any updates as soon as they become available.