COVID-19 FAQ for Viterbi International Students
Updated November 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.
2021 Spring First Semester 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 Spring. 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 Spring 2021. 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.
ISE and ITA Exam: The International Student English (ISE) Exam and International Teaching Assistant (ITA) Exam are free placement exams given to assess the English proficiency of international students at USC.
To find out if you are required to take the exams, check your letter of admission or I-20. Registrations are open now! After you sign up, you will receive more detailed instructions regarding taking the exams online. Students are either released from any ALI requirement (ALI 01 hold) or receive an ALI placement based on the exam results.
All new international students are required to complete Passport Verification (PPV) with the Office of International Services (OIS) before they can register for classes.
If you start the Spring semester outside the U.S., please refer to Spring 2021 Admitted Students–Currently Outside the U.S. section on this page for specific information and instructions.
If you plan to travel and enter the U.S., please refer to Spring 2021 Admitted Students–Currently Residing in the U.S. upon arrival to the United States
Spring 2021 admitted students who are currently outside the U.S. and wish to enter the U.S. with an initial I-20 may not take 100% online classes.
USC does not defer admission, but you can have your application updated within one year of your original application term. Admission is not guaranteed, and updating your application requires review and admission for the new term. Please email the following information to the Viterbi Graduate Admission team(email@example.com) to request the update
- Student name and USC ID
- Date of birth
- The major you want to update admission term
You should arrive and complete Passport Verification by February 5, 2021, which is the last day to add courses for the Spring 2021 term.
However, In light of the current public health crisis in Los Angeles and President Folt’s message to students asking them to delay coming to campus for several weeks, new students (summer 2020, fall 2020 and spring 2021 admitted students currently outside the U.S.) now have the option to request an updated I-20 with a program start date of March 1, 2021. This will allow you to arrive no later than March 1. Please contact the VASE office at firstname.lastname@example.org if you plan to arrive between February 5 and March 1 so we can request an updated I-20 for you. Please note that if you arrive in the US between February 5 and March 1, you will need to complete Spring 2021, Summer 2021 and Fall 2021 as a full-time student to be eligible for CPT/OPT.
Continuing students who are currently outside the U.S. in non-F-1 status – which includes students admitted for the summer or fall 2020 semesters who began their programs from outside the U.S. – and wish to enter the U.S. for spring 2021 may not take 100% online classes. These students may only enter the U.S. if they are able to obtain an F-1 visa and can confirm enrollment in at least one hybrid or in-person course for the spring 2021 semester. An OIS70 hold has been placed on the accounts of all continuing students who are currently
outside the U.S. in non-F-1 status. This hold will not prevent or restrict course registration for the spring 2021 semester and can be permanently removed once the student arrives in the U.S. and completes Passport Verification (PPV). After completing PPV, these students will maintain an active Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record as long as they enroll in a full course load and otherwise maintain their immigration status.
Please also note students who are arriving in the U.S. for the first time with an initial I-20 may need a letter to be issued, confirming that USC Viterbi plans to help its students be in compliance with the in-person visa requirement. Please complete the short online form to request the letter.
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.
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 VASE 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.
Below are the full-time unit requirements:
- Undergraduate students: 12 units
- Master’s students: 8 units
- Doctoral students: 6 units
You can enroll in the online courses if you are outside of the U.S..
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.