Updated 03/13/2024

All F-1 and J-1 international students must follow U.S. government immigration regulations to maintain their international student status.

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Full Course of Study

International students must be registered for a full course of study in classes that meet their degree requirements during the fall and spring semesters. Summer admits are required to enroll in a full course load during their first summer session.

Full course of study – minimum unit requirements by degree level:

 • Undergraduate students – 12 units
 • Master’s graduate students – 8 units
 • Graduate Certificate students – 8 units
 • Ph.D. graduate students – 6 units
 • Master’s/Ph.D. graduate students with an assistantship – 6 units

In-Person Learning Requirements

Immigration regulations require F-1 and J-1 student’s physical attendance for classes during each fall and spring semester of their program. If the summer term is the student’s first or last semester at USC, then physical attendance for classes is also required.

Online Course Load Limitations

No more than one online class (up to 3 units) per semester can be counted towards the full course of study for an F-1 or J-1 student. If you only need to be registered in one course to complete your degree program during your final term, it must be in-person.


  • Students that are eligible for a Reduced Course Load
  • Ph.D. or master’s students registered in a thesis/dissertation course (e.g., 594 or 794) during the fall and spring semesters are considered full-time enrolled
  • Summer session enrollment is optional for international students unless it is their first term at USC, it is required by their academic department, or summer is their final term
    • Ph.D. or master’s student completing a thesis/dissertation are:
      • Not required to enroll in summer (e.g., 594 or 794) if they will upload their thesis/dissertation by the end of the summer session in August
      • Required to enroll in summer (e.g., 594 or 794) if they will upload their thesis/dissertation after the summer session end date in August but by the fall semester add/drop date
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Maintaining Valid Immigration Documents

I-20/DS-2019: International students must be aware of the expiration date on their I-20/DS-2019. If students cannot complete their degree by the expiration date on their I-20/DS-2019, students must request a program extension before the expiration date on the I-20/DS-2019. Students who do not file a program extension on time will be considered out of status. If you have updated your major, please request a change of major I-20 request within the same semester as the approved change.

Passports must be valid at all times. If the passport will expire soon, students must renew it through the embassy or consulate of their home country. More details are available here.

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Change of Local Address (for SEVIS)

International students who change their local address must report the change within 10 days of moving by updating their contact information and address using the SEVIS U.S. Address and Contact Update eForm in Trojan International (current/graduated students on OPT/STEM OPT Extension) and Experience USC (current students only). Trojan International updates your address in SEVIS and Experience USC updates your address with the University Registrar’s Office.

Students must enter their U.S. address in the correct format for their information to be updated in SEVIS.

Tips on Entering the U.S. Address
  • The “Street Address” field can only contain street number and street name (Example: 2700 Ellendale)
  • The “Apartment, Suite, Etc.” field can only contain the unit number, applicable to those students living in an apartment complex or multi-unit USC housing (Example: Apt 10 or Unit 5). If you live in a house, leave this field blank.
  • The “Zip/Postal Code” field must be properly filled out with five digits and the additional four digits at the end are unnecessary and can be omitted.
  • Please enter the city’s name and zip code accurately (Example: Santa Monica 90401)
  • If you are unsure of any part of your local U.S. address, such as the street name, city name, and zip code, please utilize Google Maps for address verification and accuracy
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Grace Periods

F-1 students who complete an academic program or OPT have a 60-day grace period and J-1 students who complete an academic program or AT have a 30-day grace period.

F-1/J-1 students who have received prior authorization to withdraw from classes have 15 days to depart the U.S. after the withdrawal date. Students who withdraw from classes without prior authorization are not eligible for a grace period.

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Academic Suspension, Expulsion or Dismissal

F-1 or J-1 international students are required to register for a full course of study in classes that meet their degree requirements during the fall and spring semesters. Students who are unable to maintain this requirement due to a suspension or expulsion from the university or dismissal from their academic program are at risk of falling out of their F-1 or J-1 status; ultimately affecting their eligibility to legally remain in the U.S. Academic suspensions and dismissals are considered serious F-1 or J-1 status violations and can affect future U.S. visa applications and benefits. Students are encouraged to contact an OIS Advisor immediately to discuss their options. OIS advisors are available Monday-Friday via OIS Live (virtual advising via Zoom).


Students who accept responsibility for the violation and outcome do not have the option to appeal the decision and will need to choose either Option A or B–see below.

Students who do not accept responsibility for the alleged violation may have the option to file an appeal through the Office of Academic Integrity (OAI) or Office of Community Expectations (OCE) prior to their effective suspension/expulsion date. Students must inform OIS once they submit an appeal so we can delay SEVIS termination until the official appeals decision is made*.

  • If the appeal is approved and student is permitted to resume their academic program, student must inform OIS to ensure their SEVIS record remains intact.
  • If the appeal is denied but it’s still before the effective suspension/dismissal date, student should choose either Option A or B–see below.

*If the appeal is denied and the decision is made after the original suspension/dismissal date, OIS must immediately terminate the student’s SEVIS record for “suspension” or “expulsion”, which is considered a negative action in SEVIS. There is no grace period offered to students in this situation. Furthermore, Options A and B will NOT be options so students should plan accordingly.

Option A: Depart the U.S. 

Students who choose to depart the U.S. must do so before the effective date of their suspension/dismissal to ensure their SEVIS records are terminated in a positive manner. Students must inform OIS of their decision via email (ois@usc.edu) and attach a copy of their flight itinerary as proof of departure from the U.S. (Subject line of email: SEVIS ID, Suspension/Dismissal)

Option B: Transfer to Another School in the U.S.

Even though F-1 or J-1 students cannot maintain their status at USC, they might be able to continue their F-1 or J-1 status at another university. Once they have been admitted to the new school, they must request a SEVIS transfer from OIS before the effective date of their suspension/dismissal so OIS can release their SEVIS record to the new school in ACTIVE status. Refer to the Transfer SEVIS Record from USC to Another Institution page of the OIS website for instructions on how to request a SEVIS transfer.

SEVIS Termination

Students who fail to take action (Option A or Option B) by the effective suspension/dismissal date are considered out of F-1 or J-1 status. OIS will terminate the SEVIS record for “suspension” or “expulsion”, which is considered a negative action in SEVIS.

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Reinstatement of F-1 Status

Students who fail to maintain their F-1 status are considered out of status. If they wish to continue their education at USC as an F-1 student, they must correct their status. If eligible, they can apply for a reinstatement of their F-1 status online Contact OIS to discuss in detail.

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