Maintaining Visa Status

Updated 7/26/2020

All F-1 and J-1 international students must follow immigration regulations as outlined by the US government in order to maintain their international student status.

On July 24, 2020 the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) clarified that for the Fall 2020 semester F-1 students should abide by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) guidance originally issued in March 2020. The requirements provided in this section for F-1 students is based on the SEVP’s March 2020 guidance.

Full Course of Study

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

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
  • Ph.D. or master’s students registered in either the thesis or dissertation course during fall and spring semesters are considered full-time enrolled.
  • Summer enrollment is optional for international students unless it’s required by their academic department.
    • Summer graduates are required to enroll in their remaining units during their final summer session.
      • Ph.D. or master’s students who are working on their thesis or dissertation do not need to register for summer courses if it’s their final semester and they will be uploading their thesis that summer.
Fall 2020 Update

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 US for more than five months. Therefore, fall 2020 semester enrollment will count towards the one academic year requirement for CPT/OPT eligibility.

The five-month temporary absence provision will begin on May 15 for students who were enrolled in the Spring 2020 semester but returned to their home country and did not enroll in Summer 2020 semester and do not intend to enroll in the Fall 2020 semester. These students should complete the Leave of Absence (LOA) form.

Online Course Restriction

In normal academic circumstances, no more than 3 units of online course(s) per semester is applicable to the full-time enrollment; however, SEVP has made an exception to the online course limitation for fall 2020 and is permitting students to take 100% of their fall courses online, whether they are in the US or abroad.

Audit Courses

Audit course units are not applicable to the full-time enrollment total.

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 in a timely manner will be considered out of status.

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.

Change of Local Address

Immigration regulations require all international students to report any change in their local address in OASIS within 10 days of moving. This information will be updated in students’ SEVIS records. Students who are currently outside of the US do not need to update their US address.

Step-By-Step Instructions for Local U.S. Address Entry in MyUSC/OASIS Account

  1. Login to myUSC
  2. Under My Services Menu, click on “OASIS”
  3. Select “Other Services” tab on the top of the page
  4. Select “Change of Address”
  5. Under Local Address, select the option: “Update my local address and phone” and click on “Submit”
  6. Type your new U.S. local address and new local U.S. phone number and click on “Submit” to save changes
    • Please enter only local U.S. address information NOT your permanent home country address
    • Please leave the “Permanent Address” section unchanged as this is reserved only for your permanent home country address and should NOT contain your local U.S. address
    • All U.S. phone numbers contain a three-digit area code followed by the remaining seven digits

Tips on Entering U.S. Address

  • The “Local Street Address Line 1” field can only contain street number and street name (Example: 325 W. Adams Blvd.)
  • The “Local Street Address Line 2” field can only contain the unit number, applicable to those students living in an apartment complex or multi-unit USC housing (Example: Apt 210 or Unit 5). If you live in a house, leave this field blank.
  • The U.S. ZIP code section 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

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 US after the withdrawal date. Students who withdraw from classes without prior authorization are not eligible for a grace period.

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 via mail. Contact OIS to discuss in detail.