F-1/J-1 international students who wish to take a semester off during the academic year (fall and spring semesters) and not enroll in courses must receive authorization for a Leave of Absence (LOA) from OIS and their academic department.
- Student must be in good academic standing when requesting an LOA from OIS
- Student must be outside the U.S. during the LOA
- If student has multiple degree programs or majors, an LOA will not be granted from one degree program or major at USC in order to pursue another
- Students with a graduate assistantship should consult their department when considering taking an LOA to discuss whether the assistantship will be available upon returning to USC
- Students who withdraw from all of their classes in their first semester are NOT eligible for a LOA. They must either depart the US within 15 days of the withdrawal or request the transfer of their SEVIS record to another school in the US. Students who need to withdraw from their courses in their first semester must schedule an appointment with an OIS advisor immediately to discuss next steps.
- Student schedules an appointment with an OIS advisor to discuss LOA
- Download and complete the OIS LOA Form
- Schedule appointment with academic advisor* to discuss eligibility to return to academic program
- Get approval signature on OIS LOA form
- Additional requirements:
- Undergraduate students: In addition to the OIS LOA form, undergraduate students must file an online LOA form with the university. Review the LOA instructions online.
- Graduate students: Check with academic department* for any additional requirements.
*Engineering Master’s and Ph.D. students must receive approval from their Viterbi Admission & Student Engagement (VASE) advisor instead of their academic department’s academic advisor.
F-1/J-1 students are eligible to take an LOA due to medical reasons. Students have the option to return to their home country or remain in the U.S. to receive medical treatment if recommended by a doctor. Students who wish to remain in the U.S. must obtain a doctor’s letter recommending the LOA for medical reasons. Students who remain in the U.S. without obtaining advance approval for medical LOA from OIS will be considered out of status.
Requirements and Limitations of Medical LOA:
- Must have a letter from a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist recommending leave for a specific semester
- Doctor’s note should specify if the student should remain in U.S. to receive treatment
- Must have PRIOR approval from OIS and academic department before withdrawing from courses
- No more than 12 months total leave are allowed per degree level. The 12 month aggregate maxium includes all Reduced Course Load approved for medical reasons
- Students considering an LOA due to medical reasons must meet with an OIS counselor
LOA Exceeding Five Months
The current I-20/DS-2019 will be invalid after being outside of the U.S. for more than five months. Students who will be outside the U.S. for longer than five months for an LOA must obtain a new USC I-20 with a new SEVIS ID number in order to re-enter the U.S. and return to USC. Students will need to use the new I-20/DS-2019 to pay the SEVIS fee and apply for a new F-1/J-1 visa, even though they may possess an unexpired visa associated with their previous I-20/DS-2019 SEVIS ID number. It is the student’s responsibility to email the OIS Advisor at least two months prior to returning to USC to request the new I-20/DS-2019.
LOA and Off-Campus Work Authorization
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations state that an F-1 international student must be in status for a full academic year (nine months) in order to be eligible for Curricular Practical Training or Optional Practical Training. This regulation is especially important to note for students who are considering an LOA of over five months in their final year of studies at USC.
Returning from LOA
Students returning from an LOA are required to register full-time in the semester they intend to return. They must also validate their return to USC by reporting to OIS within 21 days of the start of the new semester. Students must meet with an advisor at OIS. Please call OIS to schedule an appointment.
Students must bring the following documents to the appointment:
- New International Student/Scholar Information Form
- Copy of USC I-20/DS-2019
- Copy of valid passport
- Print out of I-94 Arrival/Departure record
- Copy of F-1/J-1 visa in passport