Medical Reduced Course Load (LOA)

updated 7/1/2022

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If students have a temporary health condition they can take a break from their studies. Students must declare a leave of absence with the university; however, for immigration purposes, students would apply for a medical Reduced Course Load (RCL). Enrollment in classes is not required during the medical RCL period. However, students MUST receive continuous treatment in the U.S. F-1/J-1 students will need to request prior approval from OIS to ensure their immigration record is correctly updated. Their SEVIS records will remain active as long as they remain in the U.S. for the entirety of their approved medical leave.

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for a medical RCL, F-1/J-1 students must:

  • Remain in the U.S. for treatment
    • You may remain in the U.S. on an expired F-1/J-1 visa if you have a valid Form I-20/DS-2019
    • Students who are receiving medical treatment outside the U.S. must apply for a standard LOA. Please refer to the standard LOA eligibility requirements listed above.
  • Be in continuous treatment with a qualified U.S. doctor
  • Submit a letter of support from the U.S. doctor to OIS
    • Must be from a licensed medical doctor (MD), doctor of osteopathy (OD), licensed clinical psychologist (Ph.D.), or Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.);
    • Must be on official letterhead, dated, and signed by the doctor;
    • Specify the semester(s) you are being recommended for the leave; and
    • State you will remain in the U.S. to receive treatment
  • Intend to resume their program at USC in a future semester
  • Not exceed three semesters (12-month aggregate total) of medical LOAs and/or medical Reduced Course Loads (RCLs) throughout your program andper degree level. If you remain in the U.S. without obtaining approval for a medical LOA from OIS you will be considered out of status.
  • Receive approval from their academic department* and OIS
    • *Viterbi graduate students must receive approval from the Viterbi VASE office

Application Deadline

The OIS Medical RCL Request should be submitted to OIS by the first day of the semester. Refer to the USC Academic Calendar for specific dates. If health issues arise after the first day of the semester, students can submit the RCL request to OIS when the medical emergency occurs.

Application Instructions for Medical RCL

Reminder: The following instructions are only for students who are remaining in the U.S. for medical treatment. Students who are receiving treatment from abroad should refer to the Standard LOA instructions.

STEP 1: Student contacts academic department to verify eligibility for a medical LOA
  • Undergraduate students: Review USC Leave of Absence webpage and submit LOA request to academic department via myUSC
  • Graduate students: Contact academic department directly; Viterbi graduate students must consult their plans with Viterbi Admission & Student Engagement (VASE)
    • Students with an assistantship should discuss whether their assistantship will be available upon returning to USC.
    • Students who need more than four semesters of a LOA must receive approval from the USC Graduate School. Contact
STEP 2: Student completes the Voluntary Health Leave of Absence (VHLA)

Students are encouraged to file a Health Leave with Campus Support and Intervention (CSI) in addition to the OIS Medical RCL Request (see Step 3). The purpose of the VHLA is to ensure you are connected to important campus resources and have a support system in place for your return. Contact CSI to schedule an appointment with a Health Leave Coordinator. The VHLA process and requirements are separate from OIS Medical RCL requirements.

STEP 3: Student completes OIS Reduced Course Load (RCL) Request (for non-Viterbi graduate students)
  • Select “medical reason” from the drop-down menu of the DocuSign form
  • Student must upload the letter of support from U.S. doctor in DocuSign
  • The OIS RCL form is automatically routed to academic advisor for review and approval. OIS will automatically receive completed form after it is signed by academic advisor
 Viterbi Graduate Students
    • Must submit the online Viterbi RCL form
    • Viterbi Admission & Student Engagement (VASE) reviews the RCL form and notifies students of the decision via email.
    • VASE’s RCL decision will automatically be routed to OIS for final review and approval 
Processing Time

Once your academic (or VASE) advisor signs the OIS RCL Request, it will be automatically routed to OIS for review. Once OIS receives the form, the processing time is 7 business days. You will receive a confirmation email from OIS when your Medical Reduced Course Load request has been processed.

Returning from a Medical RCL

STEP 1: Contact Campus Support and Intervention to initiate the return from a Voluntary Health Leave (VHLA)

If you have filed a VHLA with Campus Support and Intervention (CSI), you must first be approved for return by CSI.

    • If you are not approved for return you must either file an extension of your medical LOA or file a standard LOA – you will not be eligible to resume your studies until approved by CSI.
    • CSI Health Leave Coordinator will inform OIS when the return request has been approved
STEP 2: Student checks-in with OIS

Email the following documents to by the first day of classes for verification of immigrations status. In the email subject line write Return to USC Status Check – Last Name, First Name – SEVIS ID.

STEP 3: Register for Classes

You must enroll full-time in degree-required courses in your first semester back at USC, including summer, to maintain F-1/J-1 status. Full-time is considered:

  • Undergraduate – 12 units
  • Graduate or graduate certificate – 8 units
  • Ph.D., doctorate, or graduate students with an assistantship – 6 units

Questions regarding the medical RCL requirements or application process? Speak to an OIS advisor during OIS Live (drop-in advising via Zoom).