Options for Students Who Took a LOA During the Fall 2020 Semester

Updated 12/23/2020

Students who took a Leave of Absence (LOA) during the fall 2020 semester may wonder what options they have since USC has announced the spring 2021 semester will likely begin online. Below are scenarios to help you plan your return to USC.

Students last enrolled in the Spring 2020 semester or an earlier semester:

Since you have been out of the U.S. for more than five months without enrollment in academic coursework, you currently do not have an “active” SEVIS record and require a new Initial I-20 as well as related travel documents to re-enter the U.S. Therefore, you have three options:

  1. Resume classes from abroad for the spring 2021 semester as a non-F-1 student. Since you are not in the U.S., you are not required to enroll in a full course load. A Reduced Course Load (RCL) is not necessary.
    • Undergraduate seniors or graduate students who have one year left to graduate should enroll in a minimum number of classes/units to ensure that upon return to the U.S. you will have at least one full-time semester (12 units for undergrads, 8 units for master’s students and 6 units for Ph.D. students), and a final semester Reduced Course Load. This will make you eligible for post-completion OPT.
    • A new Initial I-20 will be required to return to the U.S. for a future semester. Additionally, you will need to accrue one academic year of fulltime enrollment in degree classes and in F-1 status before being eligible for CPT or OPT.
    • If you have an STU55 hold on your account, email ois@usc.edu to request to have it switched to an OIS70 hold. This will allow you to register for spring 2021 classes. The OIS70 hold will remain on your account until you return to the U.S. and check-in with OIS.
  2. Return to the U.S. on a new Initial I-20. This will require you to have at least one hybrid class on your schedule of classes on the first day of classes for Spring semester. If you enter the U.S. with the expectation of hybrid courses and are unable to demonstrate enrollment in a hybrid class as of the first day of classes, OIS will not be able to activate your SEVIS record, which may result in you having to depart the U.S. Use this form to request a new Initial I-20.
    • Undergraduate seniors or graduate students who have one year left to graduate and want to pursue post completion OPT must enroll as a full-time student during their first semester (minimum 12 units for undergraduate, 8 units for master’s students, and 6 units for doctorate students), and file a final semester Reduced Course Load during last semester (fall 2021).
  3. Apply for another Leave of Absence (LOA) for the spring 2021 semester.

Students last enrolled in the Summer 2020 semester:

Students last enrolled in the summer 2020 semester who have a valid I-20 can return to the U.S. using their current I-20 and related travel documents since the time out of the U.S. without enrollment is less than five months. Enrollment for spring 2021 must include at least one hybrid class to maintain your F-1 status. If enrollment in a hybrid class is not possible, or if you are not able to return to the U.S., you have the following options:

  1. Resume classes from abroad for the spring 2021 semester as a non-F-1 student.
    • A new Initial I-20 will be required to return to the U.S. for a future semester and you will need to accrue one academic year of fulltime enrollment in degree classes and in F-1 status before being eligible for CPT or OPT.
    • Undergraduate seniors or graduate students who have one year left to graduate should enroll in a minimum number of classes/units to ensure that upon return to the U.S. you will have at least one full-time semester (12 units for undergrads, 8 units for master’s students and 6 units for Ph.D. students), and a final semester Reduced Course Load. This will make you eligible for post-completion OPT.
  2. Apply for another Leave of Absence (LOA) for the spring 2021 semester

Please also note the following:

The university remains in Phase 2 of its reopening plan in which current state and local health restrictions prohibit USC from increasing in-person instruction and on-campus activities. While USC is hopeful to offer increased opportunities for in-person instruction starting in spring, any plans that USC makes for the spring semester are subject to change pending public health guidance.

USC and OIS are committed to advocating for the members of our international community and we are here to support you. If you still have questions after reviewing this email, you may attend an LOA group advising session or consult with an OIS advisor via OIS Live. As always, your academic advisors are also available to discuss enrollment options for the spring 2021 semester.