Standard Leave of Absence (LOA)

updated 9/14/2022

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A standard leave of absence (LOA) is a temporary leave from the university, which may be necessary during the academic program due to personal or financial reasons. Students can also request a standard LOA due to health reasons if they are receiving medical treatment from outside the U.S. F-1 and J-1 international students must inform The Office of International Services (OIS) of their LOA plans to ensure their SEVIS record is updated accordingly.


Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for a standard leave of absence, F-1/J-1 students must:

  • Be in good academic and immigration standing
  • Intend to resume their program at USC in a future semester
  • Depart the U.S. and remain outside of the U.S. for the duration of the approved LOA semester(s)
    • OIS strongly discourages students from re-entering the U.S. even for a temporary visit under the B1/B2 visa or ESTA, as this could lead to a cancellation of their existing F-1/J-1 visa.
  • Receive approval from their academic department* and OIS

*Viterbi graduate students must receive approval from USC Viterbi Admission & Student Engagement (VASE)

Ineligible LOA Reasons:
  • Students in their first semester are not eligible for a LOA and must contact their academic department (or VASE for Viterbi graduate students) and OIS to discuss their plans before withdrawing from classes.
  • Students who withdraw from their classes AFTER the last add/drop date of the semester are not eligible for a Standard LOA for immigration purposes. Their SEVIS records will be terminated for Authorized Early Withdrawal and they will need an Initial Form I-20 for a future return.
  • If you are admitted into multiple degree programs or majors you are not eligible to file an LOA to pursue another degree program or major at USC.
  • If you withdraw from all classes in your first semester you are not eligible for an LOA and must consult with OIS immediately to discuss next steps. If you withdraw from classes in your first semester, you must either depart the U.S. within 15 calendar days of the date of withdrawal
  • You cannot take a leave of absence to pursue employment opportunities within the U.S. You are not authorized to be employed on- or off-campus while on an official school leave.

Application Deadline

Your OIS LOA Request must be received by the first day of the semester. Please refer to the USC Academic Calendar for specific dates. Failure to submit the OIS LOA Request in a timely manner will result in the termination of your SEVIS record which could jeopardize your ability to legally remain in the U.S.

Application Instructions

STEP 1: Student contacts academic department to ensure they are eligible for a 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 gradsch@usc.edu
STEP 2: Student Completes OIS LOA Request

OIS LOA Request for F-1 Students
OIS LOA Request for J-1 Students

  • Enter your name as it appears on your passport
  • Enter your @usc.edu email
  • Enter your academic advisor’s name and email
    • Viterbi Graduate Students: Enter “VASE” as your academic advisor’s name, and Masters@vase.usc.edu or PHD@vase.usc.eduas your academic advisor’s email
    • Progressive Degree (PDP) Students: Enter your graduate degree Academic Advisor’s name and email. If you are pursuing a graduate degree in Viterbi, enter “VASE” as the academic advisor’s name and MASTERS@vase.usc.edufor the academic advisor’s email.

Processing Time

Once the academic (or VASE) advisor completes the OIS LOA Request, it will be automatically routed to OIS for processing. The OIS processing time is 7-business days. Students will receive a confirmation email from OIS once their LOA Request has been approved.

Registration Hold

An STU55 hold will be placed on your account once OIS approves your LOA request. This type of hold prevents students from making any changes to their class schedule (adding/dropping classes) while on the approved LOA. It cannot be removed until student re-enters the U.S. and checks-in with OIS–Refer to STEP 3 of the Return to USC Instructions below.

SEVIS Termination and Departure from U.S.

To be in compliance with immigration regulations, OIS must report the approved leave of absence to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) by terminating student’s SEVIS records for authorized early withdrawal. SEVIS records will be terminated on the last add/drop date of the semester. Students must depart the U.S. within 15-days from the last add/drop date. Refer to the USC Academic Calendar for specific dates.


Five-Month Rule

The 5-month rule refers to the termination of the student’s SEVIS record based on the student being away from classes or not in status for more than 5 months. This rule applies to students who have spent more than 5 months outside of the U.S. during an absence from school (excluding those in school authorized study abroad programs). At USC, SEVIS records are terminated on the last add/drop date of the semester, unless otherwise specified.

LOA More than Five Months

Students who have a terminated SEVIS record for more than five months will need an Initial Attendance Form I-20/DS-2019 (new SEVIS ID number) from OIS to return to the U.S. and resume their studies at USC. Since a new SEVIS record is created, students will have to reestablish eligibility for practical training (CPT/OPT/J-1 Academic Training)* by successfully completing two semesters (equivalent to a minimum of 30 weeks of coursework) upon their return. The time spent as an F-1/J-1 student on the previous SEVIS record will not be applied to the one academic year calculation for CPT/OPT/J-1 Academic Training purposes.

*Degree programs with internship or practicum requirements are exempt from the one academic year requirement for CPT eligibility. There is no exception for the one academic year requirement for OPT eligibility.

Regaining F-1 Status after a Leave of Absence (More than Five Months)

STEP 1: Request an Initial Attendance Form I-20/DS-2019 from OIS

F-1 Students: Click here to access the Return to USC: Initial I-20 Request
J-1 Students: Click here to access the Return to USC: Initial DS-2019 Request

All Students (Except Viterbi Graduate Students)
    • Provide your name as it appears on your passport
    • Provide your @usc.edu email address
    • Provide your academic advisor’s name and email
Viterbi Graduate Students
    • Provide your name as it appears on your passport
    • Provide your @usc.edu email address
    • Enter “VASE” as your advisor’s name and MASTERS@vase.usc.eduor PHD@vase.usc.edu as your advisor’s email
 Attach Proof of Financial Support – Refer to USC Guidelines for Acceptable Financial Support
    • Date of issuance (no earlier than one year before the start of your intended returning semester at USC)
    • Sufficient funding to cover the estimated remaining cost of tuition and living expenses:
      • Bachelors
      • Masters/Doctorates
      • If you have dependents, you must show proof of an additional $7,200 USD for spouse; $3,600 USD per child
      • Students with one semester remaining in their degree program must provide proof of funding for remaining tuition units, living expenses ($1,000 USD per month) and, if applicable, F-2/J-2 dependents
Submit Form

After completing the form and attaching proof of financial support, click “Finish”. Your Academic (or VASE) Advisor, and then OIS, will automatically receive your completed form.

OIS Processes Return to USC I-20/DS-2019 – Once OIS receives the Return to USC: Initial I-20/DS-2019 Request via DocuSign, processing time is 7 business days.
    • Electronic I-20sThe Form I-20 will be signed electronically and sent to you via email
    • Paper DS-2019s – DS-2019s will be sent to J-1 students via eShipGlobal
STEP 2:  I-901 SEVIS Fee Payment
    • Students must pay the mandatory I-901 SEVIS Fee based on the Initial Form I-20/DS-2019
    • USC’s SEVIS School Code is listed under the “School Code and Approval Date” field on The Form I-20, located in the upper-middle section of Page 1
STEP 3: Check F-1/J-1 Visa validity
    • Students who have a valid F-1/J-1 visa stamp in their passport (must be valid on the day student plans to re-enter the U.S.) do not need to apply for a new F-1/J-1 visa
    • If their F-1/J-1 visa is not valid, they will need to apply for a new F-1/J-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate with their current Form I-20/DS-2019
    • Canadian citizens are exempt from the F-1/J-1 visa requirement
STEP 4: Travel to the U.S.

Enter the U.S. no more than 30 days prior to the program start date printed on the Form I-20/DS-2019. Port of entry officials can turn away students attempting to enter before the 30-day period.

STEP 5: Submit Proof of F-1/J-1 status to OIS after Arrival in the U.S. for STU55 hold Removal

Upon entry to the U.S., immediately email the following documents as PDF or image attachments to ois@usc.edu. In the email subject line write “Return to USC Hold Removal – Last Name, First Name – SEVIS ID”

    1. New International Student/Scholar Information Form– download and complete via Adobe or Docusign
    2. Copy of USC Form I-20/DS-2019
    3. Copy of valid passport
    4. Copy of I-94 (Click “Get Most Recent I-94”)
    5. Copy of Travel history (Click “View Travel History)
    6. Copy of F-1/J-1 visa stamp

Students on an approved LOA have an STU55 hold on their account. This type of hold prevents course registration and will be removed within 3 business days once you complete STEP 5. This is to ensure you re-entered the U.S. in valid F-1/J-1 status. Failure to complete this step will result in the termination of your SEVIS record which jeopardizes your eligibility to remain in the U.S. legally.

 STEP 6: Register for Classes
    • Register for classes via Web Registration during your scheduled appointment time.
    • 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

LOA Less than 5 Months

Students who are able to resume their program in less than five months from their SEVIS termination date may be eligible for a SEVIS Correction Request, which results in the reactivation of their existing SEVIS record.

Regaining F-1 Status after a Leave of Absence (Less than Five Months)

Students who are on a LOA for less than 5 months do not need a new Initial Attendance Form I-20/DS-2019 to return to the U.S. Instead, they can request a SEVIS Correction to reactivate their existing SEVIS record. Once SEVP approves the correction request, they can use their current Form I-20/DS-2019 to enter the U.S.

STEP 1: Student contacts the Office of International Services to initiate the SEVIS Correction Request
    • Student emails ois@usc.edu within 60 days of the semester start date. Subject line: LOA SEVIS Correction, SEVIS ID

Include the following information in the email as bulleted points:

      • Full name
      • USC ID
      • SEVIS ID
      • Semester(s) of approved LOA
      • The semester the student intends to return from LOA
      • Date the student last attended classes
      • Date the student requested the LOA
      • Date the student departed the United States
      • Date the student will return to the United States
      • Start date of next available session for the student
STEP 2: OIS advisor submits the SEVIS Correction Request on behalf of the student to the SEVP Response Center (SRC). This type of request usually takes 30 days for SRC to process and approve.
STEP 3: OIS advisor emails student once SRC approves the SEVIS Correction Request
STEP 4Check F-1/J-1 Visa validity
    • Students who have a valid F-1/J-1 visa stamp in their passport (must be valid on the day student plans to re-enter the U.S.) do not need to apply for a new F-1/J-1 visa
    • If their F-1/J-1 visa is not valid, they will need to apply for a new F-1/J-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate with their current Form I-20/DS-2019 and previous I-901 SEVIS fee payment receipt
    • Canadian citizens are exempt from the F-1/J-1 visa requirement
STEP 5: Student travels to the U.S. as early as 30 days from the semester start date
STEP 6: Submit Proof of F-1/J-1 status to OIS after Arrival in the U.S. for STU55 Hold Removal

Upon entry to the U.S., immediately email the following documents as PDF or image attachments to ois@usc.edu as proof of F-1/J-1 status. In the email subject line write Return to USC Hold Removal – Last Name, First Name – SEVIS ID.

The STU55 hold will be removed once OIS reviews your documents. Failure to complete this step will result in the termination of your SEVIS record which jeopardizes your eligibility to remain in the U.S. legally.

STEP 7: 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
    • PhD., doctorate, or graduate students with an assistantship – 6 units

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