International Students

Last updated: April 4, 2020 at 12:47 pm

We are aware that many international students at USC are impacted by travel, housing and public health concerns given the situation with COVID-19, and our top priority is your health, safety and well-being. We are here to support you, and we will continue to update the information below as new developments take place.

Travel

The decision whether to return to your home country is a personal one and should be considered carefully, in consultation with family when possible. We want you to be where you will feel most comfortable.

If you choose to return to your home country, check in with the Office of International Services beforehand at ois@usc.edu to discuss your visa status.

International students in Los Angeles who are having trouble finding flight routes home can reach out to the university’s travel service for advice and guidance. Please contact:

  • Ginny Boyce or Shannon Boyd Jr., Crown International Travel Inc @ Altour
  • Telephone: 310-475-5661
  • Email: ginny.boyce@altour.com; Email: shannon.boyd@altour.com

International students who are currently in their home countries can contact their local USC office for support in any area, including travel.

Please keep in mind that international travel is in a fluid state, and new travel restrictions could arise at any moment. View more travel information.

Housing

Our primary concern is your safety and well-being, and the safety and well-being of our employees and communities. We understand that many international students, particularly given new travel restrictions, may need to remain in university housing. We will continue to provide support for as long as you are in USC Housing, and USC Student Health will remain in operation to serve students. See our university housing FAQs for additional information.

USC Housing will conduct health and safety checks during the week of April 6–10. All spaces will be entered by USC Housing staff looking for open food items and other perishables. Inspections will include all refrigerator and freezer units. See additional details.

Students who live off-campus in non-university housing should view the non-university housing FAQs. If you are facing a dispute with your landlord and would like legal guidance, USC’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG) and Graduate Student Government (GSG) provide free 30-minute legal counseling appointments via phone every Monday from 4-9 p.m. Students can make an appointment online

Summer Housing

USC Housing can accommodate international students over the summer who currently reside in university housing but are unable to leave in May (end of the academic year) due to international travel restrictions related to COVID-19.

If you have any housing-related questions or concerns, please contact USC Housing customer service at 213-740-2546 or e-mail housing@usc.edu.

Essential Services

Any international students who need to remain in their on-campus housing will continue to receive appropriate accommodations, dining, student health and safety services. Please view changes to operating hours for numerous campus services.

Summer Dining Options

International students who reside near the University Park Campus (UPC) may sign up for the Community Meal 25 Plan or the Community Meal 50 plan over the summer. These plans include a combination of residential dining swipes and dining dollars that students can use at the EVK Dining Hall and retail cafés at UPC. Students living in off-campus housing may also sign up for Grubhub delivery. Students’ program coordinators will help facilitate this option.

Please contact USC Card Services at 213-740-8709 if you have questions about meal plans.

Health Care and Coverage

Health care through USC Student Health

Students may continue to access the services of USC Student Health (medical care, counseling and mental health care). Fees are automatically added for students enrolled in classes. For students who are not taking classes, they may pay a pro-rated weekly rate that starts the first week they access care. For additional information, contact USC Student Health at 213-740-9355 (WELL) or email studenthealth@usc.edu.

Please see additional information about medical care for students and what to do if you are sick.

Insurance Coverage

Students who currently have the USC Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) that’s provided through Aetna are covered through August 2020.

Commencement

Once the date for the postponed commencement activities has been set, international students will have three options:

  1. Students can return to the United States prior to the program end date on the Form I-20 and attend their graduation during the 60-day grace period. 
  2. Students who intend to continue their study in the United States can return with a pending change of educational level or transfer Form I-20.
  3. Students can return to the United States on another visa classification (i.e.,B-2 visitor visa).

USC will provide a letter of invitation describing the new commencement details, for the purpose of students and family members applying for B-2 visitors visas to visit the United States for USC commencement. The letter will be available via a link on the commencement website one week after the rescheduled date is announced.

International students who apply for B-2 visas to attend commencement should also bring a copy of their latest I-20 form to the visa interview, even if the I-20 is expired, since this is evidence of previous F-1 status during enrollment at USC.

For questions about visas for international students and family members entering the United States for commencement, contact USC's Office of International Services (ois@usc.edu).

View additional commencement 2020 updates.

Visas & Immigration Status

You have three options:

1) Remain in the United States and apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT). This applies to F-1 students.

2) Remain in the United States until 7/14/2020 during the 60-day grace period after graduation.

3) Pursue another degree in the United States and transfer your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record to another institution.

Students may stay in the United States on an expired F-1/J-1 visa as long as they maintain their immigration status by being in possession of a valid I-20/DS-2019 and an I-94 Arrival/Departure record, and by meeting normal enrollment requirements.

Please contact the Office of International Services via email at ois@usc.edu if you have questions regarding your visa or immigration status.

USC adheres to the guidance from the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), which is a unit within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that oversees the F-1 international student visa program. Due to the rapidly evolving situation with COVID-19, SEVP issued guidance to universities that allows for increased flexibility to ensure international students can continue their academic progress. Universities can implement temporary adjustments such as moving to online instruction without negatively impacting the immigration status of enrolled international students.

The Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has confirmed that international students may temporarily take their classes online during a university’s period of modified instructional format either from within the United States or outside the country.

To maintain F-1 status, international students are required to maintain a full course load during this temporary transition to online instruction. They should not fall below the full course requirement unless they have been permitted to do so either through a Reduced Course Load (RCL) or Leave of Absence (LOA) approval by USC’s Office of International Services.

The Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has confirmed that international students may temporarily take classes online during USC’s period of modified instruction, either from within the United States or outside the country, without impacting their immigration status.

USC will keep the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) records of those who remain enrolled full-time in active status whether they are located in the United States or outside of the country. SEVP has confirmed that since the SEVIS record will remain active, “the 5-month temporary absence provision addressed in 8 C.F. R.214.2(f)(4) will not apply.”

Students who continue to make normal progress in their course of study remain eligible for admission to the United States when travel restrictions are lifted. The allowance for 100% online coursework is temporary, and it will no longer apply once the university returns to regular in-person instruction. 

International students are still required to maintain a full course load during this temporary transition to online instruction. You should not fall below the full course requirement unless you have been permitted to do so either through a Reduced Course Load (RCL) or Leave of Absence (LOA) approved by USC's Office of International Services.

If you are unable to obtain a visa at this time, please notify your academic program as soon as possible to inquire about the possibility of deferring your enrollment to a later semester.

While our physical offices in the Royal Street Structure (University Park Campus) and Soto Building (Health Sciences Campus) are closed, USC's Office of International Services staff are working remotely to continue providing essential services and information to the international community at USC. You may download a request form from our website and email your request to ois@usc.edu. We will process your request and ship it to your location.

If you are requesting an I-20 (travel signature, program extension, change of employer, etc.), please use eShipglobal to mail your document.

For all other document requests, please include your preferred delivery address on the form.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) recently issued guidance to universities that allows universities to move to online instruction without negatively impacting the immigration status of enrolled international students. Students must maintain a full course load during this temporary transition to online instruction. If you are unable to maintain full-time enrollment during this period of online instruction, please review the Reduced Course Load (RCL) or Leave of Absence (LOA) sections of the Office of International Services website.

Please email ois@usc.edu and include your name, student ID number, Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) number, phone number and a description of your inquiry. An advisor from USC's Office of International Services will contact you.

The decision about whether to return to your home country is a personal one and should be considered carefully, in consultation with family when possible. The university wants you to be where you will feel most comfortable. Classes will be held remotely for the remainder of the semester, and you will receive more information from your professors about how they will administer final exams.

The Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has confirmed that international students may temporarily take classes online during USC’s period of modified instruction, either from within the United States or outside the country, without impacting their immigration status.

USC will not take any action to end student records for individuals who remain enrolled full-time and are outside of the United States for more than five months. Students who continue to make normal progress in their course of study remain eligible for admission to the United States when travel restrictions are lifted. The allowance for 100% online coursework is temporary, and it will no longer apply once the university returns to regular in-person instruction. 

International students are still required to maintain a full course load during this temporary transition to online instruction. You should not fall below the full course requirement unless you have been permitted to do so either through a Reduced Course Load (RCL) or Leave of Absence (LOA) approved by USC's Office of International Services.

If you choose to return to your home country, please review the travel section of USC's Office of International Services website. Please keep in mind that international travel is in a fluid state, and new travel restrictions could arise at any moment.

If you decide to travel to your home country but still need a travel signature, you may request a reprint of your I-20, and we will mail it to you either in the United States or to your home country. Travel signatures are valid for one year, so please check your current I-20 before requesting a new one. 

Those students requiring a new I-20 for return travel to the United States should visit USC's Office of International Services website for instructions on the current request/mailing process.

An I-20/DS-2019 is not required to depart the United States. USC's Office of International Services can mail it to you in your home country if necessary. Travel signatures are valid for one year, so please check your current I-20/DS-2019 before requesting a new one. For students on Optional Practical Training (OPT), your travel signature is valid for six months. Visit USC's Office of International Services website for instructions on how to request a travel signature.

USC's Office of International Services is currently prioritizing the mailing of documents to students. International students will receive instructions in the coming days regarding how documents will be disbursed.

We are committed to your academic success, and we will provide ongoing support to our international students as the situation with COVID-19 continues to evolve. We are here to help. 

The U.S. Department of State is temporarily suspending routine visa services at all U.S. embassies and consulates. Embassies and consulates canceled all routine immigrant and non-immigrant visa appointments as of March 20, 2020. Visa services will resume as soon as possible, but the U.S. State Department is unable to provide a specific date at this time. Please consult with your department about your options if you are unable to return to the United States for in-person instruction once it resumes at USC. 

Ongoing education for our students is so important, and we want you to be able to access course materials at any time during this challenging period. Our faculty are dedicated to delivering the best possible academic experience for you regardless of your location or time zone.

Faculty will record all classes and make the recordings available to students asynchronously (at any time outside of class time). They will also make all course materials, including those used during lectures and class sessions (such as faculty notes or slides), available to students asynchronously. View additional information.

Optional Practical Training (OPT) & Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Current regulations state that you must be present in the United States when submitting your Optional Practical Training (OPT) and OPT STEM applications. You cannot mail your application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) from abroad. You must be present in the United States at the time USCIS issues a receipt number to acknowledge acceptance of your packet.

The application requires an I-94 number, which is only valid while you are in the United States. If you depart the United States, you will not have a valid I-94 and your application will likely be rejected.

If you are able to re-enter the United States before your I-20 program end date, you can apply for OPT up to 60 days after the program end date listed on your I-20. If you have already requested an OPT I-20 but will not be able to remain in the United States until USCIS receives your application, USC's Office of International Services can provide a new OPT I-20 when you return to the United States.

USC and other universities have made this issue known to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and have urged the agency to provide special accommodations for OPT application rules due to the COVID-19 situation. Any updates will be posted to this site as they are available.

As of March 13, 2020, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has not released any changes to its existing STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) Extension application instructions. Therefore, students must be physically present in the United States to apply for a STEM OPT Extension.

Employers may ask their Optional Practical Training (OPT) employees to work from home. This will not affect their F-1 status. Students must still report their employment information to ensure they do not accrue days of unemployment in their Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record.

Students are required to work full-time while on Optional Practical Training (OPT). Full-time employment on OPT is defined as working a total of at least 21 hours per week. All employment must be related to a student’s field of study. Students may work on a volunteer basis or as unpaid interns where this does not violate any United States labor laws. 

In the event you are unable to find paid or volunteer employment and you are nearing the 90th day of unemployment on OPT, please contact USC's Office of International Services at ois@usc.edu for consultation with an advisor.

Employers may ask their Curricular Practical Training (CPT) employees to work from home. This will not affect their F-1 status.

Students with approved Curricular Practical Training (CPT) for summer 2020 should contact their employers to seek special arrangements in order to meet the internship requirements. As a reminder, students may not begin working on an internship without prior authorization.

It usually takes 1-3 weeks for students to receive an I-797 receipt notice from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If you haven’t already done so, please check your bank/credit card statement to verify if USCIS has withdrawn the funds from your account. If you don’t receive the I-797 receipt notice by the third week, please contact USC's Office of International Services at ois@usc.edu.

As of March 18, 2020, USCIS has suspended all in-person services, but benefits that do not require in-person appointments with USCIS such as Optional Practical Training (OPT)/STEM OPT applications are still being accepted.

 

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