Leave of Absence

Leave of Absence (LOA)
Medical LOA
LOA Exceeding 5 Months
LOA and Off-Campus Work Authorization
Returning from LOA

Leave of Absence (LOA)

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. 

Students considering an LOA must review these requirements:

  • 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

OIS LOA Forms are available online:

The OIS LOA form must be approved by both OIS and the student’s academic department advisor. After students meet with an OIS counselor or J-1 Exchange Visitor Program Coordinator, it is the responsibility of the students to meet with their academic advisor and complete the LOA process for their department. Students also need to confirm with their department their eligibility to return to their academic program after the LOA.

  • Graduate Engineering students must receive approval from their GAPP advisor (OHE 106).
  • All other students must receive approval from their academic department advisor

Medical LOA

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

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.  The current I-20/DS-2019 will be invalid after being outside of the U.S. for more than five months.

It is the student’s responsibility to email OIS at least two months prior to returning to USC to request the new I-20/DS-2019. 

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.

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

All students returning from an LOA must validate their return to USC by reporting to OIS within 21 days of the start of the new semester. Students must meet with the OIS SEVIS Coordinator (F-1 students) or J-1 Exchange Visitor Program Coordinator and appointments can be made by calling OIS at (213) 740-2666. 

Students must bring the following documents to the appointment: