Current Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations require non-immigrant students with F-1 status to be enrolled in a full course of study during each semester of their program. Full-time is defined by USCIS as 12 credit hours for undergraduate students, 9 credit hours for graduate students, or, 6 credit hours for graduate students with assistantships. Exceptions to this requirement are limited to select academic difficulties, temporary illness, or to complete a program of study in the student’s final semester.
Reduced Course Load due to Academic Difficulties
A reduced course load due to academic difficulty can be authorized once during a program of study. USCIS lists the following as acceptable reasons for requesting a reduced course load:
- Initial difficulty with the English language
- Initial difficulty with reading requirements
- Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods
- Improper course level placement
A faculty or academic advisor must support your request for an academic difficulty reduced course load based on one of these reasons.
To submit a reduced course load request due to academic difficultly, please follow the link at the bottom of this page.
Reduced Course Load due to Temporary Illness
A reduced course load can be authorized due to temporary illness for a maximum of 12 months. Requests longer than one semester must be reauthorized at the start of each new semester. Documentation from a medical doctor (MD), doctor of osteopathy (DO), or a licensed clinical psychologist is required to authorize a reduced course load due to temporary illness. This documentation should indicate that a full course load is not possible due to illness and should indicate for how long a reduced course load is necessary within the 12-month maximum.
To submit a reduced course load request due to temporary illness, please follow the link at the bottom of this page.
Reduced Course Load for Completing Course Requirements
A reduced course load is allowed during a student's final semester to complete any remaining degree requirements. No special request or authorization needs to be completed for this, but an active graduation application should be on file showing planned graduation for the end of the current term.
A graduation application can be submitted through the Registrars Office (click to follow link).
Reduced Course Load for Summer Classes
USCIS indicates that enrollment in summer classes is not required to maintain F-1 status provided that the student was enrolled during the spring semester before summer vacation and is eligible to re-enroll for classes in the fall semester following summer vacation. Therefore, there is no full course load requirement for summer classes.
The only exception to this is if the first semester of a student's program is the summer semester. In that situation, a student must maintain full time enrollment throughout that first summer semester unless a reduced course load is authorized for one of the academic or medical reasons stated aboved. This includes students who are starting a new program (i.e. change of level) when the new program begins during the summer semester.