Reduced course load
As an international, F-1 status student, you are required to maintain full-time enrollment during the school year. If you cannot or will not meet this requirement, you must request a reduced course load. Federal immigration regulations severely limit a student's ability to be less than full time, but it might be allowed in certain circumstances, as explained below. If you drop below full time without authorization after the drop/add deadline, the Office of Global Engagement’s International Student and Scholar Services will be required to report this to SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System), and you will lose your F-1 status.
According to 8 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) § 214.2(f)(6)(iii):
The designated school official* (DSO) may allow an F-1 student to engage in less than a full course of study as provided below. A student who wishes to drop below full time must obtain the approval from a DSO in advance, regardless what the reason might be. A student who drops below a full course of study without prior approval of a DSO will be considered out of status.
* Note: OGE international student advisors have this designation.
Eligibility for Reduced Course Load
A student must apply for reduced course load if, due to academic difficulties, he/she is unable to be enrolled full time. He/she must first obtain a letter from his/her academic advisor to verify his/her eligibility to be part time based on academic difficulties.
- Academic difficulties are exclusively limited to initial difficulties with the English language or with reading requirements, unfamiliarity with American teaching methods, or improper course level placement. Please note that “initial” should only be used in the student's first academic term.
- A student may be authorized for a reduced course load on the “academic difficulties” basis only for a single term during any one course of study at a particular program level, and must resume a full course of study at the next available term (excluding summer).
A student must apply for RCL if, due to a temporary illness or medical condition, he/she is unable to be enrolled full time (or, if necessary, no course load).
- The student must provide medical documentation from a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy or licensed clinical psychologist to the DSO to substantiate the illness or medical condition.
- The letter from the U.S. medical provider must recommend either that the student be part time or not enrolled due to medical circumstances. I.C.E. will not accept letters signed by nurse practitioners or physician assistants.
- A reduced course load for a medical condition can be granted for a period of time not to exceed an aggregate of 12 months while the student is pursuing a course of study at a particular program level.
- The student must provide current medical documentation and the DSO must authorize the drop below full time for each new term. (Source: [8 CFR § 214.2(f)(6)(iii)(B)])
Completion of Course of Study
A student must apply for RCL in his/her final term if fewer courses (i.e., less than full time) are needed and required to complete the course of study.
The student must obtain a letter from his/her academic advisor to verify that the current term will be the final term for the student to complete his/her academic program. (Source: [8 CFR § 214.2(f)(6)(iii)(C)])
Applying for a Reduced Course Load
- Set up an appointment with your academic advisor for an “academic reason” or licensed medical physician (or doctor of osteopathy or licensed clinical psychologist) for a “medical reason” to request a letter. The letter must be printed on an official letterhead and contain contact information for the person who signed the letter.
- Submit the letter from your academic advisor or licensed medical physician to your international student advisor.