Per federal immigration regulations, international students in F-1 status are required to enroll full-time during the school year to maintain lawful F-1 status. Failure to maintain full-time enrollment will jeopardize your F-1 status and termination of your SEVIS record.
If you cannot maintain or meet this requirement, you must request a reduced course load by submitting the online RCL authorization form at least two weeks before the semester/term in which you will be enrolled part-time. You are advised to check with your program of study to verify what is considered "full-time" for your program. According to the federal regulations, lack of financial support is not a valid reason to request for a RCL.
Note you are not authorized to drop below full-time enrollment until you have a Reduced Course Load (RCL) Authorization printed on your I-20.
- Students should NOT drop below the full course of study without prior RCL approval from your program of study AND the DSO.
- If you want to withdraw from a course AFTER the Add/Drop deadline, which will cause you to be less than full-time, you must gain RCL approval before dropping/withdrawing the course.
- A reduced course load for academic difficulties must consist at least 50% of credit hours required for a full course of study. For example, if the full-time enrollment for your program of study is 6 credit hours per term, semester or quarter, you must be enrolled for at least 3 credit hours.
- According to the Code of Federal Regulations, if the student is not required to take any additional courses to satisfy the requirements for completion, but continues to be enrolled for administrative purposes, the student is considered to have completed the course of study and must take action to maintain status. Such action may include application for change of status or departure from the U.S. [8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(iii)(C)]
Students may request a reduced course load for the following reasons:
- Academic Difficulties - Students must provide a letter from the program of study or academic advisor explaining and verifying a situation where a student is experiencing academic difficulties.
- Student's initial difficulty with the English language or reading requirements
- Student's lack of familiarity with U.S. teaching methods; or
- Improper course level placement.
- Medical Conditions - If your request is due to a medical condition, you must submit a letter on letterhead signed by an appropriate licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist recommending the RCL for the specific semester.
- Completion of Course of Study - Students can be authorized for part-time enrollment if this is your final term, semester or quarter and you do not need to take a full course load to complete your degree requirements.
PhD students who have completed their coursework but are still working on their thesis will still be enrolled full-time. Thus, doctoral students are not required to submit a RCL request after the completion of their coursework.