Reduced Course Load
F-1 regulations require students to pursue a full course of study. During each Fall and Spring semester, full-time enrollment is defined as:
For undergraduate students:
- 12 credit hours (including any AEC courses)
For graduate students:
- 9 credit hours
- 6 credit hours plus a GTA, GRA, or GA appointment (regardless of percentage of appointment)
- Doctoral candidates who have already passed the Doctoral Oral Comprehensive exam, enrolled in dissertation hours as required by your department.
A Reduced Course Load (RCL) is a permission from an ISS Advisor to be below the minimum enrollment requirements for a given semester. Federal regulations provide limited circumstances when an F-1 student may be authorized for an RCL. These include medical reasons, academic reasons, and completion of studies during the final term. In some cases a graduate student enrolled part-time may be considered pursuing a full course of study for immigration purposes. Each request requires a review by an ISS advisor before it is approved; approval is granted on a semester basis.
In some cases, a student will need an RCL due to a temporary medical condition. Students will need to 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. The following wording is suggested:
As a “licensed medical doctor” (or doctor of osteopathy or licensed clinical psychologist), I recommend “Student’s full name and DOB” reduce his/her course load (or withdraw from all classes) due to a temporary illness or medical condition for the “appropriate semester.”
Approval for medical reasons must be obtained each semester requested. Approval cannot exceed an aggregate of 12 months per program level.
An RCL may also be granted in a situation where a student is experiencing academic difficulties. Approval of an academic RCL can be granted only once per program level (ex. Bachelors, Masters, PhD), and a student must still complete at least six credit hours in that semester.
Permissible academic RCL reasons include:
- Initial difficulties with the English language
- Initial difficulties with reading requirements
- Unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods
- Improper Course Level Placement (can apply if student is unprepared or in jeopardy of failing a course).
AEC/Undergraduate/Graduate students who need less than a full course load to complete degree requirements and take coursework only (no thesis, dissertation, or final project) in their final semester may qualify for a final semester RCL. A final semester RCL is available even if a student has previously been authorized for a medical or academic RCL at the same degree level.
CONSIDERED PURSUING A FULL COURSE OF STUDY
WITH PART-TIME ENROLLMENT
In some cases a graduate student enrolled part-time may be considered pursuing a full course of study for immigration purposes. These reasons may include:
- Thesis/Final Project Master’s student who previously completed all required coursework and is completing his or her thesis/final project.
- Master’s/Doctoral student who is taking their final required courses before starting a thesis, dissertation, or final project.
To be considered pursuing a full course of study, you must request and be approved for a Reduced Course Load/Grad Full Course by an ISS advisor (follow instructions below).
An RCL approval must be obtained:
- before the 20th day of classes each Spring and Fall semester, or
- if after the 20th day of classes, before a student drops below full time.
RCL requests may be submitted and approved before the requested semester begins, with the exception of the FINAL SEMESTER RCL which can only be approved:
- on/after August 2nd for Fall semester
- on/after January 2nd for Spring semester
- Make sure you are eligible for a reduced course load based on the above options.
- For a Medical RCL, you will need medical documentation to submit with your e-form request.
- For a Non-Medical RCL, meet with your academic advisor (or course instructor if dropping a course for academic difficulty) before submitting the e-form. You will need to provide the name and email address of the advisor/instructor in your e-form request.
- Log into iHawk and complete the appropriate form (Medical or Non-Medical) under F-1 Student Services > Reduced Course Load / Grad Full Course.
- Wait until you receive an e-mail notification saying that you should come to ISS.
- Meet with an ISS advisor, who will be reviewing your request with you.
- Receive a new I-20 indicating ISS advisor’s approval of your RCL request.
- If necessary, drop the course(s). This should be done only after getting permission from ISS.
Students should consider potential issues of part-time enrollment, and may be disqualified from:
- Working on campus
- Living on campus
- Receiving scholarships and/or
- Receiving other student benefits in accordance with university policies (i.e. health insurance coverage).
Important: If KU ISS has not approved the RCL by the deadline or prior to dropping below full time, you will be considered in violation of your legal status.