Falling Below Full Time Status
Taking Less Than a Full Course of Studies
There are a limited number of situations where students on an F-1 visa are permitted to take less than a full course of study. The following describes those situations and what students need to do to qualify.
- Vacation: During the normal summer vacation for both term- and semester-based systems. For students on the term system, during one of the other terms if the student has completed the equivalent of an academic year (three terms) prior to taking the vacation.
- Medical problem: If a student is compelled by illness or other medical conditions to interrupt or reduce a full course of study, s/he may be considered to be in status during the illness or other medical condition. The student must resume a full course of study upon recovery and no more than one academic year may be taken off for medical reasons
- Teaching or research assistantship: Students assigned teaching or research responsibilities that are part of the terms of a scholarship or fellowship may carry a reduced course load.
- Graduate students who have completed formal course work: Graduate students who are preparing for comprehensive examinations or who are engaged in research on their dissertations may be registered to maintain matriculation only or enrolled for a number of credit hours less than that routinely defined as full time.
- Valid academic reasons: A student may reduce her/his course load if s/he is having initial difficulties with the English language or reading requirements, unfamiliarity with American teaching methods or improper course level placement.
- Undergraduates completing programs during the current term: An undergraduate student who needs fewer than 12 hours to complete her/his program of study is considered to be pursuing a full course of study, if s/he enrolls in the number of credit hours necessary to complete the program in the final term.
- Practical training: A student on authorized practical training following completion of studies is considered by USCIS to be pursuing a full course of study.
How does the student certify reasons for falling below a full course of study?
- Vacation. Students on the term system should always notify the OISS if taking a vacation. Students on the semester system do not need to notify the ISAS. If there are questions the student should ask the at Office of International Student Services.
- Medical Problem.
- Student secures a written statement from the health-care practitioner requiring or recommending the interruption or reduction in studies. The statement should include a brief description of the medical reasons that serve as a basis for the recommendation.
- Student secures a written statement from her/his advisor stating that s/he is unable to take a full course of study.
- DSO writes a statement of approval.
- Print out the for the Medical Clearance for a Reduced Course Load pdf
- Teaching or research assistantship. Student secures a written document from the department head confirming that s/he is teaching and/or researching and that this is the reason why the student is not taking a full course of studies.
- Postdoctoral students or fellows. Student secures a written document from her/his advisor confirming that s/he is conducting necessary research and writing for the dissertation and comprehensive examinations.
- Graduate students who have completed formal course work. Student secures a written statement from her/his advisor stating that the preparation time for comprehensive examination is necessary or the time for research on a thesis or dissertation is necessary.
- Valid Academic reasons. Student secures a written statement from her/his advisor stating that there are valid reasons for the student to take less than a full course of studies. The reason must fit those stated above.
- Undergraduates completing programs. Student secures a written statement from her/his advisor stating the s/he is completing the degree program.
- Practical Training. Student submits a copy of the employment authorization document (EAD) to the DSO.