The U.S. government requires that international students on F-1 and J-1
visas register and complete a full course of study each semester.
Thus, international students (both F-1 and J-1) must enroll full time in
order to maintain status. For undergraduate students this is defined as 12
credit hours. For graduate students this is defined as 8 credit hours.
Summer session is considered a vacation period and students are not
required to enroll during the summer (exception: graduate students admitted
a program of study effective summer session must enroll as a full-time
student the summer of admission.
As SEVIS now requires reporting on student enrollment it becomes more important
that students and departments understand full time enrollment as defined
under Immigration law.
Exceptions from Full Time Enrollment for F-1 students
Under certain circumstances, students may request an exception from
full time enrollment. This request must be approved by an International
Services Advisor (also known as a DSO) in order for the student to
Students must obtain prior approval from the ISS before enrolling
for less than a full-course study or before a cancel/withdraw that results
in less than a full course load.
In order to find out if you qualify for or in order to request an “exception
from full time enrollment,” please see the Request for an Exception
from Full Time Enrollment Form. Please note that you must submit
the required documents indicated on the form in order for your request
to be considered.
Some of the reasons the ISS may authorize a temporary deviation from
a full course load are for a medical problem, a valid academic reason
for enrolling less than full time, the last semester of enrollment
and for other
Note: Certain academic programs as well as exchange and scholarship
program sponsors and other private educational funding agencies may
use a different
credit requirement for their students. If this credit requirement
is higher than that of the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration
, it takes precedence over the BCIS requirement.
Acceptable Reasons for Less Than a Full Course Load (F-1 Students)
The U.S. Government recognizes that circumstances exist that may prohibit
a student from enrolling full time. Consequently, the U.S. Bureau
of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) has deemed the following
to be acceptable
reasons for carrying less than a full course load.
Note: The reasons below are acceptable only if a student has obtained PRIOR approval from an ISSS adviser for completing less than a full course of study.
Students who may have an acceptable reason but fail to obtain prior approval
from ISSS will be considered, under new the immigration service regulations,
to be in violation of legal status.
An F-1 student may reduce his/her course load only once per program
level due to academic difficulties. To maintain legal status, an F-1
who is authorized to reduce his/her course load due to this reason
must still be enrolled for at least on half the full time credit requirement
(This means at least 4 credit hours for graduate students/and at
six credit hours for undergraduate students.) and must enroll full-time
the next available semester. The ISS must approve the request to
cancel/withdraw from a class before any changes to a student’s enrollment are made!
The US Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services accepts the following
academic difficulties as reasons for a reduction of a student’s course
- Improper course level placement (supporting letter from academic
- Initial difficulty with the English language and/or with reading requirements;
taking required part-time ESL classes in conjunction with academic
classes- total less than 12 or 6 credits (supporting memo from
academic adviser required
and Exception Form Required). This exception may be granted only
in the student’s
first semester in the United States in their academic program.
- Unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods or reading requirements (supporting
memo from academic adviser required and Exception Form Required). This
exception may be granted only in the first semester.
- In all instances, the ISS must APPROVE the exception before you can
reduce your course load, even if your academic advisor recommends this
- Immigration regulations limit the period of time an F-1 student may
enroll for less than a full course load due to a medical condition
to 12 months
per program level. An F-1 student whose medical condition does not
permit full-time enrollment after a 12 month period must either leave
and recuperate in the home country or apply for a change of visa
status to allow for continued medical treatment in the U.S.
- Students who are ill and unable to attend classes must see a doctor
regarding their illness. If the illness is such that the doctor recommends
student take less than a full course load, withdraw from classes or
not enroll, the student may file an Exception from Full Time Enrollment
with a supporting
letter from the physician. The supporting documentation must clearly
state that request for a reduction in the student's course load is based
considerations. The letter must include a diagnosis, statement of the
nature of the illness or medical condition, explanation of the treatment,
for recovery. The letter must state the anticipated date on which the
student can resume enrolling on a full time basis.
- The supporting letter which accompanies your Exception Form for a medical
reason must be written by a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy,
or licensed clinical psychologist. The letter must clearly state that
the student is unable to maintain full-time enrollment or is unable to
in any classes, whichever is the case.
- Illness of family members is not a reason recognized by the immigration
service for failure to enroll for a full course of study.
A student must be completing a program
of study by the end of the semester. The student must be able to
demonstrate that s/he has applied
Working Full or Part-time on a Research/Thesis
Submit the Exception form prior to the beginning of the semester.
One Exception form per semester.
Participating in a Full-time REQUIRED Internship or Full-Time
Prior approval of the Exception form for internship or co-op
is required. The Internship must be a graduation requirement.
The ISS will need
the internship requirement in the course catalog.
Special Asian Student Relief
Student must attach a copy of the work permission granted by the
BCIS to the Exception form and submit the form before the beginning
Enrollment at Another School
- Lewis University requires that an F-1 student satisfy the full-course
of study requirement at Lewis University during the academic
- In extremely limited circumstances, the ISS will provide
approval for a student to take a class at another institution
the academic year and have
the credits applied toward the full-time enrollment requirement.
obtain ISS approval before enrolling at another school
in such case. A copy of the registration statement from
number of credits
displayed must be submitted with the International Student
Request for Guest Status Form.
- A Lewis University student may enroll for classes at another
institution during the academic year if and only if s/he
is enrolled full time
at Lewis University
or if s/he is enrolled at Lewis and together with the courses
taken at another local institution the combination results
in full time
that the courses taken at the other institution will count
at Lewis and the student has applied for and been granted
Guest Student Status by the ISS.
A Lewis student who as been enrolled full time at Lewis
during the Fall and Spring Semesters may enroll at another
without transferring the I-20 and providing the student
registers full time
during the next (Fall) semester.
Reasons Not Acceptable for Less than a Full Course of Study
- Financial difficulties
- Medical illness of family member
- Study for the GMAT, GRE, CPA, or other similar exam(s)
- Suspension from academic program
- Working on Incompletes from a previous quarter/semester
Consequences of Failure to Enroll Full Time Without an Acceptable Reason
and Approved Exception Form
- Loss of valid immigration status in the United States – Under
SEVIS the University is required to report failure to register
for a full course
load to the BCIS. If you have failed to maintain status in the
US, you must apply for Reinstatement of Status within five months.
of Status section of this web site. Results in loss of eligibility
to be employed on-campus and off-campus
- Ineligibility to transfer your F-1 status (I-20) to another institution
- Ineligibility to change to another visa status
- Ineligibility to obtain another non-immigrant visa abroad under certain
Exception from A Full Course of Study Form
The Exception from Full Time Enrollment Form must be
completed for each semester that a student fails to enroll full time.
It is imperative
the Exception form be submitted to the ISS and approved prior to enrollment
for less than a full course of study or prior to a cancel/withdrawal
that results in less than a full course of study. Failure to obtain
of less than a full course load will result in the loss of legal status
under current immigration regulations.
- Undergraduate, Non-degree Seeking and Professional School students
must consult with an ISS adviser before making the decision to
enroll for less
than a full course of study or drop a class and must submit their
Exception form along with the academic adviser’s supporting
letter to the ISS. The form must be received and approved by the
ISS before the first
day of class and before the student reduces his/her course load.
- The ISS will make the final decision on the acceptability of the Exception
- An Exception form approved by the ISS allows a student to maintain legal