Full-Time Load Policy
Federal regulations require that ALL students in F-1 status be registered for a full-time course load each fall and spring semester until graduation. Failure to be registered as a full-time student is a violation of non-immigrant status; this may result in the loss of F-1 benefits (including employment eligibility both on and off campus), and can prompt federal immigration sanctions.
A full-time course load varies according to academic level:
|Full-Time Course Minimum Load
|12 credits per semester
|9 credits per semester
*In accordance with Graduate Policy 4.3, graduate international students are considered compliant with U.S. Immigration stipulations that normally require a minimum of 9 hour registration per semester if they are enrolled for at least 3 semester credits hours in a full-load course. View a complete list of full load graduate courses.
EXCEPTIONS: There are very few exceptions to the full-time course load rule, and the criteria for each is strict. Those exceptions include academic difficulty, a medical condition or completing the last semester of the program of study.
NOTE: “Imminent danger of failing a class” is not a permissible reason for authorizing a reduced course load.
In every instance, the student must obtain PRIOR authorization from the Office of International Student and Scholar Services. Once authorization is received, the student can then drop a course. An F-1 student who drops below a full course of study without the prior approval of the ISSS Office will be considered out of status and must be reported in SEVIS as having dropped below a full-time course load without authorization. A student must resume a full course of study in the next available semester to maintain student status; except for a possible medical excuse or if the student has a petition to graduate on file.
The authorization form for Less Than Full-Time Course Load is available on-line (fillable) and at the ISSS Office. This form must be approved by the academic adviser and the International Student and Scholar Services Office BEFORE any action can be taken.
Dropping below a full-time course load for academic reasons is limited ONLY to the choices below. If the drop is approved, the student must then be registered for at least six credits. Federal immigration regulations define academic difficulty as:
- initial difficulty with the English Language (can only be approved in first semester per academic level) **
- unfamiliarity with US teaching methods (can only be approved in first semester per academic level) **
- improper course placement (can only be used once per academic level)
** Students with a GSA, who recently graduated from FIT and changed education levels, are not allowed to be Less Than Full Load for this reason.
The ISSS Office may authorize a reduced course load (or if necessary, no course load) due to a student's temporary illness or medical condition 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. In order to authorize a reduced course load based on a medical condition, the student must provide current medical documentation from a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy or a licensed clinical psychologist to the ISSS Office to substantiate the illness or medical condition. The ISSS Office must authorize the drop below full time for each new semester.
A student previously authorized to drop below a full course of study due to illness or medical condition for an aggregate of 12 months may not be authorized by the ISSS Office to reduce his or her course load on subsequent occasions while pursuing a course of study at the same program level.
Completion of Course of Study
The ISSS Office may authorize a reduced course load if the student is in his or her final semester and if fewer courses than a full-time load are needed to complete the course of study. If the reduction is authorized, the student must then be registered for those credits needed to complete the course of study. In addition, the student must also have filed a Petition to Graduate. These forms are available in the Graduation Office.
Note: Students should be absolutely certain that they will be graduating in the current semester before choosing to register for less than a full-time course load. Failure to graduate after dropping below a full-time course load can result in the student being out of status and the loss of F-1 benefits.
An F-1 student who drops below a full course of study for reasons other than the ones described above will be out of status, and that information is reported to the federal immigration authorities via the SEVIS system.
F-1 students who fall out of status may be eligible to apply to the Department of Homeland Security for reinstatement, provided they meet the eligibility requirements as described in the U.S. federal regulations. Applying for reinstatement is not a guarantee that the student will be reinstated.