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International students in F-1 or J-1 status are required by law to register for and complete a full course load every semester. Full-time enrollment means 12 credit hours for undergraduate students and 9 credit hours for graduate students.You must obtain ISSS approval in order to enroll for less than full-time. Failure to comply with this regulation may have extremely severe consequences for your ability to stay in the U.S., to study, or to work.
When is Underenrollment Permitted?
Students registered for less than the required credit hours must obtain ISSS approval for underenrollment. Underenrollment is permitted only in certain situations and requires the prior approval of the ISSS. Underenrollment is permitted only in the following circumstances:
a. it is your first academic year in the U.S., and you are having difficulties with the English language or reading requirements (Note: students are only eligible once for underenrollment due to academic difficulties during their program of study.);
b. it is your first academic year in the U.S., and you are having difficulties with adjusting to American teaching methods or the U.S. educational system (Note: students are only eligible once for underenrollment due to academic difficulties during their program of study.)
c. you were improperly placed at the wrong course level (Note: students are only eligible once for underenrollment due to academic difficulties during their program of study.)
d. you have unavoidable medical problems which requires a temporary reduction in your courseload
e. it is your last semester prior to graduation, and you need less than 12 credits to satisfy your degree requirements.
f. you are a graduate student and are working full-time on thesis or research (usually the student can receive graduate equivalency hours in this situation)
g. you are a graduate student and your department curriculum designates a credit load less than 9 credits as full-time for your program (student should submit a statement from academic advisor in this situation).
Please keep in mind that you must obtain approval for underenrollment for any of the above circumstances. You must enroll on a full-time basis if you do not meet one of the above conditions or if you do not have ISSS approval for underenrollment.
If you do not receive permission to underenroll, your underenrollment will be reported in SEVIS. This will cause your SEVIS record to be terminated, and you will have to apply for reinstatement.