U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued guidance to colleges and universities that enables F-1 international students to temporarily participate in additional distance learning credits beyond the three credits which are normally allowed under visa rules during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Immigration regulations allow a once per degree-level Academic Reduced Course Load (RCL) if a student has a valid academic reason for dropping below full-time.

Acceptable reasons for an Academic RCL as noted in the regulation are:

  • Initial difficulty with the English language or reading requirements;
  • Unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods; or
  • Improper course level placement

Ph.D. students who have passed their comprehensive exam (D status) are not eligible for an RCL in the semester of the dissertation defense when full-time registration of 5 dissertation hours is required.

Academic RCL Request Process

Students who feel they meet the requirements for an Academic RCL should schedule an appointment to meet with their academic advisor to discuss their eligibility.

If it is appropriate, complete the Academic Reduced Course Load Form via DocuSign after the meeting with your advisor.

  • College of Engineering Graduate Students:

Students should not drop any classes until their academic advisor and an ISSS advisor have approved the Academic RCL.

Enrollment While Authorized for an Academic RCL

Students authorized for an Academic RCL must maintain at least half-time enrollment (minimum of 6 credits for undergraduate students) unless it is their final term and they have less than a half-time course load remaining.

  • Distance Education Limit:
    • No more than the equivalent of one on-line/distance education class or 3 online credits per term may count towards the full-time enrollment requirement.

Enrollment in the Term Following an Academic RCL

Students are eligible for one Academic RCL per degree level and must resume a full course of study (or authorized equivalent) in the next required term.

Once an Academic RCL has been authorized, a student can only be authorized to drop below full-time in a future semester if they qualify for and submit proper documentation for 1) a Medical RCL; or 2) a Last Semester RCL.