International students in F-1 status are required to maintain full-time enrollment during the academic year. If you cannot or will not meet this requirement, you must request a REDUCED COURSE LOAD (RCL). Federal immigration regulations severely limit a student's ability to be less than full time, but it may be allowed in some circumstances explained below. If you drop below full time without authorization after the drop/add deadline, Otis College is required to report this to SEVIS and you will lose your F-1status.
The Designated School Official (DSO) may allow an F-1 student to engage in less than a full course of study as provided below. A student who wishes to drop below full time must obtain the approval from a DSO in advance, regardless what the reason might be. A student who drops below a full course of study (after the drop-add period) without prior approval of a DSO will be considered out of status. Please be advised that a lack of financial support does not constitute a valid reason to reduce course load according to immigration regulations.
Source 8 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) § 214.2(f)(6)(iii)
Definition of Full Time
For undergraduate students, full time is at least 12 units per semester. For graduate students, full time is at least 9 units per semester.
NOTE: The courses you take for “audit” or “visit” do not count toward the full-time enrollment requirement for immigration purposes.
1. Academic Difficulties, 2. Medical Conditions, 3. Completion of Course Study
A student must apply for reduced course load if, due to academic difficulties, he/she is unable to be enrolled full time. He/she must first obtain a letter from his/her academic advisor to verify his/her eligibility to be part time based on academic difficulties.
Immigration regulations specify four academic difficulty reasons for which a reduced course load may be approved:
o Initial difficulties with the English language (usable only in student’s first year)
o Initial difficulties with reading requirements (usable only in student’s first year)
o Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods
o Improper course level placement
- A student may be authorized for a reduced course load on the “academic difficulties” basis only for a single term during any one course of study at a particular program level, and must resume a full course of study at the next available term (excluding summer).
- A reduced course load for academic difficulties must consist of at least 6 units for undergraduate students and at least 4 units for graduate students.
Source: [8 CFR § 214.2(f)(6)(iii)(A)]
A student must apply for RCL if, due to a temporary illness or medical condition, he/she is unable to be enrolled full time (or, if necessary, no course load).
- The student must provide medical documentation from a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist, to the DSO to substantiate the illness or medical condition.
- The letter from the medical provider cannot be dated more than 30 days before the start of the term for which the RCL is requested.
- The letter from the medical provider must recommend either that the student be part time or not enrolled due to medical circumstances.
- A reduced course load for a medical condition can be granted 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.
- The student must provide current medical documentation and the DSO must authorize the drop below full time for each new term. MEDICAL DOCTOR SAMPLE LETTER
Source: [8 CFR § 214.2(f)(6)(iii)(B)]
Completion of Course of Study
A student must apply for RCL in his/her final term if fewer courses (i.e. less than full time) are needed and required to complete the course of study.
The student must obtain a letter from his/her academic advisor to verify that the current term will be the final term for the student to complete his/her academic program.
Source: [8 CFR § 214.2(f)(6)(iii)(C)]
How To Apply For a Reduced Course Load
1. Complete a Reduce Course Load Request
2. Obtain supporting documentation as needed
3. Submit your Reduce Course Load Request to Alia Saeed, DSO located in the Registration Office. Ph# 310-665-6950 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.