The United States government has mandated a series of regulations and guidelines that degree-seeking international students in F-1 and J-1 visa categories must adhere to during their stay in the U.S. It is critical that students understand and comply with the criteria, failure to adhere to one or more of the requirements can result in a student’s loss of status. International Student and Scholar Services (I.S.S.S.) is available support you in navigating these visa statuses and maintenance requirements.
NOTE: The items outlined below are regulations and guidelines that pertain exclusively to registration and enrollment status for Degree Seeking International Students. For a complete list of U.S. Government Regulations for F-1 and J-1 visa holders visit Maintaining Your Status on the International Programs Center site.
APPROPRIATE FULL-TIME ENROLLMENT
U.S. federal regulations require international F-1 and J-1 students to maintain full-time enrollment throughout their program, uphold good academic standing, and make normal academic progress toward their degree objective.
Students must be registered for classes by the end of the first week of classes each semester. Registration must meet minimum enrollment requirements. Undergraduate students are required to be enrolled in at least 12 credit hours per semester. Graduate students must generally be enrolled for at least 9 credit hours.
Some students may be eligible to enroll for less than full-time or be considered full-time with fewer hours than stated above. Speak with an International Student Advisor for guidance.
ONLINE/DISTANCE LEARNING COURSE POLICY
Based on federal regulations requiring physical presence, both F-1 and J-1 international students are subject to restrictions regarding online coursework. Remember that not complying with federal regulations regarding online/distance education courses can lead to losing F-1/J-1 status. F-1 and J-1 visa holders have slightly different requirements regarding registration in online courses.
F-1 degree seeking students can count three credits in an online/distance learning course per semester toward the full-time enrollment requirement. Therefore, a minimum of 9 out of 12 credits for undergraduates must be on-campus, face-to-face. F-1 graduate students must register for a minimum of 6 out of 9 credits on-campus, face-to-face.
J-1 students cannot count online courses towards the full-time enrollment requirement. Therefore, J-1 students should enroll full-time in on-campus, face-to-face courses before adding any online courses each semester. If you hold a government scholarship, please contact your government sponsor for authorization for registration in online (WEB) hours.
Returning students are not required by immigration regulations to enroll in the summer session if they were full-time in the spring semester and will continue their enrollment in the fall semester. Students may choose to study, return home, or work on campus (or off-campus if eligible and if authorized in advance) in the summer. Students authorized for full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) may also be exempted from enrolling in classes without jeopardizing their non-immigrant status, but should check with their international student advisor first.
However, full-time enrollment in the summer is required for international students beginning their program of study. Graduate students must be enrolled in a full course of study as determined by their graduate study plans. Undergraduate students may either enroll in 12 credit hours total, between Summer I and Summer II, or they may enroll for Summer II only, for at least 6 credit hours. Students who will take only one course during the summer term are not permitted to take that course through online or distance education if it is their first or last term of enrollment.
EXCEPTIONS TO FULL-TIME ENROLLMENT
Enrollment in less than full-time may be authorized as an exception in the following situations. If you believe that you qualify for any of the mentioned exceptions, contact an International Student Advisor immediately before dropping below a full course of study.
- If the student is medically unable to maintain a full-time course load (with letter of recommendation from Counseling Center or physician).
- If a student is having difficulty during the first semester of enrollment due to (1) initial difficulties with the English language, (2) with the reading requirements.
- If the student has been placed in or advised by their academic advisor to take a course at an improper course level or if a student is unfamiliar with American teaching methods (with letter of explanation from advisor).
- If the student is in their final semester or has completed all required coursework. For example, Ph.D. or master’s students registered in either the thesis or dissertation course during the fall and spring semesters are considered full-time enrolled and may be registered for less than 9 credit hours.