Full-Time Study and Reduced Course Loads
As an F-1 student your primary purpose for being in the U.S. is to study. In order to remain in lawful F-1 status, you must comply with the following requirements:
- Attend the school you are authorized by immigration to attend.
- Remain a full-time student: enroll in 12 units each fall or spring semester if an undergraduate student, or 9 units if a graduate student. International students may not be able to drop below full-time enrollment, without prior IPS approval. International students who register for less than a full-time course load, without prior IPS approval, will be out of status and will have their SEVIS record terminated.
- International students may concurrently enroll in classes at another school with prior IPS approval before the end of the SJSU Add period.
- If you are transferring from another school, you must complete a timely transfer within 15 days of the first day of classes. See Forms. Maintain a valid I-20: Notify IPS if you have any changes on the I-20 such as, change of name, and/or completion of degree date
- Have your I-20 signed by an International Student Advisor before leaving the U.S. The signature is valid for 12 months from the date signed on page 3.
- Do not participate in any unauthorized off-campus employment at any time.
- Keep your passport valid for 6 months into the future at all times.
- Comply with all Post-completion OPT and STEM-Extension OPT reporting requirements. See Forms.
Failure to comply with these rules is a violation of your F-1 status, which may lead to terminating your program, cancellation of your visa, loss of working benefits, and even possibly a 3- to 10-year bar from admission to the U.S., and/or deportation from the U.S. See an International Student Advisor if you have any questions or concerns regarding maintaining your F-1 student status.
Full-time Study RequirementsStudents in F-1 status are required by USCIS/Immigration to be enrolled full-time.
- Full-time for Undergraduates: 12 units minimum
- Full-time for Graduates: 9 units minimum
- Please note that there is no restriction on the number of online classes F-1 students can take, but only 3 units of online courses can count towards full-time enrollment.
- The requirement for full-time study may be met with Concurrent Enrollment. Concurrent enrollment may be authorized when you enroll at SJSU for at least 6 units, and an additional 6 units or more at another university or community college. Graduate students must enroll in 6 units at SJSU and the additional 3 units can be taken at another university or community college. You must obtain prior approval from IPS.
Reduced Course Loads
Exceptions to the full time study requirement must be approved by IPS before the last day of the semester registration add period.
Situations that would allow a student to request a reduced course load include:
- Final semester: If it is your final semester and you only need the courses needed for completion of your degree.
- Thesis or Project Only: As a graduate student, you have completed all coursework and are only working on a thesis or project during the semester and are not registered for any other units. You must submit a letter on department letterhead from the academic advisor prior to the end of the registration Add period indicating that you are considered a full-time student.
- Leave of absence from the university: an SJSU student may take a leave of absence for one semester and still be considered in good academic standing. However, F-1 students must leave the country if not enrolled, with the exception of a medical condition (read below).
- Medical reason: students who need to take a reduced course load or leave of absence due to a medical condition must provide a licensed medical doctor’s (M.D., doctor of osteopathy or licensed clinical psychologist) letter on letterhead and signed by a doctor (not a nurse). The doctor letter must state a recommendation for a reduced course load (and indicate for how long) as a result of your medical condition.
Remember: you must receive advance approval (prior to the last day of the Add deadline) from an International Student Advisor to take less than the required unit load! Download the RCL/Concurrent Enrollment Form (pdf) or you may pick it up at the IPS Office together with a concurrent enrollment permission letter and further instructions.