Reduced Course Load

Immigration regulations stipulate that F-1 and J-1 international students must be enrolled full-time each fall and spring semester. Summer is an optional term, and enrollment is not required unless it is your final semester. Full-time enrollment is defined as 12 credit units for undergraduates, and 9 credit units for graduates, per semester. There are limited scenarios in which an exception can be granted. 

  • For the fall semester, we start accepting these requests in iSpartan on July 15th. 
  • For the spring semester, we start accepting these requests in iSpartan on November 15th. 

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of State (DoS) allow ISSS officials (DSO/ARO) to authorize a reduced course load (RCL) exclusively for the reasons listed below

Please note that DHS and DoS do not consider financial difficulties or the unavailability of certain courses as valid reasons for enrolling in less than a full course of study.

An ISSS Advisor must approve your Reduced Course Load Request before engaging in a reduced course load. A student who drops below full-time enrollment without prior approval from an ISSS Advisor will be considered to be in violation of their immigration status.

RCL requests must be submitted by the ‘Last day to add’ deadline for the applicable term to be considered.

Course Types Requirements


You are required to meet regularly with a faculty member to complete the course requirements and attend lectures or other in-person interactive activities.


You are required to meet both in-person and online. The majority of course work may take place online, but students may be required to complete specific projects, tests, or orientations on the physical campus. This includes courses that require only a one-time meeting with a faculty member. Hybrid courses can be counted toward your F-1 full-time enrollment requirements as in-person courses.


You are required to complete all course requirements, lectures, or other activities online. There are no required in-person meetings. A maximum of 1 online course (max of 3-4 units) per semester can be counted towards your F-1 full-time enrollment requirement. However, this does not account for extra units for more than 12 units for undergraduates and 9 units for graduates.

must be enrolled in the exact number of units specified on the RCL form and as confirmed by your Department Advisor, or this may result in processing delays.

RCL for Academic Reasons: Your first semester studying in the U.S. and are having difficulty with:

  • The English language; 
  • Reading requirements;
  • Adjusting to U.S. teaching methods;
  • Improper course level placement (available during academic program).
    *Please note that students are only allowed one academic program reduced course load per education level.

1. Academic Advisor, Department Chair, or Dean must Authorize the Academic RCL
2. You must be enrolled in at least 6 units at SJSU (both undergraduates and graduate students). Of these 6 units, only 3 units can be online. This type of RCL can only be authorized once (usually during the first semester of study at SJSU) per degree program level.

RCL for Final Semester: You will be completing your program (graduating) this semester and do not need to register for a full-time course load to complete degree requirements.

1.  Academic Advisor, Department Chair, or Dean must Authorize the Final Semester RCL

RCL for Medical Reasons: Illness or medical conditions preventing you from being enrolled full-time.

1. Academic Advisor, Department Chair, or Dean must Authorize the Medical Reason RCL
2. A recent letter from an M.D. licensed in the U.S. in one of the specific categories noted: (Medical Doctor), D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathy), or Licensed Clinical Psychologist recommending that you take a reduced course load for this semester. The letter must be on letterhead, have a handwritten signature, and include the following information:

  • Recommendation that the student reduces his/her course load due to medical reasons or conditions;
    • If this is a recommendation to not take any courses during the term, this needs to be indicated on the letter. 
  • State the medical reason or condition that the student is experiencing, which serves as the basis for the medical reduced course load; 
  • The student’s full name and date of birth; 
  • Date and specific term/semester the RCL is being recommended;
  • Signature from a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist; with contact info and State License Number.


Additional Exceptions to Full-Time Enrollment:
Concurrent Enrollment

Culminating Experience