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Students: Are You Eligible For a Reduced Course Load?

February 16, 2016

F-1 and M-1 students studying in the United States must enroll in a full course of study at a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school.

However, under certain circumstances, F-1 and M-1 students may be eligible to maintain student status while enrolled in a reduced course load. Qualifying circumstances for a regular F-1 student to receive a reduced course load authorization include:

  • Medical condition or illness.
  • Certain initial academic difficulties, including:
    • Improper course level placement.
    • Initial difficulty with the English language.
    • Initial difficulty with reading requirements.
    • Unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods.
  • Being in your final term or semester.

Please note, M-1 students can only get permission to reduce their course load for medical reasons.

If you feel you may be eligible for a reduced course load, speak with your designated school official (DSO) before dropping any classes or reducing your attendance. Your DSO can help you figure out if the regulations for reduced course load apply to you and give you permission to drop below a full course of study for a term or semester at a time. If you are eligible, your DSO needs to authorize a reduce course load in your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record.

When you contact your DSO to discuss if you are eligible for a reduced course load, be sure to provide information and documentation that supports your qualifying circumstances. For example, if you have medical reasons, you must provide a letter from a doctor or similar medical professional.

If your qualifying circumstances will affect future terms or semesters, you will need to speak with your DSO and obtain permission during each term you wish to reduce your course load. This is because a reduced course load authorization can only apply to one term or semester at a time. Remember, dropping below a full course of study without the proper authorizations could jeopardize your active student status in SEVIS.

If you or your DSO have questions about reduced course load, contact the SEVP Response Center. 

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