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Questions from DSOs: When Can I Authorize a Student for a Reduced Course Load?

April 18, 2019

F and M 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, there may be times when students are unable to take a full course of study. In these instances, a principal designated school official (PDSO) or designated school official (DSO) may authorize a reduced course load (RCL).

You may authorize an RCL in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) for F students for academic difficulties, medical conditions or completion of course of study. Please note, M students can only receive permission to reduce their course load for medical reasons and their RCL cannot exceed an aggregate of five months per course of study.

Academic difficulties

You may only authorize an RCL once per program level due to:

  • Initial difficulty with the English language or reading requirements.
  • Unfamiliarity with United States teaching methods.
  • Improper course level placement.

An RCL for academic difficulties may only be authorized for the initial academic term.

Medical conditions

You may authorize an RCL for a medical condition for an aggregate of 12 months at the same program level:

  • Student must provide medical documentation from a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy or licensed clinical psychologist. You must keep the student's medical documentation on file.
  • Student must provide current medical documentation for each new session.
  • You must reauthorize the RCL for each new session.  
  • You may authorize a student’s RCL on multiple occasions, but the student’s RCL must not exceed a total period of 12 months at the same program level.

Completion of course of study

You may authorize an RCL if:

  • The student is in their final session and does not need a full course load to complete their program of study.

Remember that a student who drops below a full course of study without your prior approval is out of status.

For more information on authorizing an RCL, download the Authorizing a Reduced Course Load for F-1 Students resource or visit the Reduced Course Load page on the SEVIS Help Hub.

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