Exceptions to Full Course of Study


Law Cites  8 CFR 214.2 (f)(6)(iii)       “Exceptions to Full Course of Study”
8 CFR 214.2 (f)(6)(iii)(E) “ Reduced Course Load”
8 CFR 214.2 (f)(6)(iii)(A) “Academic Difficulties”
8 CFR (f)(6)(iii)(B)           “Medical Conditions”
8 CFR (f)(6)(iii)(C)           “Final Semester”

The regulations allow certain exceptions to the full course of study requirement:

All exceptions require the DSO to authorize a reduced course load (RCL) in SEVIS before the reduction occurs. SEVIS requires the DSO to report these exceptions each semester or session and notify SEVIS within 21 days of when student resumes full course study. Except in the case of medical problems and the completion of a course study in the final semester, the student must take at least 6 credit/quarter hours or half the clock hours.

Academic Difficulties

The DSO may authorize a reduced course load for academic difficulties under the following circumstances:

  • Initial difficulties with the English Language
  • Initial difficulties with reading requirements
  • Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods
  • Improper course level placement
  • Students are only eligible for an academic difficulty RCL once per program/level. A student many qualify for other RCL’s.

    *Note: Improper course level placement could occur at any time during a students academic program.

Medical Conditions

The DSO may grant a reduced course load or no course load due to temporary illness or a medical condition, but only upon the recommendation of a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist. The exception for a medical condition may not exceed 12 months in the aggregate.

Completion of a Course of Study in the Final Term or Semester

The DSO may authorize a reduced course load during a final term or semester if fewer courses are required to complete the degree.

*Note: This exception is not required to nor does it apply to students enrolled at a college or university whose graduate and undergraduate programs are described in 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(A) and  (B). By definition, these students are engaged in a full course of study in the final term regardless of the credit hours they take.

Institutional Policy Guide

Each academic institution must define what constitutes full course of study. Since DSOs are responsible for certifying students compliance with the institutions definition it is recommended that they develop a university policy. This policy must be communicated to all F-1 students.

  • What is your institution’s definition of full course of study? Any variations within a particular academic unit?
  • Who reviews and determines eligibility for a student’s request for an RCL? DSO? Campus Committee?
  • Are there procedures available to academic departments to support a student’s request for an RCL?
  • How does a DSO balance institutional policy with immigration regulations?