In order to maintain lawful status, F-1 students are required to enroll full-time (12+hrs) each semester unless a vacation semester has been earned or the student has been approved for an authorized reduced course load by the ISSS office. Note, only 3 credits of online courses can count towards a student's full-time enrollment during a required semester whether a graduate or undergraduate student during normal semesters, but SEVP suspended this requirement for fall 2020 due to COVID-19 and students can take more than 3 credit hours of online courses to meet the full-time requirements. In fall 2020, new F-1 student visa holders entering the U.S. must have at least one course requiring face-to-face instruction to be eligible for entry. This course can be a traditional instruction or hybrid course.
F-1 status and Audit Hours
Undergraduate students must be registered in 12 credit bearing hours. Undergraduate students are not able to utilize audit hours to count towards their full-time enrollment of 12 credits. Students can choose to take courses as pass/fail based on the Georgia Tech guidelines.
Graduate students can register for up to 3 audit hours as part of their 12 hour required minimum.
Academic Reduced Course Loads
Students intending to drop below full-time must first request permission from ISSS for the reduced course load before dropping any courses. It is only after the student has received confirmation from the ISSS office that they can then drop their courses. There are few reasons for which a student may request an academic reduced course load, please review the options below:
Initial Difficulty with English Language (available in student’s 1st semester only)
Initial Difficulty with Reading Requirements (available in student’s 1st semester only)
Unfamiliarity with American Teaching Methods (available in student’s 1st semester only)
Improper Course Level Placement: an advisor suggested you enroll in a course that you cannot successfully complete
To Complete Course of Study in Current Term (available in student’s final semester only)
To request an academic reduced course load:
Submit an academic reduced course load e-form request in iStart. In the e-form, explain the reason for the reduced course load and provide the name of the appropriate Academic Advisor (undergraduates) or Graduate Coordinator (graduates)
The e-form will be routed to the academic advisor/graduate coordinator for review. If approved, iStart will notify an OIE advisor to review the request.
Within 5 business days, an OIE advisor will determine if the recommendation meets the criteria set by F-1 regulations and send an approval or denial email.
Upon receiving an approval email, the student may drop below 12 credits. If the e-form is not approved, the student must stay enrolled in 12 credits or risk violating lawful status.
Medical Reduced Course Loads
A student experiencing a medical issue (physical or psychological) may be eligible for a medical reduced course load. A medical RCL allows students to register for 0-11 credit hours. Medical reduced course loads can be granted for no more than 12 months in aggregate during any one course of study. The request must be approved by an International Student Advisor prior to the student dropping below full-time. Medical reduced course loads are approved on a semester by semester basis. Therefore, students will need to reapply for a medical reduced course for each semester in which the problem persists. Please Note: If you are approved for a medical reduced course load and are not enrolled full-time, you may not be automatically enrolled in insurance. OIE strongly recommends that you review your records to ensure you maintain insurance coverage during your time in the U.S.
To request a medical reduced course load:
1. Obtain the following documents from a U.S. licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or clinical psychologist:
A signed, typed letter on the doctor or psychologist's letterhead. The letter must state that the doctor or psychologist does not recommend full-time enrollment due to a medical issue.
A copy of the doctor or psychologist’s business card.
2. Login to iStart and complete the Medical Reduced Course Load e-form which includes uploading a pdf of the aforementioned documents.
3. Within 5 business days, an OIE advisor will progress the request and send an approval or denial email.
4. Upon receiving an approval email, the student may drop below 12 credits. If the e-form is not approved, the student must stay enrolled in 12 credits or risk violating lawful status.
Vacation Semester/Annual Vacation
F-1 students are not required to register during the summer semester as long as the student was enrolled full-time in the previous spring semester and will enroll full-time in the following fall semester. If the student is eligible for the annual vacation during the summer semester, there is no limitation or restriction on the number of credits they can enroll. Students starting their program in the summer semester are required to enroll full-time (12+hrs) unless the student is approved for a reduced course load for one of the reasons listed above.