Reduced Course Load for F-1 Students

A student may request a Reduced Course Load (RCL) if they meet the criteria outlined by immigration regulations. Acceptable reasons are listed below.  A request must be supported by a student’s academic advisor and pre-approved by ISSS before it takes effect. You must receive ISSS's approval BEFORE you drop below a full course of study. You should not withdraw from the credits until you are approved.

Failure to enroll full-time without an approved reduced course load results in the Accrual of Unlawful Presence and the loss of eligibility to maintain on-campus employment.

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Acceptable Reasons for a Reduced Course Load

Final semester and less than a full course load is needed to complete program of study

  • For undergraduate and Master's level students in coursework only and Plan C programs who need less than a full-course load to graduate in the specified term. 
  • Students may register for no more than 3 credits or one course of online or remote coursework.
  • Students must be registered for all their remaining required coursework at the University of Minnesota during the specified semester.
  • Students are not eligible for an RCL when they register concurrently at another university or community college unless they are pre-approved by an ISSS advisor for extenuating circumstances.

Academic difficulty

Due to:

  • Improper course level placement
  • Initial difficulty with English language
  • Initial difficulty with reading requirements
  • Unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods

If a student fears the possibility of doing poorly in a course but their situation is not reflected by one of the four reasons listed above, they are not eligible for a RCL based on academic difficulty.

Academic difficulty may be used one time (one semester) per degree level.

Students must maintain half-time enrollment (at least 3 credits for graduate and 6 for undergraduate students) during the semester of reduced course load.

Medical reason

  • Limited to 12 months of reduced course load per degree level.
  • Requires a supporting letter from a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist. The letter does not need to state the specific medical condition, but must indicate that the condition requires less than full-time enrollment.

Participating in a full-time required internship

  • Requires evidence that the internship is a requirement of the program.
  • Students in an academic program requiring a full-time internship need to provide to ISSS documented evidence indicating employment is required for degree completion.

Working on thesis or dissertation or preparing for preliminary examinations

  • For graduate students who have completed required coursework.

Conducting full-time research overseas for degree program

  • For graduate students who must depart the U.S. to conduct full-time research
  • ISSS recommend that students bring with them a letter from their academic advisor indicating they will be engaged in full-time research while outside the U.S.

Studying abroad

  • For students who will be full-time but their credits will not appear on their UMN record at the start of semester
  • Students must complete the ISSS Departure Form and obtain a letter from their academic advisor authorizing that they will be engaged in a full-time study abroad program that meets their degree requirements.

Unacceptable Reasons for a Reduced Course Load

  • Financial difficulties
  • Medical illness of family member
  • Child care issues
  • Preparing for GMAT, GRE, CPA, or similar exams
  • Suspension from academic program
  • Working on incompletes from a previous semester
  • Auditing courses

Submit a Reduced Course Load Request

  1. Discuss your situation with your academic advisor BEFORE submitting an RCL. Your academic advisor cannot approve your request before having this discussion. Failure to contact your advisor may cause serious delays in processing your request. A student should request an RCL only one time per semester.
  2. Complete your registration before submitting the RCL request.
  3. After you submit your online RCL request, your academic advisor will automatically be sent an email asking him/her to submit an electronic recommendation. If your advisor does not receive the email, ask him/her to check their Spam folder. The email will come directly from ISSS with the subject line: "ISSS Reduced Course Load Application - Action Required".
  4. Based on your advisor’s recommendation, ISSS will either approve or deny your request. You will receive an email notifying you of the final decision.
  5. If you select reason #3 (Medical Reason), a recommendation from your academic advisor is not required. Instead, complete the online RCL form and upload a supporting letter from a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist. If the letter is acceptable, ISSS will approve your request.
  6. If there are changes to your situation after you have submitted an RCL request, please contact ISSS.


Last updated: September 28, 2023