Reduced Course Load for J-1 Students

Immigration regulations require that all J-1 students register for and complete a full course of study every term to maintain legal status. Students can apply for a Reduced Course Load for certain reasons.

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Acceptable Reasons for a Reduced Course Load

The immigration service recognizes that circumstances exist that prohibit a student from enrolling full time. Consequently, the immigration service has declared the following to be acceptable reasons for carrying less than a full course load.

Note: The reasons below are acceptable only if a student has obtained PRIOR approval from an ISSS advisor for completing less than a full course of study.  Approval is given once the student has completed and submitted the Reduced Course Load Form. Students who may have an acceptable reason but fail to obtain prior approval from ISSS are in violation of legal status.

  • It is your final semester and you need less than a full course load to graduate.
  • You are participating in authorized pre-completion Academic Training.
  • You have a bona fide academic reason. In addition to the Reduced Course Load Form, you must submit a letter from your academic advisor explaining the reason.
  • You have a medical reason. In addition to the Reduced Course Load form, a letter from your physician is required which states that you are not able to maintain full-time study.
  • You have been granted Special Asian Student Relief. You must attach a copy of your authorization.

Students not present in the U.S. are not required to adhere to U.S. government regulations relating to the J-1 visa status.

Unacceptable Reasons for Reduced Course Load

  • Financial difficulties
  • Medical illness of family member or friend
  • Study for the GMAT, GRE, CPA, or other similar exam(s)
  • Suspension from academic program
  • Working on incompletes from a previous quarter/semester

Reduced Course Load Form

The Reduced Course Load for J-1 Students Form must be completed for each semester that a student fails to enroll full time. It is imperative that the Reduced Course Load form be submitted to ISSS and approved prior to enrollment for less than a full course of study or prior to a cancel/withdrawal that results in less than a full course of study. Failure to obtain prior approval for a reduced course load will result in the loss of legal status.

  • All students must submit their Reduced Course Load form to an ISSS advisor during scheduled walk-in hours or a scheduled appointment.
  • Graduate students taking zero credits must register for Grad 0999 BEFORE submitting the Reduced Course Load Form to ISSS.
  • ISSS advisors will make the final decision on the acceptability of the Reduced Course Load form.
  • A Reduced Course Load form approved by ISSS allows a student to maintain legal J-1 status.

Medical Reasons

  • ISSS advises that students who are ill and unable to attend classes see a doctor regarding their illness. If the illness is such that the doctor recommends that the student withdraw from classes or not enroll, the student may file a Reduced Course Load form and a supporting letter from the physician. The supporting documentation must clearly state that request for a reduction in the student's course load is based on medical considerations.
  • The supporting letter which accompanies your Reduced Course Load Form for a medical reason must be written by a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist. The letter must clearly state that the student is unable to maintain full-time enrollment or is unable to enroll in any classes, whichever is the case.
  • Illness of family members is not a reason recognized by the immigration service for failure to enroll for a full course of study.

Enrollment for Classes at Another School

  • The UMN DS-2019 requires that J-1 students satisfy the full-course requirement at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus during the academic year.
  • You may enroll for classes at another school during the academic year if you are enrolled full-time at the University of Minnesota.
  • You may enroll at another school during the summer vacation.
  • In extremely limited circumstances, ISSS will provide approval for a student to take a class at another school during the academic year. You must obtain ISSS approval before enrolling at another school in such case. A copy of the registration statement from the other school with the number of credits displayed must be submitted with the Reduced Course Load Form.
  • Students who are required by their college to register for 13 credits per semester will be charged for 13 unless they file the request for a reduced credit load form.

Consequences of Failure to Enroll Full Time Without an Acceptable Reason

Failing to enroll full time without an acceptable reason results in:

Supporting Documents

Depending on the reason for your RCL request, you may need to upload one of these forms:

Last updated: June 10, 2021