F-1 and J-1 Enrollment Requirements and Reminders

F-1 and J-1 enrollment requirements and reminders

As you are advising and working with your new and returning F-1 and J-1 international students this semester and next semester, we want to remind you about some enrollment requirements, restrictions, and exceptions. These frequently asked questions help explain some enrollment issues that you might encounter as you advise for the next semester.

What is the Full-time enrollment requirement?

International students who come to NC State in F-1 and J-1 status are required to maintain full-time enrollment to maintain their status in the United States. For undergraduate students, full-time enrollment is 12 credits. For graduate students, full-time enrollment is usually 9 credits during either the fall or spring semesters.

Sometimes, however, graduate students who have met the credit hour requirements for their degree program can be counted as fully enrolled with less than nine credits. If the Graduate School considers a student to be enrolled full-time (even with less than nine credits), the student would be meeting the full-time enrollment requirement.

Immigration regulations do allow for certain exceptions to this full-time enrollment requirement. For example, students who are completing their degree are eligible to apply for authorization to take a reduced course of study during their final semester before the semester commences. Students may also request authorization to pursue a reduced course load if they are having difficulties with the English language or with American teaching methods during their first semester or are experience medical concerns. 

More information about Reduced Course Load (RCL) requests can be found here: http://internationalservices.ncsu.edu/current-students/exceptions-to-full-time-enrollmentreduced-course-loads-rcls/

The RCL request form can be found on our forms page:  http://internationalservices.ncsu.edu/forms-for-current-international-students/

Do all international students need to be enrolled full-time?

Not all international students at NC State are in F-1 or J-1 status. The F-1 visa and certain categories of the J-1 visa are used specifically to allow students to come to the United States for the purpose of pursuing an education. The full-time enrollment requirement is particular to these student-specific visa types. Enrollment in a course of study at a university is also allowable on many other visa types where being a student may not be the purpose of that status. H-4 spouses of H-1B workers, for example, can enroll full-time at NC State but are not required to do so.

Do F-1 or J-1 students need to be enrolled full-time during their last semester?

For many students, full-time enrollment is not always required during the last semester if only a certain number of credits are required to complete their degree program. For example, a masters student with 27 credits may only need to take one more 3 credit course to meet the graduation requirements. Students who are completing their degree are eligible to apply for authorization to take a reduced course of study during their final semester. Any undergraduate student taking less than 12 credit hours during a regular semester will be counted as less than full-time and will need to submit a request for authorization to take a reduced course load to OIS. If a graduate student is counted as less than full-time by the Graduate School, that student will need to apply for a reduced course load authorization to OIS. Any graduate student who enrolls in less than three credits will always be counted as less than full-time and will need to request a reduced course load authorization.

More information about Reduced Course Load (RCL) requests can be found here: http://internationalservices.ncsu.edu/current-students/exceptions-to-full-time-enrollmentreduced-course-loads-rcls/

The RCL request form can be found on our forms page:  http://internationalservices.ncsu.edu/forms-for-current-international-students/

Can an F-1 or J-1 student drop a course during their first semester?

If a student is having difficulty during the first semester of enrollment due to initial difficulties with the English language, with the reading requirements, or if a student is unfamiliar with American teaching methods, they can request authorization to drop below full-time enrollment to refocus their efforts on their remaining coursework. This can be very helpful to a lot of new students who may be having adjustment issues during their first semester.

Students who are having difficulty during their first semester need to submit the RCL request before dropping below full-time. If a student has already dropped below full-time enrollment before requesting an RCL, they may already be out of status and should speak with an OIS advisor immediately.

Please refer any students who are experiencing culture shock, stress, or other adjustment issues to speak with an OIS advisor, with an advisor at the Counseling Center, and to read through this resource: http://internationalservices.ncsu.edu/cultural-adjustment/

More information about Reduced Course Load (RCL) requests can be found here: http://internationalservices.ncsu.edu/current-students/exceptions-to-full-time-enrollmentreduced-course-loads-rcls/

The RCL request form can be found on our forms page:  http://internationalservices.ncsu.edu/forms-for-current-international-students/

Can an F-1 or J-1 student drop enrollment for medical reasons?

Students who have difficulty maintaining full-time enrollment due to medical reasons (both physical and mental) can request authorization to drop below full-time enrollment for up to two semesters.  To request this authorization, the student must be able to provide documentation from a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist along with the Reduced Course Load (RCL) request form.

Students who are having difficulty due to medical reasons need to submit the RCL request to OIS before dropping below full-time. If a student has already dropped below full-time enrollment before requesting an RCL, they may already be out of status and should speak with an OIS advisor immediately.

More information about Reduced Course Load (RCL) requests can be found here: http://internationalservices.ncsu.edu/current-students/exceptions-to-full-time-enrollmentreduced-course-loads-rcls/

The RCL request form can be found on our forms page:  http://internationalservices.ncsu.edu/forms-for-current-international-students/

What is the timeline for requesting authorization for a Reduced Course Load (RCL)?

Students must always request and receive authorization to take a reduced course load before dropping below full-time enrollment.  Students who know that they are going to enroll part-time during their final semester should submit the request before the start of the semester. Students who are having difficulty during their first semester, or who are having difficulty maintaining a full-time course load for medical reasons, need to submit the RCL request before dropping their courses.

If a student has already dropped below full-time enrollment before requesting an RCL, they may already be out of status and should speak with an OIS advisor immediately.

More information about Reduced Course Load (RCL) requests can be found here: http://internationalservices.ncsu.edu/current-students/exceptions-to-full-time-enrollmentreduced-course-loads-rcls/

The RCL request form can be found on our forms page:  http://internationalservices.ncsu.edu/forms-for-current-international-students/

Can international students enroll in Distance Education courses?

J-1 and F-1 students are only allowed to use one “distance education,” “internet,” or “on-line” course each semester to meet the full-time enrollment requirement. For graduate students, this usually means that they must enroll in at least 6 “in-person” credits each semester (for a total of at least nine credits). Undergraduate students are normally required to enroll in at least 9 “in-person” credits each semester (for a total of at least 12 credits). Please note that this is not a limit to the number of on-line courses a student can take, but a limit on the number of credits that can be used to meet their regulatory full-time enrollment requirement (also, students cannot be enrolled entirely in distance education courses. At least one on-campus course is required each semester to meet the full-time enrollment requirement).