Reduced Course/Credit Load

F-1 and J-1 students are required to pursue a full course of study every fall and spring semester. If you cannot meet this requirement, you must request a reduced course/credit load authorization. Federal immigration regulations allow a student to be less than full time under very specific circumstances explained below.

According to 8 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) § 214.2(f)(6)(iii), the Designated School Official (DSO – the International Student Advisers at Rutgers Global - International Student and Scholar Services have this designation) may allow an F-1 student to engage in less than a full course of study as provided below. A student who wishes to drop below full time must obtain the approval from a DSO in advance, regardless what the reason might be. A student who drops below a full course of study (after the university’s official drop-add period) without prior approval of a DSO will be considered out of status. Please be advised that a lack of financial support or an employment opportunity does not constitute a valid reason to reduce course load according to immigration regulations.

NOTE: If approved for reduced course load, you are still eligible for on-campus employment benefits.

F-1 and J-1 students are required to pursue a full course of study every fall and spring semester. However, there are cases when regulations consider a student to be pursuing a full course of study even though student is not actually registered for a full-time credit load. Regulations define four broad circumstances in which F-1 or J-1 students who are registered for less than a full-time credit load are considered to be maintaining legal status by meeting the full course of study requirement. Those circumstances are:

Completion of Course of Study

A student in his/her final semester before graduation must apply for RCL if fewer than full time credit load are needed and required to complete the course of study. If only one course is left to complete the program, the course cannot be completed through online or distance education.

Academic Difficulties

Federal immigration regulations specify four academic difficulty reasons based on which reduced credit/course load can be approved. 

  • Initial difficulty with English language or reading requirements - Limited to first academic year only
  • Initial difficulty with English language or reading requirements - Limited to first academic year only
  • Initial unfamiliarity with American teaching methods - Limited to first academic year only
  • Improper course level placement

A student may be authorized for an Academic Difficulties RCL basis only for a single term during any one course of study at a particular program level, and must resume a full course of study at the next available term (excluding summer).

A reduced course load for academic difficulties must consist of at least 6 credit hours for undergraduate students and at least 4.5 credit hours for graduate student

Graduate Students have Completed Formal Coursework
In certain cases, graduate students may complete coursework and may be pursuing non-coursework degree requirements. In such cases, RCL can be approved if Rutgers-specific academic policies consider part-time registration as a full-course of study.

  • Doctoral or Master’s students who have completed all coursework and are working on their dissertation/thesis
  • Doctoral or Master’s students who have completed all coursework and are completing other non-coursework degree requirements (practicum, research, projects)
  • Pre-qualifying doctoral students who have completed all coursework and are studying for the comprehensive/qualifying exams

Students waiting for a Required Course, Not Offered in the Current Term

Students MUST complete all course work (for graduate students) or complete the degree program (for undergraduate students) at the end of the following semester. If the student fails to comply with these provisions s/he will be out of status and will have to apply to the DHS for reinstatement (permitted only one semester per degree level).

Medical Conditions
Students must apply for RCL if, due to a temporary illness or medical condition, he/she is unable to be enrolled full time (or, if necessary, no course load).

  • Student must provide medical documentation from a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist, to the DSO to substantiate the illness or medical condition.
  • The letter from the medical provider cannot be dated more than 30 days before the start of the term for which the RCL is requested.
  • The letter from the medical provider must recommend either that the student be part time or not enrolled due to medical circumstances.
  • A reduced course load for a medical condition can be granted for a period of time not to exceed an aggregate of 12 months while the student is pursuing a course of study at a particular program level.
  • The student must provide current medical documentation and must be authorized to drop below full time for each new semester.

Reduced Credit/Course Load Procedure

F-1 and J-1 students must obtain approval from Rutgers Global–International Student and Scholar Services prior to registering for less than 12 credits (undergraduates) or 9 credits (graduates) in order to meet the full course of study requirement. Requests for such approvals must be made by submitting the Reduced Course/Credit Load Form to Rutgers Global–International Student and Scholar Services. Make sure you upload all necessary supporting documents (medical letter, or Academic Official’s Certification for Reduced Credit/Course Load Form).

STEP 1 - Request your Academic Dean/Graduate Program Director or Registrar (for RBHS students) to complete a Certification of Reduced Credit Load Form before you can submit the Reduced Credit/Course Load application using the RGlobal portal. The forms are available for download here: 

Certification for Reduced Credit Load Form

Certification for Reduced Credit Load Form for RBHS Students

Note: Students applying for reduced credit based on medical reasons do not need to get the Certification for Reduced Credit Load form completed. You can directly submit the application for "Reduced Credit/Course Load for Medical Reason" using the RGlobal portal

STEP 2 - Complete Reduced Credit/Course Load Form using the RGlobal Portal

  • You will need to provide a contact for your academic official on this form (Graduate Program Director for graduate students in Rutgers – New Brunswick; School Registrar for graduate students in RBHS; and Academic Deans for undergraduate students in Rutgers – New Brunswick)

STEP 3 - Once ISSS receives the form completed by you and your academic official, our advisers will review the form and process it within 5 business days.

  • You will receive an email informing you when your request is approved. An international student adviser will reach out to you with any questions or clarifications, if any.
  • Students applying for reduced credit based on Academic Difficulties, or Medical Reasons are required to come in and meet with an International Student Adviser before RCL can be approved.
  • You should complete this process before the start of classes to ensure that your SEVIS record is updated in a timely manner.

If the reason noted on the form meets regulatory exceptions to the full-time requirement and complies with university policies, the request will be approved. Students who do not obtain prior approval before registering for or dropping below full time are automatically considered "out of legal status."