Salisbury University - Center for International Education
F-1 Visa Status
Guidelines to a full
course of study
On January 1,
2003 new regulations impacting international students in F-1
visa status took effect. Among the changes are new rules that
define a full course of study and outline exceptions. It is
important that all students in F-1 status read and understand
these rules. The international student
advisor (Designated School Official,
or DSO) must comply
fully with these and other federal regulations.
To be considered full-time, during fall and spring
semesters you must be enrolled for:
12 credit hours (undergraduate students)
9 credit hours (graduate students)
6 credit hours (graduate students with graduate assistantship
enrollment during fall and spring
semester is not mandatory.
On-line and distance education courses:
You may count only one on-line or distance education course (3
credits) toward your full-time registration in any given term.
Minimum enrollment requirements:
Students with DSO's approval to reduce their course load must
still carry at least 6 hours unless the approval was based on
his or hers final term of study or health problems – these also
must by preapproved by a DSO. The DSO must approve the
following reduced enrollments (RCL) before any
changes are made in GullNet.
Exceptions to the full course load requirement which require
prior DSO approval:
Academic reasons: You may reduce your course load for only
one semester total during your program of study for academic
reasons. A reduced course load will be acceptable under the
following circumstances: new students enrolled for the first
time and having difficulty with spoken English; difficulty with
reading requirements; or difficulty with unfamiliar teaching
methods. A student who has insufficient background for the class
level in which he/she was placed may also seek approval for a
reduction in course load at any time. In all cases, students
must receive approval from a designated school official
before dropping below a full course of study.
Students who are granted an RCL authorization on one of the
academic difficulty bases must resume a full course of study in
the next available term, session, or semester, excluding a
non-required summer session, in order to maintain status
Medical reasons: If you have a valid medical reason for
reducing your course load, you must provide the DSO with a
medical certificate from a medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy,
or licensed clinical psychologist. You may only reduce your
course load for medical reasons for a maximum of 12 months, and
you must receive DSO’s approval for the reduced course load
prior to each semester during that period.
The DSO must reauthorize the reduced course load every semester
and update SEVIS to reflect the authorization. The regulations
require the student to present current medical documentation to
support each RCL authorization.
Final term of study: During your final term of study, and with
the prior approval of the DSO, you need only enroll for
the required number of units needed to complete your degree.
However, if in your final term you take less than a full course
of study as defined above, you must receive DSO approval prior
If you would like to apply for a Reduced Course Load
authorization, please submit the following form to the DSO: