Reduced Course Load (RCL)
F-1 students are required by the Department of Homeland Security to maintain the terms and conditions of their nonimmigrant status. Failure to do so can result in the termination of a student’s SEVIS record and immediate departure from the US. F-1 students are required to pursue a "full course of study" every fall and spring semester; full-time in summer is only required when a student is admitted to begin in the summer term.
A “full course of study” is considered full-time study, which is defined as 9 credit hours for graduate and non-degree graduate students and 12 credit hours for undergraduates. Dropping or registering below full-time enrollment without prior approval from International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) is considered a violation of status.
There are three circumstances when an F-1 student can be enrolled less than full-time:
Completion of course of study (final semester)
A student's SEVIS record will be terminated if either of the following occur in the spring/fall semester or summer if the student is admitted to begin a program in summer:
Failure to enroll full-time at the beginning of the semester.
At anytime during the semester the student drops a course resulting in less than full-time enrollment without authorization.
- The authorization to enroll less than full-time does not impact a student's eligibility to take a reduced course load for a different reason.
- Authorization for a reduced course load does not automatically carry over to the next semester. Students are required to resubmit documentation when requesting a new reduced course load.
- RCLs are not necessary for summer enrollment as there is no enrollment requirement for summer. Exception: Full-time enrollment is required for students whose first semester is summer.
Please contact the Graduate College regarding graduate assistantship eligibility when using a reduced course load.
An RCL approved by ISSS does not grant permission to maintain a graduate assistantship. The Graduate College's one-time exception and RCL are separate processes. The Graduate College holds full discretion over graduate assistant eligibility, whereas the RCL is necessary to only preserve an F-1 student's immigration record.
Refer to the Graduate Assistant Eligibility Overview and Checklist:
Enrolling below the minimum graduate level hours in any semester is a one-time exception allowed by The Graduate College and granted only upon request and review. While this exception is typically reserved for the student’s final semester of enrollment, it may be used for any semester that both the student and their graduate advisor/department chair deem necessary. Once this exception has been awarded, students seeking any type of graduate assistant employment are required to enroll in a minimum of 9 graduate hours each subsequent fall and spring semester and a minimum of 3 graduate hours each subsequent summer semester to maintain eligibility.
At Texas State, CATSWEB is programmed to help F-1 students maintain lawful status by preventing students from registering or dropping a class for less than full-time enrollment.
- F-1 students must first complete the RCL form and have it signed by their academic/faculty advisor or medical professional.
- Return RCL form to ISSS prior to first day of classes or prior to dropping a course.
- A DSO will review the RCL form and 1) provide the appropriate override in CATSWEB and 2) report the RCL to SEVIS by updating the student's immigration record.
- A DSO at ISSS will contact the student regarding the RCL decision or if further documentation is required.
- If approved, the student may enroll less than full-time or drop a course that results in less than full-time enrollment.
- If denied, the student is not permitted to enroll less than full-time.
Notice: In some instances a new I-20 will be issued denoting the use of a Reduced Course Load.
A DSO may authorize a reduced course load for a student experiencing academic difficulties, but only on the basis of the following reasons:
- Initial difficulties with the English language
- Initial difficulties with reading requirements
- Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods
- Improper course level placement
- Although "imminent danger of failing a class" is not a permissible reason for authorizing a reduced course load in and of itself, it may be that once sufficient facts are gathered, it becomes clear that the student is on the verge of failure because he or she was placed at an improper course level.
An academic RCL may be authorized only once per degree level and requires enrollment in at least six credit hours.
Download the Academic RCL form below:
F-1 students with documented medical conditions can take a reduced course load or no course load at all. A student must submit this completed form and attach medical documentation to ISSS. The documentation must be from a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy or licensed clinical psychiatrist in order for a medical reduced course load to be considered.
- Authorization for reduced course load cannot exceed an aggregate of 12 months per program level.
- Additional time beyond the 12-month allowance is not permitted until advancing to the next program level.
- Authorization for one semester does not automatically carry over to the next semester.
- Must re-apply for authorization each semester.
- May enroll in 0 credit hours.
Texas State has a continuous enrollment policy and failure to enroll in a fall or spring term may result in the need to reapply to Texas State in order to continue enrollment the next semester. Contact Undergraduate Admissions regarding readmission policies or the Graduate College regarding a leave of absence. See below for more information.
- Readmission of Returning Texas State Students
- Leave of Absence Policy: Master's Degree, Specialist Degree, and Pre-Candidacy Doctoral Students
- Doctoral Leave of Absence Policy
Notice: If you are visiting the Texas State Counseling Center (CC), please remember that the CC is not required to provide documentation of a mental condition unless routine visits have been had. Students should not expect the CC to complete documentation of any medical diagnosis upon an initial visit.
Download the Medical RCL form below:
F-1 students in their final term do not need a full course load and may take just the courses needed to complete their program. The Final Semester RCL form must be signed by the student’s department and submitted to ISSS prior to the first day of classes in the semester for which the student is requesting authorization to be enrolled less than full-time.
If a student fails a course during the last term consisting of a final semester reduced course load, the student may again have a second final session with less than a full course load. If a student does not finish the program of study after a second final term or session with a RCL, the student is not eligible for a third RCL.
Download the Final Semester RCL form below:
Students enrolling less than full-time by participating in an off-campus internship, practicum, student teaching, field experience, professional practice, or directed project are required to submit a CPT (Curricular Practical Training) request with the Final Semester RCL.
Besides the three primary types of RCL circumstances mentioned above, there are other circumstances in which international students can be below hours yet still be considered full time and still maintain legal status.
- You are concurrently enrolling in the Texas State Intensive English Program for a combined total of hours that amounts to a full course of study.
- You are concurrently enrolling at another SEVIS certified institution (i.e. ACC) for a combined total of credit hours that amounts to a full course of study. Evidence of completion of the coursework by academic transcript will be required at the end of the semester. See Concurrent Enrollment for more information. Always check with your academic or faculty advisor before enrolling in courses at another institution.
If you are needing further clarification regarding your eligibility for a reduced course load please schedule an appointment with a DSO at ISSS.