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Full-time Student Status Requirement and Reduced Course Load

The US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) stipulates that an international student entering the U.S. on an F-1 or J-1 visa, issued by a U.S. consulate or embassy for attendance at the University of Hartford, must attend this institution and be enrolled as a full-time student.

The University of Hartford Manual of Academic Policies and Procedures defines the criteria to be used to determine full-time status for all students.

"A minimum load of twelve credits per semester is required to be classified as a full-time undergraduate student."

"A minimum load of nine credits per semester is required to be classified as a full-time graduate student.” *

These definitions apply to international students holding an F-1 or J-1 visa, regardless of national origin or citizenship status.

*There are several programs offered by the university that require a minimum course load of 6 credits per semester. These include our Doctoral and Artist Diploma programs and the Graduate Professional Degree Program.

A student must be enrolled on a full-time basis from the beginning of a semester to its completion. Full-time enrollment is mandatory for the Fall and Spring semesters. Students who are in their last semester of study prior to graduation, and who need less than a full-time credit load to complete their program, may attend part time for that semester (a student in this situation must seek the approval of the International Center).

Enrollment during the summer semester is optional unless it is specified on the student's I-20 form or required as part of the student's program of study. Courses taken on an "audit" basis may not be counted toward the fulfillment of the full-time requirement. A student who receives a grade of "incomplete" (I), "no grade" (NG), or "no record" (NR) at the end of a semester may complete that course during the following semester in accordance with University policy; the course may not be counted toward the full-time requirement of the new semester.

Reduced Course load (RLC)

The University is required to report the enrollment status of all F-1 and J-1 international students to the USCIS. Therefore, all students who are considering the possibility of carrying less than a full-time academic load are required to discuss this fact with International Center staff before reducing their course load to part-time status.

A staff member will determine the validity of the student's reason for a reduced course load and the effect that this decision will have on the student's immigration status. The International Center will advise the student of current immigration law and recommend a course of action best suited to the student's situation. The final decision to attend class on a part-time basis is left to the discretion of the student. A student will have to complete a Part-time Enrollment Request Form and have it signed by their faculty advisor and returned to the International Center for approval.

When signing a registration or drop/add form that will either enroll or reduce the academic load of an international student to part-time status, academic advisors are required to have the student speak to a staff member from the international Center prior to signing. This intervention measure will insure that students understand the problems which may occur as a result of their action and allow time for possible alternative measures to be sought.

There are few reasons acceptable to the USCIS for carrying less than a full-time course load, and international students who drop below the minimum credit requirement do so at their own risk.

The International Center may authorize part-time enrollment in these limited  instances.

  1. unforeseen economic difficulties

  2. improper course/level placement

  3. unfamiliarity with American teaching methods or reading requirements

  4. difficulties with the English language.

Students enrolled part time without University approval will be considered "out of status" by the USCIS and may be required to petition the USCIS for permission to be "reinstated to student status" before they may resume their program of study.  Failure to maintain full-time status may result in the removal of a student from the University by the USCIS.

Medical Condition or Temporary Illness

A student must apply for a 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).

  • The 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 pursing a course of study at a particular program level.

  • The student must provide current medical documentation and the DSO must authorize the drop below full time for each new term.

Combining English Language Study with a Degree Program

Students, who have been accepted into a degree program but have not met the English proficiency standards of the University, may be required to enroll in our English Language Institute (ELI) for a minimum of one semester. At the discretion of the Director of ELI and undergraduate/graduate admission staff, a student may be required to attend ELI on a full- or part-time basis. Though this program does not grant traditional course credits, it does provide equivalent course instruction which is equal to the credit hours needed to meet the USCIS full- time status requirement.

A student enrolled in ELI on a full-time basis will be considered enrolled full-time by the USCIS unless it is determined that the student is in their final semester and only required part time study. A student enrolled on a part-time basis must also be concurrently enrolled in traditional course work. The total combination of ELI instruction and degree-related courses must be equal to the full-time status requirement defined at the beginning of this section. 

Completion of Course of Study

A student must apply for RCL in his/her final term if fewer courses (i.e. less than full time) are needed and required to complete the course of study.

The student must obtain a letter from his/her academic advisor to verify that the current term will be the final term for the student to complete his/her academic program.

Withdrawal from a Course of Study

A student who withdraws completely from their program of study must depart from the U.S. within 15 days of the withdrawal. A student who remains beyond the 15 day period is in violation of Federal regulations and may be subject to deportation proceeding and other possible sanctions.

Under no circumstances may an international student enroll part-time without the written permission of the International Center. A student who enrolls part-time without this authorization will be considered "out of student status" and possibly lose their visa status.