Taking a Reduced Course Load

A student in F-1 or J-1 student status may not reduce his or her course load below full-time without prior permission of the Office of International Student Services (OISS). In cases where this is allowed, a Deviation Form must be completed and submitted to the OISS in order to properly document the reduction in the student’s immigration file and reported to the Immigration Service through SEVIS. Per immigration regulation, a reduced course load may be taken only for the following reasons AND only for one semester during each education level:

  • Difficulties with the English language.
  • Improper course level placement.
  • Lack of familiarity with U.S. teaching methods or difficulty with reading requirements.
  • A serious medical condition documented in writing by a licensed doctor. Medical leaves of absence can only be approved for a maximum of 12 months aggregate.
  • During the last semester of study if fewer credits are required for completion of the academic program.
  • During the last semester for a graduate student who is preparing for comprehensive exams or completing a thesis.


Documentation of the reason must be submitted to the OISS and approved prior to the reduction of the course load. Failure to submit this documentation on time will be consider a violation of your immigration status and must be reported to the Immigration Service.