Full-Time Enrollment Requirement & Exceptions

English Language Institute (ELI) Full-Time Status Requirements

• Students holding student (F-1/J-1) visas are required to be full-time students and maintain “full-time status” while they are in the United States. For ELI students, this means “full-time” registration (20 hours per week of core classes). If you are unsure of your visa status or of how many classes you should take, please ask in the ELI office.
Last Session Exception: F-1 and J-1 students who are in their final session of study at The University of Alabama may be enrolled for fewer than 20 hours per week during their final session at the ELI if they have completed Level 6 of one or more of their core classes and have no other classes available to take. In such cases, students must complete and sign a “Last Session” form.  This exception is only for the final session of study.
ELI Summer Enrollment: All six sessions in the ELI’s Intensive English Program consist of the same number of instructional hours. (Each session offers a minimum of 156 hours of classroom instruction.)  However, the two summer sessions are shorter in length and therefore more intense than the fall and spring sessions. (Fall and spring sessions are approximately 8 weeks long and contain 34 class days, while summer sessions are approximately 6 weeks long and contain 26 class days.) Because summer sessions at the ELI are more intense and can be somewhat more demanding for full-time study, the following attendance policy applies to summer study: “ELI students holding student (F-1/J-1) visas are required to study full time for the equivalent of one complete session during the summer.”

This policy means that, during the summer, ELI students have several options:

1. Be a part-time student both summer sessions. The total number of classes taken must be the equivalent of one session of full-time study. Class selection in such cases must be approved by the ELI.
2. Be a full-time student one summer session only. Students may complete their full-time requirement by enrolling as a full-time student one session only. They may also be a full-time student one session and a part-time student in the other session. As long as students complete one full-time session, they may legally stay in the US even during the session they are not enrolled.
3. Be a full-time student both summer sessions. Students who wish to progress rapidly may want to choose this option.

Undergraduate Students Full-Time Status Requirements

• Undergraduate students must be enrolled for a minimum of 12 credit hours during the fall and spring semesters to be considered full-time students.
Online Course Limitations: No more than 3 online credits per semester may count towards the “full course of study” requirement. This does not meant that a student may only take one online class; this regulation just means that only one 3-credit hour online course may count toward the full-time status requirement.  Once a student has enrolled in the 12 credit hours required to be considered full-time, he or she may enroll in as many additional online or traditional courses as he or she would like.
Last Semester Exception: F-1 and J-1 students who are in their final semester of study at The University of Alabama may enroll in less than 12 credit hours of classes if they require less than full-time enrollment to graduate.  This exception is only for the final semester of study.  PLEASE NOTE: If you only require one class to graduate, it cannot be taken as an online or distance learning class.

 

Graduate Students Full-Time Status Requirements

• Graduate students must be enrolled for a minimum of 9 credit hours during the fall and spring semester to be considered full-time students.  Some graduate programs may require more than 9 credit hours of enrollment to be considered full-time (e.g. Law and MBA programs).
• Graduate students on a full assistantship (.50 FTE) may be considered full-time with 6 credit hours of registration.
Online Course Limitations: No more than 3 online credits per semester may count towards the “full course of study” requirement. This does not meant that a student may only take one online class; this regulation just means that only one 3-credit hour online course may count toward the full-time status requirement. Once a student has enrolled in the credit hours required to be considered full-time, he or she may enroll in as many additional online or traditional courses as he or she would like.
Thesis/Dissertation Hours: During a graduate student’s period of Master’s thesis research, the minimum required enrollment is 1 credit hour, and for doctoral students’ dissertation research, the minimum required enrollment is 3 credit hours. However, graduate students must abide by enrollment guidelines set by The Graduate School.
Last Semester Exception: F-1 and J-1 students who are in their final semester of study at The University of Alabama may enroll in less than 9 credit hours of classes if they require less than full-time enrollment to graduate. This exception is only for the final semester of study. PLEASE NOTE: If you only require one class to graduate, it cannot be taken as an online or distance learning class.

Additionally, International students on F-1 or J-1 student visa status cannot use the 0-credit hour exception listed in the Graduate School’s minimum enrollment policy as the basis of maintaining minimum enrollment requirements as an active student. Please see “USCIS” section under “Minimum Hours – Other Policies and Regulatory Bodies” inThe Graduate School’s enrollment policy.

Summer Studies Enrollment Requirements

Summer is considered a normal break in academic studies for undergraduate and graduate students (NOTE: ELI students must be full-time year round, please see the above section for ELI students for summer enrollment requirements). For undergraduate and graduate students who have studied the preceding spring semester (at UA or another institution) and will study at UA in the following fall semester, they are not required to enroll in any summer classes.  If an international student who has met the full-time requirement for the preceding spring semester decides to enroll in classes for summer, there is no minimum enrollment requirement.

However, there are three very important exceptions for summer enrollment:

1. Summer Studies and SEVIS Transfer and Change-of-level: If you are transferring your F-1 or J-1 SEVIS record to UA from another school or beginning a new level of study (e.g. ESL/ELI to bachelor’s or bachelor’s to master’s) and you were admitted to summer classes as your first semester of study as an undergraduate or graduate student at The University of Alabama, UA requires that you enroll at least part-time during the summer.  For those who have transferred their SEVIS record to UA or are changing degree levels and wish to study in the summer in undergraduate or graduate classes, federal regulations will allow for part-time or full-time enrollment [per 8 CFR 214.2(f)(5)(iii); 8 CFR 214.2(f)(5)(ii); and 8 CFR 214.2(f)(8)].

2. Summer as First Semester (for new, initial SEVIS records): If summer is your first semester of study at The University of Alabama on a new, initial SEVIS I-20/DS-2019, you must register for a full-time course load [per 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)]. For undergraduate students, the minimum enrollment requirement for summer as your first semester is 12 credits for full summer (6 credit hours per summer session) or otherwise be considered a full-time student for immigration purposes. For graduate students who begin their study in summer as their first semester, the minimum enrollment requirement is 9 credit hours for full summer (graduate students on a full assistantship (.50 FTE) may be considered full-time with 6 credit hours of registration for full summer) or otherwise be considered a full-time student for immigration purposes.

3. Summer as Last Semester: If summer is your last semester of study at The University of Alabama, you must register for a minimum of 1 credit hour for immigration purposes. If you only require one class to graduate, it cannot be taken as an on-line or distance learning class.

Online Course Limitations

For UA F-1 and J-1 students, a full-time course load is required during the Fall and Spring semesters. Full time enrollment means Graduate students must enroll for at least 9 credits every semester and Undergraduate students must register for at least 12 credits every semester. Students are not required to enroll in courses during the Summer. However, if Summer session is your first semester then you must maintain full time enrollment of at least 6 credits per summer session (12 credit hours for full summer).

Under Federal Immigration regulations, to maintain F-1 status, no more than 3 online credits per semester may count towards the “full course of study” requirement. For example, a graduate student required to register for 9 credits per semester to maintain full time status can count only 3 credit hours of an on-line class each semester toward the 9 credit hour total. This does not meant that you may only take one online class; this regulation just means that only one 3-credit hour course may count toward your full-time status requirement.

Minimum Enrollment Requirements For Classroom Courses:

• For graduate students taking online courses, 6 credit hours of your enrollment each semester must be live, in classroom courses (e.g. 3 credit hours online plus 6 credit hours classroom hours = 9 credit hours).
• For undergraduate students taking online courses, 9 credit hours of your enrollment each semester must be live, in classroom courses (e.g. 3 credit hours online plus 9 credit hours classroom hours = 12 credit hours).

If it is your final semester and fewer than 12 credit hours are required to graduate for undergrads (9 credit hours for grads), it is acceptable to enroll in only those credits required to complete your degree. If you need less than a full course load in the final semester to finish your degree, the course(s) cannot be taken solely online or as distance education. You must be enrolled in at least one live, in-classroom course (or graduate research hours for graduate students) during your last semester.

SPECIAL NOTE FOR GRADUATE STUDENTS: Additionally, International students on F-1 or J-1 student visa status cannot use the 0-credit hour exception listed in the Graduate School’s minimum enrollment policy as the basis of maintaining minimum enrollment requirements as an active student. Please see “USCIS” section under “Minimum Hours – Other Policies and Regulatory Bodies” in The Graduate School’s enrollment policy.

Students considering on-line courses or enrolling in courses at a different institution should first discuss the plan with a International Student and Scholar Services advisor. It is necessary to maintain valid F-1/J-1 student status at all times.

Transiency: Taking Courses at Another SEVIS School

If you plan to take a course(s) at another SEVIS school during a standard academic semester (i.e. Fall or Spring semesters), you must enroll in a total of 12 credit hours as an undergraduate student or 9 credit hours as a graduate student to be validated as a full-time student in SEVIS. The Full-Time Status section on this page explains exceptions to the 9-credit-hour requirement for graduate students.

Once the full-time requirement is met, you can request and print out a Letter of Transiency via myBama. A tutorial for requesting a transient letter can be found on  University Registrar office’s website.

After F-1/J-1 students study at least one academic semester at The University of Alabama, the following summer is considered to be their vacation time if they intend to enroll at UA in the following fall semester. There is no requirement for enrollment during summer vacation time. If you plan to take a course(s) at another SEVIS-authorized school during your summer vacation, you can simply request a letter of transiency following instruction in the tutorial video from the Office of the University Registrar.

Reduced Course Load Authorization

Exceptions to Full-time Enrollment: Reduced Course Load

For students that are enrolled less than full-time, the following are situations in which it MAY be possible, necessary and appropriate for International Student and Scholar Services to authorize a Reduced Course Load (RCL):

• If the student is medically unable to maintain a full‐time course load (with letter of recommendation from Counseling Center or physician)
• If a student is having difficulty during the first semester of enrollment (as documented with a Reduced Course Load Recommendation from the Academic Adviser) due to:

(1) initial difficulties with the English language, or
(2) initial difficulties with the reading requirements, or
(3) unfamiliarity with American teaching methods

• If the student has been placed in or advised by their academic adviser to take a course at an improper course level (with Reduced Course Load Recommendation from the Academic Adviser)
• If the student is in his/her final semester

RCLs for Medical Reasons:
RCLs for medical reasons require documentation from a medical professional who can attest to the difficulty and explain why a reduction in course load is recommended. With a medical RCL, it is permissible to drop some or all courses. The RCL is valid for only one semester at a time but may be renewed each semester for up to one year if medically necessary. Following the semester(s) of RCL, the student must continue to enroll as a full-time student unless it is the student’s final semester. Please do not drop below full-time – or fail to register full-time – until you receive confirmation that the RCL request is approved in SEVIS.

A letter from the student’s physician/psychiatrist/psychologist/licensed counselor or other medical professional should:

1. Confirm that the medical recommendation for a reduced course load is for the student and that the student is under the medical professional’s direct medical care
2. Specify whether the student must be placed on a reduced course load or must drop all classes
3. Specify on what date the student should begin reduced course load and on what date the student may resume his/her classes

A letter documenting the medical necessity for a reduced course load should be submitted in-person during an appointment with a ISSS advisor, but in special circumstances when a student cannot come in person, the letter can be submitted through a third person or other means.

Academic Hardship RCL:
RCLs for academic difficulty require International Student and Scholar Services approval of the RCL Form BEFORE dropping below full-time. Your Academic Adviser must indicate on the Reduced Course Load Recommendation the academic reason for the RCL request and indicate that they do not object (from an academic advising perspective) to the student receiving an academic RCL for that stated reason. The ISSS Advisor may need to request, or the Academic Advisor may wish to provide, additional information related to the academic circumstances which justify the academic RCL.  A student may not drop below half of the required credits that make up a full time semester. Students should not drop below full-time – or fail to register full-time – until first receiving approval of the RCL from an ISSS advisor.

The Reduced Course Load Recommendation plus accompanying documentation should be submitted in person during an appointment with a ISSS advisor.

Final Semester – Full-time Exception:
If a student is in his/her final semester and will be considered to be enrolled less than full-time, that student should submit his/her completed Less Than Full-Time Recommendation before the last day to register in the student’s final semester (ISSS prefers the form be submitted before the start of the semester). The student should pre-register for the intended number of reduced credits.

PLEASE NOTE: If you only require one class to graduate, it cannot be taken as an online or distance learning class.  You must enroll in at least one live, in-classroom course (or graduate research hours for graduate students) during your last semester.

A scheduled appointment is not required for the student to submit the Less Than Full-Time Recommendation, but it is encouraged if a student has questions/concerns about program completion in his/her final semester. An RCL authorized for a final semester (which shortens the Program End Date in SEVIS to that semester) cannot be extended. A student MUST complete his/her program by the end of the semester. If a student or academic advisor anticipates a significant delay in completion beyond the anticipated final semester, please speak with a ISSS advisor as soon as possible. The RCL form may be submitted in person at ISSS or via e-mail (international@ua.edu).