Full-Time Equivalency for PhD Students taking Preliminary or Qualifying Exams

If a graduate international student will not be enrolled full time during an academic term yet the academic department considers him/her to be full time, while the student prepares for or take preliminary or qualifying exams, the U-M International Center (IC) may authorize a Full Time Equivalency (FTE) for this student. This FTE allows the U-M International Center (IC) to report full-time enrollment to SEVIS to maintain the student's F1 status.

  • Full Time Equivalency is for the purpose of maintaining immigration status only. You may not be considered an active student for other purposes, such as loans, for example.
  • Rackham requires that all students register for at least one credit.

Who Can Qualify

An FTE may be granted in the following circumstances:

  • A graduate student completing all formal course work during the current term. Upon completion of formal course work, the student will prepare for or take the preliminary exam or qualifying exam.
  • A graduate student has already completed all formal course work but is currently preparing for preliminary exam or qualifying exam.


A signed letter from the academic advisor or department is required. The letter must be on letterhead and must state the following information:

  • That the student is considered to be full time by the department.
  • What the student will be doing during the term of FTE authorization.
  • The number of credits for which the student will register during the term of FTE authorization.

Please log in to the M-Passport portal, click on Requests > Full-time Equivalency, and follow the instructions from there.

The FTE must be received by the U-M International Center (IC) by the end of the drop/add period of EACH TERM. A student who drops below a full course of study without prior approval of a Designated School Official (DSO) is considered out of status.