Reduced Course Load (RCL)


International students in F-1 and J-1 status are required to maintain full-time enrollment during the school year. If you cannot or will not meet this requirement, you must request a reduced course load. Federal immigration regulations severely limit a student's ability to be less than full time, but it maybe allowed in some circumstances explained below. If you drop below full time without authorization after the drop/add deadline, the U-M International Center is required to report this to SEVIS and you will lose your F-1 or J-1 status.

According to 8 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) § 214.2(f)(6)(iii), the Designated School Official (DSO – the International Center Advisors have this designation) may allow an F-1 student to engage in less than a full course of study as provided below. A student who wishes to drop below full time must obtain the approval from a DSO in advance, regardless what the reason might be. A student who drops below a full course of study (after the drop-add period) without prior approval of a DSO will be considered out of status. Please be advised that a lack of financial support does not constitute a valid reason to reduce course load according to immigration regulations.

NOTE: If approved for reduced course load, you are still eligible for on-campus employment benefits.

Definition of Full Time

Academic Level Minimum Total Credit Hours Required Minimum In-Person Credit Hours Required
Undergraduate students 12 9
Graduate students 8 6
Graduate student assistants (GSIs or GSRAs) 6 3
Note: You must be registered full-time during your first term of admission. If admitted to begin spring/summer, you must be full-time during that first spring/summer term. Credit hours are considered "in-person" for classes where the instructional mode is listed as "in-person" or "hybrid" in U-M's course registration system. Classes offered fully online are not considered in-person.

These are the minimum enrollment requirements that international students in F-1 or J-1 status must meet in order to maintain their SEVIS record in active status. If you need verification of your U-M enrollment for other purposes – one example is certain Canadian tax forms - the Office of the Registrar will verify full-time or part-time enrollment based on these requirements.

Academic Difficulties

You may apply for reduced course load due to academic difficulties if an academic advisor to verifies your situation. Immigration regulations specify four academic difficulty reasons for which a reduced course load may be approved:

  • Immigration regulations specify four academic difficulty reasons for which a reduced course load may be approved:
    • Initial difficulties with the English language (usable only in student’s first year)
    • Initial difficulties with reading requirements (usable only in student’s first year)
    • Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods
    • Improper course level placement
  • A student may be authorized for an Academic Difficulties RCL basis only for a single term during any one course of study at a particular program level, and must resume a full course of study at the next available term (excluding summer).
  • A reduced course load for academic difficulties must consist of at least 6 credit hours for undergraduate students and at least 4 credit hours for graduate students.

Source: [8 CFR § 214.2(f)(6)(iii)(A)]

Medical Conditions

A student must apply for 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 pursuing 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.

Source: [8 CFR § 214.2(f)(6)(iii)(B)]

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.

Source: [8 CFR § 214.2(f)(6)(iii)(C)]

How to Apply for a Reduced Course Load

  1. Meet with your academic advisor or licensed medical professional physician (DO, MD or licensed clinical psychologist) and request a letter. The letter must be printed on official letterhead and contain contact information of the person who signed the letter.
  2. Gather the following documents:
    • Legible copy of your current I-20 (not including instruction page) or DS-2019.
    • Copy of paper or print-out of electronic Form I-94.
    • Unofficial transcript downloaded from Wolverine Access.
    • RCL Recommendation Letter
      • Completion of Studies: A letter from your academic advisor confirming that you are expected to complete degree requirements by [date] and specifying the minimum number of credits you need to be enrolled in the final term.
      • Academic Difficulties: A letter from your academic advisor recommending a Reduced Course Load on the basis of [insert one of four academic difficulty reasons] and elaborating on the circumstances. The specific course should be mentioned if applicable. The letter must state the semester the RCL is recommended.
      • Medical Conditions: A letter from a licensed medical physician, doctor of osteopathy or licensed clinical psychologist recommending a Reduced Course Load on the basis of a medical condition for which you are receiving care. The letter does not need to detail the diagnosis or treatment but must specify whether the recommendation is for part-time study or no study (0 credits). The letter cannot be dated more than 30 days before the start of the term for which the RCL is requested. The letter must state the semester the RCL is recommended.
  3. Log in to the M-Passport portal, click on Requests > Reduced Course Load (RCL), and follow the instructions from there.
  4. The U-M International Center will determine your eligibility for RCL, report your RCL to SEVIS, and generate a new I-20 for you, if necessary. (**We do not print a new I-20 if the RCL reason is "Completion of Course of Study" unless the I-20 program end date needs to be shortened**) The documented RCL authorization will be printed on page 2 of the I-20. You will receive an email notification once your new I-20 is ready. You will be able to download the I-20 from your M-Passport account at that time. 


  • Always sign your name on the I-20 and keep a record of all I-20s issued to you.
  • Ensure that you have health insurance coverage. Your request for RCL will not be processed until the U-M International Center verifies that you have health insurance.
  • Update your address in Wolverine Access within 10 days of any change.