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Rules for Maintaining a Full-Time Course Load

Federal regulations require that students in F-1 and J-1 status be registered for a full-time course load each Fall and Spring semester until graduation. Failure to be registered as a full-time student is a violation of your non-immigrant status, will result in the loss of F-1 or J-1 benefits (including employment eligibility both on and off campus), and may subject you to federal immigration sanctions.

What constitutes a full-time course load varies according to academic level:

Academic Level

Minimum
Full Time Course Load:
Exchange Students 12 credits per semester
Undergraduates 12 credits per semester
Graduate Master's: completion of less than 24 credits in your program (Class G1) 12 credits per semester
Graduate Master's: Completion of 24 credits or over in your program (Class G2) 9 credits per semester
Graduate Master’s students who are course completed and need only project or thesis to complete program 1 credit or more per semester, plus additional non-billable credits added by your department for full-time certification at 9 credits. Note that funded students must be registered full-time.
Graduate PhD students: Master’s done and have begun doctorate (Class G3) 9 credits per semester
Graduate PhD students: Course completed or advanced to candidacy and engaged in pre-dissertation or dissertation research (Class G4) 1 credit or more per semester, plus additional non-billable credits added by your department for full-time certification at 9 credits. Note that funded students who are not ABD must be registered full-time.

Special Note for Graduate Students: Graduate students (both master's and PhD) who are course-completed and register for thesis, project, pre-dissertation, dissertation or other course rubrics that are eligible to be certified as full time even though the number of credits will be below the normal full-time course load do not need special permission from the ISSS for a reduced course load. Instead, such students must visit their academic department and request to have sufficient non-billable certification credits added to their schedule to bring them to nine credits total. This procedure is for students not receiving funding, as well as funded students who are ABD. However, all funded students who are not ABD must be registered full time.

A graduate student who can be considered as “full-time” with fewer than 9 credits (such as a student taking thesis or dissertation credit) should still show as 9 credits in BU Brain because additional credits of GRAD 700 (if not funded) or GRAD 701 (if funded and ABD) will be added by the student’s department to bring the student to 9 credits.

There are some very limited exceptions to the full course of study rule. These reasons include: academic difficulty, medical condition, or completion of study, and there are strict criteria for each. All of these exceptions require documentation and must be approved in advance by the Office of International Student and Scholar Services before you drop courses that reduce your schedule to less than full-time. For complete details, see http://www2.binghamton.edu/isss/Immigration/lesscourse.html

Rev. 05/2012

Last Updated: 8/28/14