Application for Reduced Course Load (ARCL)

U.S. immigration regulations specify that, each semester, all degree-seeking F-1 and J-1 students must maintain full-time enrollment as follows.
Undergraduates (Bachelor's) = 12 units.
Graduates (Masters) = 9 units
Graduates (Doctoral) = 6 units.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security allows less than full-time enrollment (called a reduced course load; RCL) under certain circumstances. To qualify for RCL, you must apply for and be PRE-APPROVED by the International Student Center (ISC) or you will be in violation of your immigration status.

Applying for RCL consists of submitting a request form and an application which are detailed below.

Before completing the ISC's Reduced Course Load Request Form, review the reasons below to determine your eilgibility. If you are unsure, please contact the ISC and ask to speak or meet with an ISC advisor.

Only the reasons below are legally eligible to be approved. Note that some reasons may only be used only one time, while others may be used more than once. 

All students:

You must meet with an ISC advisor for reasons 1–4 before submitting the Reduced Course Load Request Form to determine eligibility. Students rarely qualify for reasons 1, 2, and 4.

1. Initial difficulties with the English language and/or with reading requirements—academic advisor’s signature is required.

2. Unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods—academic advisor’s signature is required.

3. Medical condition—a written statement from a U.S. licensed medical doctor, U.S. licensed psychiatrist, U.S. doctor of osteopathy, or U.S. licensed clinical psychologist is required (view criteria for written statement here). Medical RCL's can be authorized for a maximum of 12 months during your degree program.

4. Improper course level placement—academic advisor’s signature is required. 

Undergraduate degree-seeking students:

Reason 5 final semester—meeting with an ISC advisor is not required. Academic advisor’s signature is required.

Graduate students:

The following classes are considered full-time according to SDSU Graduate Studies; therefore, an ARCL submission is not required when you are enrolled in: 

  • 799A (Thesis);
  • 897 (Doctoral Research);
  • 899 (Doctoral Dissertation); or
  • Psychology 894 (Clinical Internship) 

The following three reasons may qualify for RCL. An academic or department signature is required as part of the ARCL submission, but meeting with an ISC advisor is not required for these specific situations.

Reason 6—final semester of substantive courses
Reason 7—teaching or graduate assistantship that is required for your academic program as part of a scholarship, fellowship, or assistantship. This reason additionally requires a written statement of assistantship position from your academic department (view criteria for written statement here).
Reason 8—enrollment in 799B (Thesis Extension) or 799C (Comprehensive Exams)*Other employment (i.e. Curricular Practical Training, TA position that is not required as part of a scholarship/fellowship/assistantship, i.e.) may not be used as a reason for reduced course load. 

Please follow the steps below to be considered for RCL:

  1. Meet with an ISC advisor if you are applying for reasons #1–4. 
  2. Download and complete the ARCL form PDF, including your explanation, signature, and the date.
  3. If your ARCL reason is 3—medical condition or 7—research, teaching, or graduate assistantship, obtain the required written statement.
  4. If an academic or department advisor’s signature and explanation are required, send the ARCL application to the appropriate advisor.
  5. Contact your academic department if you are unsure which advisor to send it to.
  6. Complete and submit the ISC's online Reduced Course Load Request Form, and upload all applicable supporting document(s).

Deadline: The deadline to submit the Reduced Course Load Request Form and Application for Reduced Course Load form (plus any supporting documents) is the Friday of the second week of classes.  

Notification of decision: An ISC advisor will evaluate each RCL request and documentation, if applicable, to determine if the reason given adheres to U.S. immigration regulations. You will receive an email within 7 business days after submitting the request form. The email will notify you of approval or denial of your request.

Remember to Re-Apply Each Semester

It is your responsibility as an international student to submit the ARCL form each semester you wish to request a reduced course load. You will not be contacted or reminded to submit the form.

IMPORTANT! Serious consequences if you are underenrolled without approved ARCL

If you do not submit the ARCL form, or if your ARCL form is not approved, your SEVIS immigration record will be terminated and you will become ineligible for any benefits of the F-1 or J-1 status. It is possible that you will have to depart the United States immediately and discontinue your studies. This could also result in problems with a future visa application and/or entry to the U.S. To ensure that you are maintaining proper enrollment status, you must submit the ARCL form to the ISC by the deadline and receive approval by the ISC.