INTERNATIONAL STUDENT AFFAIRS OFFICE

F1 VISA

Full Course Load

  • Undergraduate students: 12 credits per semester. This category includes transfer students.
  • Graduate students: 9 credits per semester, unless the student has a graduate assistantship or is in the last semester graduate studies (please consult with the Office of International Student Affairs before registering for less than 9 credits)

Full Course of Study Requirement

Immigration regulations require that F-1 students register for and complete a full course of study to maintain legal status. Summer session is considered a vacation period and students are not required to enroll during the summer. Exception: graduate students admitted to begin a program of study effective summer session must enroll as a full-time student the summer of admission.

Students must obtain prior approval from the Office of International Student Affairs before enrolling for less than a full-course load or before a cancellation or withdrawal that results in less than a full course load.

Acceptable Reasons for Less Than a Full Course Load (F-1 Students)

The immigration service recognizes that circumstances exist that prohibit a student from enrolling full time. Consequently, the immigration service has declared the following to be acceptable reasons for carrying less than a full course load.

Note: The reasons below are acceptable only if a student has obtained PRIOR approval from the Office of International Student Affairs for completing less than a full course of study. Students who may have an acceptable reason but fail to obtain prior approval from the Office of International Student Affairs will be considered, under new immigration service regulations, to be in violation of legal status.

Academic Difficulties and Graduate Assistantships:

UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS

F-1 students at the undergraduate level who find themselves in academic difficulties must still be registered for 6 undergraduate credit hours (at least half the full-time credit load).

The course load may be reduced due to academic difficulties for one semester only during the entire course of studies!

GRADUATE STUDENTS

F-1 students at the graduate level who find themselves in academic difficulties must still be registered for 5 graduate credit hours (at least half the full-time credit load).

The course load may be reduced due to academic difficulties for one semester only during the entire course of studies!

The maximum course load for graduate assistants varies according to assignment. The average maximum load for graduate assistant is 9 credit hours per semester. Responsibility for approving specific maximum course load rests with the student, the advice, and the staff member controlling the service assignment or college appointment.

The Office of International Student Affairs must approve the request to cancel/withdraw from a class before any changes to a student’s enrollment are made! The DHS accepts the following academic difficulties as reasons for a reduction of a student’s course load:

  • improper course level placement (supporting letter from academic adviser required)
  • Initial difficulty with the English language and/or with reading requirements; taking required part-time ESL classes in conjunction with academic classes (supporting documentation from instructor required).
  • Unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods or reading requirements (supporting letter from academic adviser required

Medical reason

(Letter from licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist required that clearly states that the student is unable to maintain full-time enrollment)

Immigration regulations limit the period of time F-1 students may enroll for less than a full course load due to a medical condition to 12 months per program level. F-1 students whose medical condition does not permit full-time enrollment after a 12 month period must either leave the U.S. and recuperate in the home country or apply for a change of visa status to allow for continued medical treatment in the U.S.

  • The Office of International Student Affairs advises that students who are ill and unable to attend classes see a doctor regarding their illness. If the illness is such that the doctor recommends that the student withdraw from classes or not enroll, the student may file an Exception form with a supporting letter from the physician. The supporting documentation must clearly state that the request for a reduction in the student’s course load is based on medical considerations.
  • Illness of family members is not a reason recognized by the immigration service for failure to enroll for a full course of study.

Working Full or Part-time on Research/Thesis. Please consult with the Office of International Student Affairs prior to taking any action.

Full or Part-time Preparation for Written or Oral Graduate Degree Exams. Please consult with the Office of International Student Affairs prior to taking any action.

Participating in a Full-time REQUIRED Internship or Full-Time Co-Op: The Office of International Student Affairs will need evidence of the internship requirement or the approval to participate in a bona fide co-op program.

Reasons NOT Acceptable for Less than a Full Course of Study

  • Financial difficulties
  • Medical illness of family member
  • Study for the GMAT, GRE, CPA, or other similar exam(s)
  • Suspension from academic program
  • Working on Incompletes from a previous quarter/semester

Exception from A Full Course of Study Form

The Exception from a Full Course of Study Form can be completed one time only when studying toward a Bachelor and a Master degree. This form must be completed before the semester the student has to study less than a full time. It is imperative that the Exception form be submitted to the Office of International Student Affairs and approved prior to enrollment for less than a full course of study or prior to a cancellation/withdrawal that results in less than a full course of study. Failure to obtain prior approval of less than a full course load will result in the loss of legal status under current immigration regulations.

  • Undergraduate students must consult with the Office of International Student Affairs before making the decision to enroll for less than a full course of study or drop a class.
  • Undergraduate and Graduate students must submit their Exception form along with the academic adviser’s supporting letter to the Office of International Student Affairs during a scheduled appointment.
  • The Office of International Student Affairs will make the final decision on the acceptability of the Exception form.
  • An Exception form approved by the Office of International Student Affairs allows a student to maintain legal F-1 status.

Enrollment for Classes at another School

  • Buffalo State requires that F-1 students satisfy the full-course requirement during the academic year.
  • A Buffalo State student may enroll for class(es) at another school during the academic year if s/he is enrolled full-time at Buffalo State.
  • A Buffalo State student may enroll at another school during the summer vacation.
  • In extremely limited circumstances, the Office of International Student Affairs will provide approval for a student to take a class at another school during the academic year without officially transferring. Enrollment at another school during the academic year must be pre-approved by the Office of International Student Affairs and the appropriate academic department.

Consequence of Failure to Enroll Full Time without an Acceptable Reason

  • Results in a Violation of Legal Status
  • Results in the loss of eligibility to maintain on-campus employment.