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International Students and Scholars

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 semester. Failure to be registered as a full-time student is a violation of your non-immigrant status, can result in the loss of F-1 or J-1 benefits (including employment eligibility both on and off-campus), and may require you to depart the United States.

What constitutes a full-time course load varies according to academic level at the University of Wyoming:

Academic Level Minimum Full-time Course Load
Exchange Students (Undergraduate) 12 credits per semester
Exchange Students (Graduate) 9 credits per semester
Undergraduate Students (Bachelor's Level)
12 credits per semester
Graduate Master's Level 9 credits per semester
Graduate PhD Students 9 credits per semester

There are some very limited exceptions to the full-time course requirement, including:

  • initial difficulties with the English language or reading;
  • unfamiliarity with American teaching methods;
  • inappropriate course placement; and
  • a documented medical condition that prevents full-time study

All of these exceptions require documentation and must be approved in advance by International Students and Scholars (ISS) before you drop courses that reduce your schedule to less than full-time. This is so that ISS may first electronically inform the SEVIS of the change in the student's enrollment prior to the student dropping below full-time. If this is not done the student will be out of status.

An additional exception to the full-time course requirement rule applies to your final semester prior to graduation (e.g. the semester in which you complete your studies). Students who believe that they will graduate at the end of the current semester are cautioned that if they register for less than a full-time course load and then do not graduate, they will be in violation of U.S. immigration regulations governing F-1 and J-1 students.

Under new immigration regulations, students may take up to three hours per semester of distance education or online courses and have them count towards being a full-time student.

An F-1 student may be concurrently enrolled in two different schools at the same time as long as the enrollment in both schools amounts to a full-time course of study. In cases of dual enrollment the school from where the student will earn his/her degree is responsible for the student's I-20 and federal reporting requirements. As such, the majority of coursework must come from that school.

If you have any questions regarding these requirements, please feel free to contact International Students and Scholars. Remember you absolutely must contact ISS prior to dropping below full-time.

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