Resources for Faculty and Staff

Full Course Load Requirements and Exceptions for International Students
Federal regulations require that students in F-1 and J-1 status be registered for a full-time course load for the duration* of each fall and spring semester. International students are not required to meet any enrollment requirements during the summer semester if it is not their first semester in the US. Students who begin study in the US in a summer semester must be enrolled full-time during that summer semester as their first semester in the US. Failure to be registered as a full-time student is a violation of the F-1 or J-1 non-immigrant status and can result in the loss of F-1 or J-1 benefits (including employment eligibility both on and off-campus), the loss of immigration status, and may require the student to depart the United States or risk arrest and deportation.

*NOTE: Because international students must maintain full-time enrollment for the duration of the semester, withdrawing from a class resulting in active enrollment below full-time is a violation of the students immigration status even though they still appear full-time in the UW record with a grade.

Academic Level Minimum Full-time Course Load Requirements:

  • Exchange Students (Undergraduate) 12 credits per semester; at least 9.0 credits must be main/on-campus
  • Exchange Students (Graduate) 9 credits per semester; at least 6.0 credits must be main/on-campus
  • Undergraduate Students (Bachelor's Level) 12 credits per semester; at least 9.0 credits must be main/on-campus
  • Graduate Master's Level 9 credits per semester; at least 6.0 credits must be main/on-campus
  • Graduate PhD Students 9 credits per semester; at least 6.0 credits must be main/on-campus

Counting Distance/Online Courses Toward Full-time Course Load Requirements:
Students may count up to three credits per semester of distance or online courses as part of their full-time enrollment. Students can take additional distance/online courses if they choose to do so, but they will not count as part of the full-time course load.

Concurrent Enrollment at Another School:
An F-1 student may be concurrently enrolled in two different schools at the same time as long as the total enrollment for both schools equals a full-time course of study. The majority (at least 50%) of their coursework each semester must be enrolled at the school that issued the Form I-20 for the student. Students on UW-issued documents who take any course(s) from a school other than UW must submit a Concurrent Enrollment Agreement form to ISS and if the credits will count as part of their full-time enrollment they must also submit proof of enrollment to ISS as described on the CEA form.

Exceptions to Full-time Course Load Requirements:
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 or mental health situation that prevents full-time study.

All exceptions require documentation and must be approved in advance by International Students and Scholars (ISS) before the start of the semester, or before a student drops/withdraws from courses that reduce their enrollment to less than full-time. ISS must note the approval in the student's electronic immigration SEVIS record prior to the student dropping below full-time on the UW record. Failure to receive approval from ISS before falling below full-time enrollment will put a student's immigration status in jeopardy.

Undergraduate or graduate students in their final semester prior to official graduation, and graduate students who are finishing all required coursework listed on the program of study (with the exception of the final thesis or dissertation) are allowed to enroll less-than full-time in their final semester. Students who believe that they will graduate at the end of the current semester should consult with ISS staff to discuss their situation and see if it meets the requirements for part-time status in last semester. ISS staff will work with students to collect the required documentation for their particular situation.

Other Visa Types and Enrollment Requirements:
The requirements discussed above apply to students on the F-1 an J-1 student visas. Students on other visa types may have different enrollment requirements/limits. Questions about enrollment requirements or limits can be directed to ISS staff. Note: It is common to have dependents of F-1 visa holders register for classes at UW. These students usually hold an F-2 visa and are limited in their enrollment and employment opportunities. F-2 visa holders can be degree-seeking and can earn their degree at UW while in F-2 status. F-2 visa holders can NOT enroll full-time at UW or in combination with enrollment at another institution. F-2 visa holders can NOT be employed in the US. This includes UW graduate assistantships. F-2 visa holders who want to enroll full-time or be able to receive a graduate assistantship or other student employment will attending classes should contact ISS to discuss changing their status to F-1.

Direct all enrollment questions to ISS staff at or 307-766-5193.

FAQ Example 1

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