International Student Enrollment Requirements
International students in F-1 and J-1 status must maintain full-time enrollment during each required academic term, which at UIC are the fall and spring semesters. Enrollment during the summer terms is optional, except for international students that begin their programs during a summer term, in which case, full-time enrollment is required. It is important to note that full-time enrollment may be defined differently for immigration purposes than how it is defined by other academic units or programs. It is your responsibility to ensure that your enrollment meets the requirements of your immigration status throughout the duration of your program at UIC.
Please note that the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) ended all COVID-19 guidance and associated international student enrollment allowances effective May 11, 2023. Please read the SEVP Broadcast Message for more details and contact email@example.com with questions.
Basic full-time enrollment requirements for immigration purposes Heading link
F-1 and J-1 international students must be enrolled full-time by the add/drop deadline of each fall and spring semester, and maintain full-time enrollment for the duration of the semester. Dropping below full-time enrollment during the semester is a violation of status. Basic full-time enrollment requirements for various education levels and situations are defined below. Graduate students holding grants, fellowships, or other awards carrying tuition and fee waivers should consult with the Graduate College to ensure that their enrollment also meets the requirements of their award.
12 credit hours
- All undergraduate students.
- All professional program students (e.g. DDS, DPT, PharmD.)
- All students awarded a fellowship or Graduate College Tuition and Fee waiver without an assistantship.
9 credit hours
- Most graduate students in master’s or doctoral programs.
8 credit hours
- Graduate students holding a 50% teaching or research assistantship. Please see below for details and instructions on how to submit the required reduced courseload approval e-form.
Exceptions to the full-time enrollment requirement Heading link
There are limited exceptions to the basic full-time enrollment requirements for immigration purposes. If you do qualify for one of the exceptions listed below, you must submit evidence supporting your reason for enrolling below full-time to OIS by the add/drop deadline. Please note that enrolling below full-time, although authorized by OIS, could affect your eligibility for other programs (e.g. CTA U-Pass). In addition to consulting with OIS, please research how your plan to enroll below full-time could impact other programs, services, or funding you rely on as a student at UIC.
Graduate students with 50% assistantships
Graduate students in a master’s or doctoral program with a 50% assistantship (professional programs are excluded from this exception) are considered to be enrolled full-time for immigration purposes at 8 credit hours.
If you would like to take advantage of this exception and enroll for only 8 credit hours during the fall or spring semester, you must complete the Submission of 50% Assistantship Letter task in myOIS by the add/drop deadline of the relevant semester.
Students in their final semester of study
Students that have reached their final semester of study and find that they need to enroll for less than the full-time enrollment requirement to complete their program may enroll below full-time with approval from OIS.
If you would like to take advantage of this exception, you must obtain a letter of support from your academic department (the letter must include the exact number of credits needed to complete your program) and complete the Submission of Final Term Letter task in myOIS by the add/drop deadline of the relevant semester.
Please note that you may only take advantage of this reduced courseload exception once and only in your final semester of study.
Zero credit enrollment
Graduate students who have otherwise met all degree requirements and have entered into an approved thesis or dissertation phase of their program may be eligible to register for zero credit hours and be considered full-time for immigration purposes.
If you would like to take advantage of this exception, you must gain approval from the Graduate College and enroll for course 597, 598, or 599 at 0 credit hours. Please note that after you enroll for zero credit hours you may not enroll for more than zero credit hours in a subsequent term (unless it is for the purposes of accepting an assistantship or tuition waiver).
There are many variables to consider when taking advantage of this exception. OIS strongly encourages you to thoroughly review the Graduate College webpage, consult with your academic advisor, and reach out to an OIS advisor with any questions.
Reduced courseload for academic or medical reasons
Under limited and specific circumstances, students may be authorized by OIS to enroll below full-time due to documented academic or medical reasons.
If you are experiencing an acute academic challenge or medical condition that is significantly impacting your ability to study full-time, make an appointment with an OIS advisor as soon as possible. You and the OIS advisor will discuss your challenge and ways to address it, both from an immigration and student support perspective.
It is important to remember that you should never drop a class if it will take you below full-time enrollment, even if it feels like an emergency. Your OIS advisor will help you understand your options and find the best solution for your situation.
Additional enrollment considerations Heading link
In addition to maintaining full-time enrollment, F-1 and J-1 students should be aware of other situations in which their immigration status impacts how and when they can enroll in classes.
International students in F-1 and J-1 status are limited in the number of online classes they can count toward the full-time enrollment requirement for immigration purposes. Each semester, F-1 students may only count one online class (up to three credits) toward your full-time enrollment requirement. J-1 students may not count any online courses toward their full-time enrollment requirement.
If you only need one class to complete your program of study, it cannot be taken through online or distance education. You must have a physical presence requirement during your final term of study. As an F-1 or J-1 student, you may take additional online classes during the semester once your full-time enrollment requirement it met.
Students with government sponsorship may be subject to additional limitations on online classes as per the terms of their funding agreement. If you are a sponsored student with questions about your eligibility to enroll for online classes, please consult with your sponsoring agency directly.
Enrollment during the summer terms
At UIC, summer terms I and II are considered optional enrollment terms, unlike the fall and spring semesters in which full-time enrollment is required. If you are an F-1 or J-1 student that was enrolled full-time for the spring semester and plan to enroll full-time for the fall semester, you may choose to enroll for a class during the summer but it is not required. Full-time enrollment for a summer term is defined as 6 credit hours for undergraduate and professional program students, and 5 credit hours for graduate students.
F-1 and J-1 students that are required to enroll during the summer terms include:
- Students that begin their program in a summer term.
- Students admitted to a twelve-month program in which year-round enrollment is required.
- Students who will complete their program (including thesis or dissertation defense) in a summer term.
International students in F-1 status must always maintain accurate academic information on their SEVIS record and Form I-20. This includes the name and location of all schools at which they will study. If you want to enroll in a class at a different SEVIS-approved school while maintaining enrollment at UIC, you must meet with an OIS advisor prior to beginning studies at the second school to obtain authorization for concurrent enrollment.
FAQs Heading link
Here are some frequently asked questions about enrollment requirements for international students.