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Reduced Course Load

Reduced Course Load (RCL)

Full-time Enrollment Requirement

Immigration regulations require international students in F-1 status to be registered in full-time units each Fall or Spring semester. For immigration purposes, full-time enrollment is defined as:

  • Undergraduate students = 12 units
  • Graduate students = 12 units

The Department of Homeland Security requires International Student Advisors/DSOs record the registration of each F-1 visa international at the beginning of each Fall and Spring semester. UC Merced is also required to monitor enrollment and academic progress throughout the semester. Students must be registered full-time within 30 days of the semester start date.

Failure to register full-time or maintain full-time enrollment without approval is cause for termination in SEVIS. A student will lose lawful F-1 visa status including employment eligibility and benefits.

Requesting Approval for a Reduced Course Load

Immigration regulations permit exceptions to the full-time registration requirement in very limited circumstances and only with prior approval from UC Merced Office of International Affairs. Students will be considered for a reduced enrollment based on meeting the criteria of one of the reasons listed below.

To be considered for an exception, submit a completed Reduced Course Load Request Form to the Office of International Affairs prior to dropping any courses below full-time. Below are the forms specific to the reason for the request:

Reasons for Reduced Course Load (RCL)

Academic Difficulty - Improper course placement, initial difficulties with English language and/or reading requirements, or unfamiliarity with American teaching methods. Reduced enrollment for one of these listed academic reasons may be approved for only one semester during the student's degree program. Students should consider this carefully before requesting an approved reduced enrollment for academic reasons since it can only be used once. Reduced Course Load Form for Academic Difficulty

Medical Condition or Illness - Students may drop below full-time for physical or mental health reasons. The reduced enrollment must be recommended by a medical doctor, psychiatrist, doctor of osteopathy, licensed psychologist, or clinical psychologist. Reduced enrollment for health reasons may be approved for no more than a cumulative period of 12 months during the student’s degree program. Approval for reduced enrollment will be given for only one semester at a time, thus continuing health problems may need more than one approval if continued beyond one semester. Reduced Course Load Form for Medical Reasons

Final Semester - Students who will complete their degree requirements in the specified semester can enroll in less than full-time units. Students will be required to graduate during the specific semester in which Reduced Course Load was approved. Reduced Course Load Form for Final Semester

Filing Fee Status - Graduate students can request filing fee status during their final semester. Students may only use filing fee if they have not previously participated in part-time status during their degree. By applying for filing fee status, students are expected to complete their degree at the end of the semester. Extensions of programs after filing fee status are not permitted. It is highly recommended that students maintain health insurance through the duration of filing fee status. During filing fee status:

  • Students must be defending their thesis or dissertation or taking a comprehensive exam during the final semester
  • Students will NOT be eligible for on campus employment, including GSR and TA positions
  • Students will not be eligible for CPT
  • Students will NOT be eligible for off campus employment unless you've been approved for OPT (F-1 students) or Academic Training (J-1 students)
  • Students should contact Health Services to maintain health insurance

Reduced Course Load Form for Filing Fee Status