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 = 8 units or 12 units with TA/GSR Appointment
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 not 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.
Reasons for Reduced Course Load
Academic need - 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.
Final semester - Students who will complete their degree requirements in the specified semester can enroll in less than full-time units. Students will be reuwired to graduate during the specific semester in which Reduced Course Load was approved.
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, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed 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.