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Maintaining F-1 Visa Status


Full-time Status

Full-time status as defined by the University of Utah.

Undergraduate students

Must register for a minimum of 12 credit hours per semester.

Graduate Students

Must register for a minimum of 9 credit hours per semester.

— or —

Students must be registered for 3 Thesis credit hours of courses, which fall in the range of 6970 – 6989, 7970 – 7989, or Pharmacology and Toxicology, 7920.

F-1 students must take the minimum credits each semester except during vacation semester and final semester. Please note that not all programs and degree tracks offered by the University of Utah meet the minimum credit requirement. Because you have to meet the minimum requirement of full-time hours each semester except during the vacation and final semesters, certain programs offered on campus and certain employment opportunities outside of campus are incompatible with the F-1 student regulations.

Your lawful F-1 status will be terminated if:

  • Your course load falls below 12 undergraduate or 9 graduate credit hours (3 hours including courses 6970-6989, 7970-7989).
  • You do not register for all sessions during the first registration period.
  • You do not attend a class for which you registered and receive an EU grade.
  • You completely withdraw from a semester.

Registering and paying tuition for classes that you withdraw, do not attend, or receive an EU grade does not satisfy the registration requirement. Audited classes and Correspondence Courses do not count towards full-time status. You will need to take 12 undergraduate or 9 graduate credit hours in addition to these classes to be considered a full-time student for immigration purposes.

Note that all graduate students must at least maintain minimum registration from the time of formal admission through completion of all requirements for the degree they are seeking unless granted an official leave of absence. Please read the requirements for Minimum Continuous Registration for more details.

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Withdrawing from Class or Taking a Reduced Course Load

You must receive permission from International Student and Scholar Services to withdraw from classes to avoid termination of your F-1 status. If, by withdrawing from a class, your course load falls below full-time status, you should add another class before dropping a class so your registration will always be full time. It is better for your immigration status to fail a class or an incomplete (I) grade than to withdraw (W) from a class without International Student and Scholar Services approval.

Withdrawal for Academic Reasons

Academic reasons recognized by USCIS for taking a reduced course load include:

  • Initial difficulties with the English language or reading requirements.
  • Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods.
  • Improper course level placement.

You must obtain a Medical Reduced Course Load Provider Form (PDF) and have it completed at one of the following locations:

  • English Language Institute (2202 Annex): Recommendation for withdrawal because of your English ability.
  • Your Department: Professor’s recommendation for withdrawal due to difficulty with the American school system or lack of proper academic background to be in the class.
  • University College (450 SSB) by an Academic Counselor.
  • Counseling Center (426 SSB).

Withdrawal for Medical Reasons

If you are ill and not able to attend school, you need to submit a letter from your doctor to International Student and Scholar Services verifying the reasons that you are unable to attend classes.

Note that the approval for this type of withdrawal is based on the discretion of the International Student and Scholar Services office.

The letter from your doctor needs to have specific and detailed medical reasons why they recommend you not be enrolled in full-time hours. International Student and Scholar Services will only accept letters from doctors and psychiatrists practicing in the U.S. We are unable to take notes from physicians outside of the U.S.

Based on your doctor’s recommendation, you may drop below full-time status or completely withdraw from classes for medical reasons only after the International Student and Scholar Services office approves the withdrawal. You may drop courses for medical reasons for up to one year; however, a medical letter is required for each semester you have medical problems. If you are unable to return to school full time after one year, you would need to apply for a different visa classification or leave the U.S.

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Change of Major, Degree or Funding

Change Degrees

When you change degrees (for example from a bachelor’s degree to a master’s degree) you will need a new SEVIS I-20 from the International Admissions Office (250 SSB). This will inform the USCIS that you are pursuing another degree and give you more time to be in the U.S. to complete your new degree. Your department must notify the International Admissions Office of your change of educational level, and new financial information is required to process the new I-20 form.

You need to submit a new SEVIS I-20 to the International Student and Scholar Services office within the first 15 days of the beginning of the semester when you change from one educational level to another. Otherwise, you will be reported as being out of status with the USCIS.

Change Major

When you change majors, you will need a new SEVIS I-20 from the International Admissions Office (250 SSB). This will inform the USCIS that you are pursuing another major. New financial information is required to process the new I-20 form. You must submit a new I-20 to the International Student and Scholar Services office showing your new major within the first 15 days of the beginning of the semester. Otherwise, you will be reported as being out of status with the USCIS.

Extension of Stay

Your duration of status expires upon the “completion of studies” date in item #5 on your most recent SEVIS I-20 form. If you are unable to graduate by that date, you must apply to International Student and Scholar Services at least 2 weeks prior to the expiration date for an extension of your program. Your I-20 can only be extended up to one year at a time. We cannot process your extension application if you have already applied for OPT.

*Contact the International Student and Scholar Services office for more detailed Extension of Program information.

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Extended Leave of Absence

If you wish to be away from the University of Utah beyond the standard vacation semester, you need to apply for a Leave of Absence. Being approved for a leave of absence lasting more than one semester from the University of Utah does not allow you to remain in the U.S. in lawful status. You must change your visa classification to legally remain in the U.S. or leave the U.S. Furthermore, you must be issued a new SEVIS I-20 form to re-enter the U.S. for the semester you return to the University of Utah. You would also need to apply for readmission to the University through the International Admissions Office.

*Contact the International Student and Scholar Services office for more detailed Leave of Absence information.

Vacation Semester

During your vacation semester, you may register for less than full time credit hours and legally remain in the U.S. You must inform the International Student and Scholar Services office within the first 15 days of the semester that you are taking a summer vacation semester so we can verify you are eligible for a vacation semester and report it to the USCIS. Otherwise, a hold will be placed on your student record and you will be reported to the USCIS as being out of lawful status. Summer semester is not automatically a vacation semester. You must attend school full time for two consecutive semesters before you are eligible for a vacation semester. The only exception is if you entered the U.S. to attend Spring Semester as your first semester, then you may take the first Summer Semester as a vacation semester. You are required to return to school after your vacation semester.

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Vacation for Students during Fall or Spring Semester

If you take a vacation semester during Fall or Spring Semester and you will not be registered for any courses, you will need to apply to the Registration Office in the Student Service Building for a Leave of Absence for that semester or you will lose your term activation and you will risk falling out of status. This must be approved by the Registration Office and International Student and Scholar Services. This form must be submitted to Registration on or before the last day of regular term classes for the semester the leave of absence is requested.

Undergraduate Leave of Absence (PDF)
Graduate Leave of Absence (PDF)

Note that Graduate students need signatures from their Chair of the Supervisory Committee and Department Chair before they are allowed to take a vacation semester. Students should allow enough time to get these signatures if they wish to submit this form. Once permission has been obtained for the vacation semester, the Registrar’s Office will complete the processing.
*Please see the Registrar’s Office guidance on Leave of Absences for more information.

Online Classes

As an international student, you may take online classes, but only a maximum of three credit hours of these may apply to your full-time status each semester. This means only one 3 credit online course per semester may count towards your full-time status. Therefore, undergraduate students who are enrolled in twelve credits must take nine of those credits in regular classroom-taught classes and graduate students who are enrolled in nine credits must take six of those credits in regular classroom-taught classes.

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Last Updated: 5/8/17