Per U.S. federal regulations, F1 and J1 student visa holders are required to enroll full-time each term unless approved for an authorized reduced course load. Full-time enrollment at Georgia Tech is considered 12 credit hours for both Graduate and Undergraduate students. No more than 3 credit hours of fully at a distance coursework counts towards the full-time requirement.
Audit Credit Hours
Undergraduate students must be registered in 12 credit bearing hours. Undergraduate students are not able to utilize audit hours to count towards their full-time enrollment of 12 credits.
Graduate students can register for up to 3 audit hours as part of their 12 hour required minimum.
Pass/Fail Credit Hours
Both Graduate and Undergraduate students can choose to take courses as pass/fail based on the Georgia Tech guidelines. While OIE does not have a limitation on how many courses can be pass/fail, we encourage students to speak with their academic departments before changing grade mode. OIE cannot speak to how the change can impact your academic progress and so it is important you are well aware of any implications this may have on your degree progress.
The summer term is considered a vacation period which means in most cases F-1 and J-1 student visa holders are not required to register during the summer term. However, students starting their program in the summer semester at Georgia Tech or graduating in the summer semester are required to enroll full-time (12 credits) unless approved for a reduced course load. Full-time enrollment is considered as 12 credits for those starting full summer and 6 credits for those starting their program at GT in late short summer. If you are admitted into the early short summer, then you will have to be registered in 6 credits for both early and late short summer to add up to a total of 12 credits.
If a student who is not required to register full-time during the summer term chooses to register, then there is no maximum or minimum number of credits required as it is not a required term for them. The student can choose to enroll in as many or as few credits of online or in-person instruction as they wish.
Academic Reduced Course Loads
Students intending to drop below full-time must first request permission from ISSS for the reduced course load before dropping any courses. It is only after the student has received confirmation from the ISSS office that they can then drop their courses. There are few reasons for which a student may request an academic reduced course load, please review the options below:
Initial Difficulty with English Language (available in student’s 1st semester only)
Initial Difficulty with Reading Requirements (available in student’s 1st semester only)
Unfamiliarity with American Teaching Methods (available in student’s 1st semester only)
Improper Course Level Placement: an advisor suggested you enroll in a course that you cannot successfully complete
To Complete Course of Study in Current Term (available in student’s final semester only)
To request an academic reduced course load:
Submit an academic reduced course load e-form request in iStart. In the e-form, explain the reason for the reduced course load and provide the name of the appropriate Academic Advisor (undergraduates) or Graduate Coordinator (graduates)
The e-form will be routed to the academic advisor/graduate coordinator for review. If approved, iStart will notify an OIE advisor to review the request.
Within the processing time outlined on our website, an OIE advisor will determine if the recommendation meets the criteria set by F-1 regulations and send an approval or denial email.
Upon receiving an approval email, the student may drop below 12 credits. If the e-form is not approved, the student must stay enrolled in 12 credits or risk violating lawful status.
Medical Reduced Course Loads
A student experiencing a medical issue (physical or psychological) may be eligible for a medical reduced course load. A medical RCL allows students to register for 0-11 credit hours. Medical reduced course loads can be granted for no more than 12 months in aggregate during any one course of study. The request must be approved by an International Student Advisor prior to the student dropping below full-time. Medical reduced course loads are approved on a semester by semester basis. Therefore, students will need to reapply for a medical reduced course for each semester in which the problem persists. Please Note: If you are approved for a medical reduced course load and are not enrolled full-time, you may not be automatically enrolled in insurance. OIE strongly recommends that you review your records to ensure you maintain insurance coverage during your time in the U.S.
To request a medical reduced course load:
1. Obtain the following documents from a U.S. licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or clinical psychologist:
A signed, typed letter on the doctor or psychologist's letterhead. The letter must state that the doctor or psychologist does not recommend full-time enrollment due to a medical issue and it must have been issued within the last 6 months.
A copy of the doctor or psychologist’s business card.
2. Login to iStart and complete the Medical Reduced Course Load e-form which includes uploading a pdf of the aforementioned documents.
3. Within the processing time outlined on our website, an OIE advisor will progress the request and send an approval or denial email.
4. Upon receiving an approval email, the student may drop below 12 credits. If the e-form is not approved, the student must stay enrolled in 12 credits or risk violating lawful status.