If an F-1 student is having specified initial academic difficulties , a temporary illness or medical condition, or needs fewer courses than a full course load in his/her last term to complete the program of study, international student advisors (DSOs) may authorize a reduced course load (RCL). Regulations provide limited reasons for granting an RCL.
A student may apply for reduced course load due to academic difficulties if an academic advisor verifies their situation. Immigration regulations specify four academic difficulty reasons for which a reduced course load may be approved:
Initial difficulties with the English language (usable only in student’s first year)
Initial difficulties with reading requirements (usable only in student’s first year)
Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods
Improper course level placement
A student may be authorized for an Academic Difficulties RCL basis only for a single term during any one course of study at a particular program level, and must resume a full course of study at the next available term (excluding summer). Source: [8 CFR § 214.2(f)(6)(iii)(A)]
A student must apply for RCL if, due to a temporary illness or medical condition, he/she is unable to be enrolled full time (or, if necessary, no course load). The student must provide medical documentation from a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist, to the ISSS to substantiate the illness or medical condition.
A recommendation from the medical provider must recommend either that the student be part time or not enrolled due to medical circumstances.
A reduced course load for a medical condition can be granted for a period of time not to exceed an aggregate of 12 months while the student is pursing a course of study at a particular program level.
The student must provide current medical documentation and ISSS must authorize the drop below full time for each new term.