Full-Time Student

F. Full Time Student

Your F or J visa allows you to request entry to United States for a specific activity – study (or scholarly activities for J-1 EV Scholars).  If you are not a full time student (or scholar), the U.S. government believes you have no reason to be here.  So what does it mean to be a full time student?

You must complete (not just register for) a full course load each term:

  • 18 contact hours or more for English Language Institute (ELI) students
  • 12 credit hours or more for undergraduate/Bachelor’s and post-baccalaureate students
  • 8 credit hours or more for graduate/Master’s students
  • For F-1 academic students, only one online class of up to three credits can be counted towards a full time requirement in any term. Students who take online credits as part of a full time load must meet minimum credits of classroom instruction at all times, in addition to the total number of credits required:
    • Undergraduate/ bachelor’s/post-bachelor’s students must have at least 9 credits traditional classroom instruction each term;
    • Graduate/master’s students must take at least 5 credits of traditional instruction classes.
    • English Language students may not take any distance education courses to meet full time requirements.
  • J-1 Exchange Visitor students must check with their immigration advisor before registering for any online courses or enrolling less than full time in any term.
  • Pro Tip: Use the “campus” function in Schedule Planner to select physical campuses and avoid online classes altogether
  • Audited classes do not count toward the full-time requirement.
  • If you withdraw from a class at any time during the term, that class cannot count toward the full-time requirement.

Attend only the university named on your I-20 or DS-2019.  There are some exceptions, but you must get approval from your immigration advisor first.

  • Concurrent enrollment: Enrolling at EWU and taking some classes somewhere else at the same time is allowed only with prior permission from a DSO or A/RO.  Students must request concurrent enrollment authorization in advance using the online concurrent enrollment request form. Academic advisors must provide supporting information for the request.
    • Concurrent enrollment is approved for immigration support if the class has an equivalent at EWU (or an equivalency can be established), is necessary for degree completion, and is not available for timely graduation at EWU.Exceptions are considered on a case-by-case basis with academic advisor input.
    • Students must provide proof of enrollment in the specific class requested at the host institution, and must still have the majority of classes taken at EWU during terms with concurrent enrollment. Final transcripts from the host university must be submitted to EWU’s office of the Registrar as soon as grades are available – even if you do not pass the concurrent class.Failure to submit transcripts by the end of the following term may result in a violation of F- or J- status.Transcripts should be sent directly to:


Records and Registration

201 Sutton Hall

Cheney, WA 99004

Make normal academic progress.

  • F-1 students should meet with academic advisors in the Center for Academic Advising and Retention (CAAR) or in their major department to create a study plan. J-1 Exchange Visitor students should meet with their immigration advisor and may also meet with an academic department advisor depending on their program.Follow your study plan carefully and check in with your academic advisor regularly.
  • It is okay to fail a class from time to time, but if you are passing less than 67% of your classes, or it becomes impossible for you to graduate on-time, you may be considered out of status.Re-taking classes (even for a better grade required by a program), failure to follow academic advisor or program guidelines are not grounds for an extension of a form I-20 or DS-2019.
  • Normal academic progress also requires adherence to academic integrity policy guidelines at all times.The academic integrity policy can be found in the University catalog online http://catalog.ewu.edu/ . We recommend that you talk to your professors about class assignments and expectations for your work in each class.You may be surprised by what your professors consider “cheating.”
  • Attend all of your classes, every day. Remember that if you are not in the classroom then there is no reason for you to be in the U.S. as a student. Classroom attendance and participation are a basic expectation of the U.S. higher education system, as is timely submission of all academic work.

Enrolling less than full time for any reason requires permission in advance 

  • If you do not intend to register for a full course load, or if you need to drop below a full course load for any term, including summer, make an appointment with an immigration advisor before taking any action – even if you are failing a class or if you believe that you are eligible for a vacation.
  • Reduced Course Loads (RCLs)- If you need to take less than a full time class load, you must request and be approved for a “Reduced Course Load” before the term starts or before you drop classes.  There are only certain reasons reduced course loads are permitted, and GSSS must have supporting documents before approving anything.  The following can be considered justifications for requesting a Reduced Course Load:
    • Academic Difficulties – Academic difficulty reduced course loads are available one term per level of study, usually only in the first term.  This is not available for English Language students.  Specific academic difficulties are initial difficulty with English or reading requirements, unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods, or improper course level placement.
    • Medical or Mental Health Conditions – If you have a physical or mental health condition or an illness you will need to show a recommendation from a health care professional to request a reduced course load. 
      • Only documents from the following professionals can be accepted by law:U.S. licensed medical doctor (M.D.), doctor of osteopathy (O.D.), or licensed clinical psychologist (L.C.P. or L.P.). Letters must be original documents, signed by an MD, DO, or LP, include their license number, must indicate a specific diagnosis or condition and explicitly recommend less than full time study with designated time period.
      • Permission can only be granted one term at a time.
      • The total authorized time may not exceed 12 months combined in a level of studies.New, updated support documentation is required to renew medical authorization for a reduced course load for any future term.
      • If you have a chronic (ongoing or permanent) medical condition that will affect your ability to be full time, please schedule an appointment with your immigration advisor.
      • Please note that immigration regulations do not provide for “maternity leave” or “family leave.” Pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting are not considered an illness or injury by the Department of Homeland Security. A family member’s illness or injury is not grounds for a reduced course load, even for spouses, children, or siblings. 
    • Final Term in program of study – If you have finished most of your required courses, and your remaining classes will equal less than a full time course load, you can request a reduced course load for your final term. 
      • Supporting documentation is required from an academic advisor, faculty advisor, or other staff with the ability to verify courses needed to complete degree.Completing courses from previous terms does not count as enrollment during your final term.
      • Classes must be taken in-person (not online).
    • Registered for Thesis/Project class- (Note:Only Master’s/Doctorate Students are eligible.) This reduced course load authorization is only possible if you are actually registered in credits for your thesis or final project.  Supporting documentation required from the student’s thesis/project advisor or the Director of the Graduate Program.  Master’s students who cannot register for further thesis or project credit may need to apply for Optional Practical Training or take other steps to maintain valid status.

Annual Vacation: 

  • Summer Session: You are not required by USCIS to enroll in classes during the summer session unless summer is your first term in a new program (new level or reentry I-20) or you have taken a different vacation term within the three previous quarters, or two semesters, or plan to take a different term as your annual vacation.
  • International students are permitted one annual vacation term per academic year. Summer term is considered Eastern’s standard vacation.However, if you have been enrolled full time for three consecutive quarters, (including summer) at the same academic level, you may be eligible to request Fall, Winter, or Spring as your annual vacation term instead of Summer. Likewise, if you are on the semester system, and have been enrolled full time for two consecutive semesters, (including Summer) at the same academic level, you may be eligible to request Fall or Spring as your annual vacation term instead. However, you would not be eligible for vacation in the following summer.Request forms for annual vacation are available on our website.
    • You must let your immigration advisor know at the beginning of summer term (or earlier) that you want it to count as an academic term, so that you can take your annual vacation at another time.
  • Failure to submit concurrent enrollment transcripts, reentry to correct status, and other individual situations may impact eligibility for vacation during any term. Please check with your immigration advisor to make sure you are authorized to take less than a full course load.J-1 Exchange Visitor students should verify with their immigration advisor that their program permits vacation.