Full-Time Enrollment Requirements

A Message to L&S Undergraduate Students Regarding RCLs and Late Drops

You may be aware that L&S has extended the option to request a late drop this semester. We at BIO want to remind you that for international students, if you are dropping below 12 units, you need both L&S approval and BIO approval before you can drop a course(If you are not dropping below 12 units, you do NOT need BIO's approval.)

If you want to drop below 12 units of study, first, you must fill out a reduced course load (RCL) form and turn it in to BIO. Note that a college or major advisor must also approve this form. The deadline for this is this Friday, May 1st; we will deny RCLs to any student who applies after this date. A BIO advisor will review the request. If it's approved, the advisor will prepare an updated I-20 with an RCL authorization on page 2 for you. If the request is incomplete or not able to be approved, the advisor will follow up with you. Read further on this page to learn how to get your BIO RCL form approved remotely by a college or major advisor and to learn about the three types of RCLs available to you. 

Once you have submitted your RCL request to BIO, you may request the late drop from L&S. Note that you don't need to wait for BIO to complete its review process before you take this second step. The deadline to request to drop a course through L&S is next Wednesday, May 6th at 11:59 p.m. You can learn more about the L&S process from their Spring 2020 Policy Updated and FAQs page.  Scroll down to "Enrollment Changes" and click on "Drops."

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Full-Time Enrollment Requirements

Immigration regulations require international students in F-1 or J-1 status to be enrolled full-time each semester. For immigration purposes, full-time enrollment is defined as:

  • Undergraduate students = 12 units
    Colleges may require more than 12 units to be considered full-time (e.g. Letters & Sciences full-time = 13 units or more).
  • Graduate students
    Full time enrollment for graduate students is 12 units or the number of units required by the department for all graduate students in the program.

U.S. immigration regulations require F-1 and J-1 international students to register for and complete a full course load each semester. At the beginning of each term, Berkeley International Office is required to confirm that all international students are registered and maintaining full-time enrollment. Student enrollment continues to be monitored throughout the semester.

Students must also be registered at UC Berkeley within 30 days of the semester start date. For more information, see Registration Requirements.

Students who drop below full-time without approval (see below) from Berkeley International Office must be reported to the Department of Homeland Security via SEVIS. As a result, the SEVIS record will be terminated and the student will lose lawful F-1 or J-1 status including employment eligibility and benefits.

Full-time Enrollment & On-line Coursework

Immigration regulations limit the number of online courses a student can count towards the 12-unit full-time requirement. International students can count only one course or three units of on-line coursework towards the full time requirement. If the full time requirement for a session can be satisfied with three units or one course, the full time requirement cannot be satisfied with online coursework alone.

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 Berkeley International Office. Students will be considered for a reduced enrollment based on the reasons listed below.

To be considered for an exception, submit a completed Reduced Enrollment Request Form to Berkeley International Office prior to dropping any courses below full-time.

Reduced Enrollment for Academic Reasons

Download the Reduced Course Load Request form.

  • Acceptable academic reasons for dropping below full-time include improper course placement, initial difficulties with English language and/or reading requirements, or unfamiliarity with American teaching methods.
  • An academic advisor (college or major advisor) or professor must recommend the reduced enrollment.
  • Reduced enrollment for 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.
  • Reduced enrollment for academic reasons must consist of at least six units or half of the units required for a full course of study.

Reduced Enrollment for Final Semester

Degree-seeking students who are completing their degree requirements in a specified semester can enroll for as many or as few units as needed to graduate. Download the Reduced Course Load Request form.

To be eligible, students must meet the following criteria:

  • The student must be on the degree list for the specified semester
  • The student must graduate at the end of the semester
  • The enrollment cannot be in 100% online coursework and must include in-person classes or units.
  • Upon completion of the specified semester:
    • F-1 students will have a 60-day grace period for a one-time departure from the U.S. or transfer to another school, advancement to a higher degree level, change of nonimmigrant status, or application for Optional Practical Training.
    • J-1 students will have a 30-day grace period for a one-time departure from the US. To be eligible for Academic Training, J-1 students must submit an application to BIO at least 3 business days prior to the last day of their academic program.

Reduced Enrollment for Medical Reasons

Download the Reduced Course Load Request form.

  • Students may drop below full-time for physical or mental health reasons.
  • The reduced enrollment must be recommended by a University Health Services (Tang Center) medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist.
  • Students who are seeing a U.S. doctor or U.S. provider outside of UHS should make an appointment at Tang and bring their outside records for review at the appointment.
  • 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; therefore, continuing health problems may need more than one approval if continued beyond one semester.

Withdrawal for Medical Reasons

Download the Reduced Course Load Request form.

  • Medical Withdrawal Requests must be signed by the UHS Social Services Unit to verify that the request has been approved by the UHS Medical Withdrawal Committee. For more information about the UHS Medical Withdrawal Committee and the process of obtaining a medical withdrawal through the University, see Withdrawals.
  • Only students who are approved by the UHS Medical Withdrawal Committee may submit this medical withdrawal request to BIO in order to maintain their visa status and remain in the U.S. for the stated semester.
  • Students who are withdrawn from Berkeley will only be approved for one semester of medical withdrawal for visa purposes. In order to remain in the US in the following semester, the student must take one of the steps listed below:
  1. Work with the UHS Medical Withdrawal Committee and the College (undergraduates) or Department (graduates) to be readmitted; or
  2. Transfer the SEVIS record to a new school.

Request Form Signatures from Academic Advisors

BIO understands that many staff, including academic advisors, are currently working remotely and may not be able to sign forms. To accommodate this situation, we will accept the following types of signatures:

  1. Docusign signature.
  2. Official Adobe digital signature with Adobe logo and timestamp (example on page 3).
  3. Hand-drawn signature (not typed) using mouse or touch screen (example).
  4. Email confirmation of academic advisor's approval.
    1. Student should submit the request form to their advisor by email and specifically ask them to include the line "I approve [student name and student ID] for [OPT/reduced course load, etc.]".
    2. Academic advisor should complete the form, but can type their name instead of signing in the signature field. Academic advisor should email the form back to the student with the line "I approve [student name and student ID] for [CPT/OPT/reduced course load, etc.]" in the body of the email. We will accept this language in place of a signature.
    3. Student should forward the academic advisor's email to BIO, making sure to include the completed request form as well as any other required supplementary materials (e.g., employment offer letter and Cal Central enrollment for CPT). IF SUBMITTING REQUEST IN PERSON, student should print out academic advisor's email from step (2) above and attach it to their request.