International Student Services

Full Time Enrollment and Exceptions

Full-time Registration Requirement | Taking Time Off from Study | Overview of Exceptions for Full-Time Enrollment | Additional Enrollment Allowances to Consider

Full-time Registration Requirement

In general, F-1 students must be registered full-time. This is defined as at least:

  • 12 credits each quarter for undergraduate students
  • 10 credits each quarter for graduate students
    Check the General Graduate Student Policies to understand which courses count towards degree completion.

To understand more about full-time enrollment at the University of Washington (including auditing courses), please visit the UW Registrar’s website.

Do not register for fewer than the required number of credits or withdraw from a course without first receiving permission from ISS. Part-time studies could jeopardize your stay in the U.S. and make you ineligible for F-1 benefits.

Online Classes

F-1 Online Course Guidance

Only one online class may count towards the minimum credit amount each quarter.
According to the F-1 regulations, an online class is one that “does not require the student’s physical attendance for classes, examination or other purposes integral to completion of the class.” Therefore any course that has some sort of physical attendance requirement, such as for a lecture, exam, or faculty meeting is not considered fully online for visa status purposes. Hybrid classes that are mostly online but have a physical presence requirement are not counted toward the 1 class limit for online courses.

Students who have difficulties enrolling in enough in-person courses towards full-time may be given an exception to this rule due to the current COVID-19 guidance which allows students to enroll in more online classes than usual. 

Satisfactory/Non-Satisfactory Grade Option

It is okay if you change your grade option to S/NS. You would still be considered full-time. As long as you stay registered, the grade change does not affect your F-1 status. Also, even if you do not pass the class, that does not automatically affect F-1 status. Staying registered and attempting the full-time schedule is the primary concern.

However, please note that it’s important to make normal academic progress to maintain F-1 status. One or two S/NS grade changes would not matter, but an extended long-term pattern of NS grades could affect status.

ISS encourages you to also double-check with an academic adviser to ensure the grade change is allowed. Our scope only takes into consideration the immigration regulations. The academic advising perspective is also always important.

Taking Time Off from Study

There are several exceptions allowed for full-time enrollment. You may review the video series about taking time off from study or requesting a leave of absence as you consider your options.

Overview of Exceptions to the Full-Time Requirement

  1. Reduced Course Load (RCL) for Specific Academic Reasons
  2. Reduced Course Load (RCL) for a Documented Medical Condition
  3. Annual Vacation Quarter
  4. Final Quarter Reduced Course Load

Additional Enrollment Allowances to Consider

  1. Thesis/Dissertation Credits Graduate students registered for thesis (700-level) or dissertation (800-level) credits may register for as few as 1 credit of that number (700 or 800) and still be considered full-time for immigration purposes. However, if you have a teaching or research assistantship, you will still be required to register for 10 credits, except in summer, when 2 credits are required for RA/TA appointments. Check with your hiring department about registration requirements. Also, please note that this policy is for immigration purposes. Other entities, such as loan processing agencies, housing, scholarship committees, etc., may have different registration requirements.
  2. Summer Quarter Teaching or Research Assistantship Graduate students with a summer quarter teaching or research assistantship: consult your graduate program coordinator to learn if the summer TA/RA position requires enrollment and if so, how many credits. If enrollment is required for the summer TA/RA position, you can register for any 2 graduate level credits in summer and be considered full-time for F-1 status maintenance.
  3. Concurrent Enrollment at UW and Another College Students who take courses at another college may be considered full-time with approval.