International Student Services

Dropping a Course, Withdrawal, and On-Leave Status

Overview

Are you thinking of dropping a course, withdrawing from the quarter, applying for a hardship withdrawal for the current or a past quarter, or applying for on-leave status? First consider the following questions:

  • Will you be registered full-time or part-time after dropping the class?
  • If you would be part-time, does your F-1/J-1 status allow this? (See below for exceptions to the full-time registration requirement.)
  • What are the Registration Office’s drop deadlines?
  • Graduate students, how will being on leave affect your F1 status?

Full-Time Registration Required

In general, international 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
    Graduate students: see the General Graduate Student Policies set by the Graduate School for more information and exceptions.

Online classes (F-1 students)
Only one online class may count towards the minimum credit amount. 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.

Online classes (J-1 students)
Online classes do not count towards the minimum full-time credit requirement.

Annual Drop, Withdrawal, Hardship Withdrawal, On-Leave Status

The University’s annual drop, withdrawal, hardship withdrawal, and on-leave status policies sometimes conflict with the F-1/J-1 full-time registration requirement. Even though the UW registration policies might allow you to drop a class, or an academic adviser or professor might recommend you drop a class, you must also consider the F-1/J-1 rules, which are separate. Such a drop might be a violation of your F-1/J-1 status.

Procedure for Dropping/Withdrawing/Applying for On-Leave Status

After the seventh calendar day of the quarter, you must meet with an ISS adviser for permission for the following kinds of schedule changes:

  • Dropping a course if you will not be registered full-time after the course drop
  • Withdrawal from the quarter
  • Hardship withdrawal, even for a prior quarter
  • On-leave status through the Graduate School (graduate students only).We will discuss the following questions before approving a drop to part-time registration, withdrawal, or on-leave status:
  • Do any of the full-time registration exceptions (see below) apply to you?
  • If not, will the drop violate your F-1/J-1 status?
  • If dropping the course will violate your status, are you aware of the serious risks associated with a status violation? Is the reason for the drop (such as GPA concerns) worth the risk?
  • Are there other alternatives, such as changing to an S/NS grading option or replacing the course with an online course so that you are still full-time? Status violation can be a serious matter, making you ineligible for benefits like employment authorization and jeopardizing your stay in and future travel to the U.S.
  • Graduate students, how many quarters will you be on leave and will you be outside the U.S.?

Exceptions to the Full-Time Registration Requirement: F-1 Status

1. A reduced course load (RCL) for specific academic reasons

Your ISS adviser can authorize you to drop a course and have part-time enrollment for an academic reason. These are the reasons allowed by the F-1 regulations:

  • Initial difficulty with the English language
  • Initial difficulty with reading requirements
  • Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods
  • Improper course level placement

ISS advisers can only authorize an academic RCL in coordination with your academic adviser or course professor/instructor. We in ISS are not academic advisers; we do not have expert knowledge about your course curriculum or performance in your course. We require information from an academic adviser or course professor/instructor to assess your eligibility for part-time enrollment.

  • You must request the RCL and receive approval from your ISS adviser by the end of the quarter in which you want to drop the course.
  • An academic RCL is only allowed one quarter per degree level.
  • You will receive a new I-20 if your ISS adviser approves your RCL request.
How to Apply

1. Print the ISS Reduced Course Load Form. Complete the student section.

2. Consult your course professor/instructor or academic advisor about your difficulties in the course. Explain that because of your F-1 status, you must obtain special permission to drop a course if you will be part-time after the course drop. It might be helpful to print this page to share with them or email them a link to this information.

3. Ask your academic advisor or course instructor to complete the instructor/academic advisor section of the form.

4. Submit the completed form to ISS either by email, fax, or in person.

5. Allow 7-10 business days for ISS processing. An ISS advisor will contact you. If approved, your ISS advisor will also assist you with dropping your course.

2. A reduced course load (RCL) for a documented medical condition

You can request permission to register part-time or take the quarter off for a documented medical reason.

How to Apply
  • Submit to ISS a completed ISS Reduced Course Load Form. It must be completed by a “licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist.
    It cannot be completed by a “Registered Nurse Practitioner (RNP)” or other medical professional title not listed above.
  • You can submit the completed form to your ISS advisor by email, mail, fax, or to the ISS front desk. Allow 7-10 business days for ISS processing.
  • You must request the RCL and receive approval from your ISS advisor by the end of the quarter in which you need the approved RCL.
  • A medical RCL is allowed for a maximum of four quarters.
  • You will receive a new I-20 if your ISS advisor approves your RCL request.

3. Annual vacation quarter

An annual vacation quarter is a quarter spent in the United States while not registered for full-time credits. You are eligible for vacation if you have completed one full-time academic year (3 consecutive quarters) prior to the vacation and intend to register for the following term. During your vacation quarter, you may either enroll part-time or not at all.

An annual vacation may be requested for any quarter. Summer is the default vacation, and it is not necessary to notify ISS if you take summer as your vacation quarter. However, if you register full-time in summer and will take a different quarter as your annual vacation, use the online Alternative Vacation Quarter Request Form. A student who arrives in the U.S. for the first time and begins study winter or spring quarter may take the summer as a vacation quarter. You cannot take vacation in your final quarter.

4. Final quarter

You may take as few credits as required to complete your degree as long as you register for at least one credit at UW. An online class or a CPT-related credit cannot be the only class on your final quarter schedule.

Once you are approved for special permission to take fewer than the government’s required full-time credits because it is your final quarter, you will not be allowed to extend your I-20 unless there are serious extenuating academic or medical circumstances that you could not predict or control. Extra time will not be approved to add majors, minors, or because of other optional changes.

Before changing your credit load, notify ISS using the online Final Quarter Reduced Course Load Form.

5. Thesis/dissertation credits

Graduate students registered for thesis (700-level) or dissertation (800-level) credits may register for fewer than 10 credits and 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 department about registration requirements.

6. Summer Quarter Teaching or Research Assistantship

Graduate students with a summer quarter teaching or research assistantship can register for any 2 credits in summer and be considered full-time.

7.  Concurrent Enrollment

You can “concurrently enroll,” which means you take classes at UW and another school in the same quarter, and ISS combines the credits to count as full-time. To concurrently enroll, you must take the majority (at least 7 credits) of your required 12-credit minimum at UW, or for graduate students, at least 6 of your 10-credit minimum at UW. You must take courses at the appropriate educational level; the credits should count towards your UW degree. Consult your ISS adviser about your plans in advance to be sure your concurrent enrollment request will be approved by UW ISS.

Submit a copy of your registration/class schedule from the other school to ISS at the beginning of the quarter, and email your primary ISS adviser to confirm your concurrent enrollment. After you complete the quarter, submit an unofficial transcript of your completed courses from the other school to ISS. (This step is for F-1 purposes only. To officially transfer the credit, contact Undergraduate Admissions for instructions.)

Exceptions to the Full-Time Registration Requirement: J-1 status

Valid academic reason

Documented medical condition

Final quarter

In your final quarter you may take as few credits as required to complete your degree as long as you register for at least one credit at UW. An online class cannot be the only class on your final quarter schedule.

Thesis/dissertation credits

Graduate students registered for thesis or dissertation credits may register for fewer than 10 credits and be considered full-time for immigration purposes. However, if you have an assistantship, you will still be required to register for 10 credits. Check with your department about registration requirements.

An annual vacation quarter is a quarter spent in the United States while not registered for full-time credits. You are eligible for vacation if you have completed one full-time academic year (3 consecutive quarters) prior to the vacation and intend to register for the following term. During your vacation quarter, you may either enroll part-time or not at all.

An annual vacation may be requested for any quarter. Summer is the default vacation, and it is not necessary to notify ISS if you take summer as your vacation quarter. However, if you register full-time in summer and will take a different quarter as your annual vacation, notify your primary ISS adviser.