International students must remain enrolled full-time while at UVM. This is true for all students on F-1 and J-1 visas, including any student participating in UVM exchange, regardless of immigration status. Full-time enrollment is required in every fall and spring term, as well as the summer if it is your first or last term.

Minimum Enrollment Requirements

Enrollment requirements are based on student type:

  • Undergraduate degree-seeking students must enroll in at least 12 credit hours per semester
  • Graduate degree-seeking students must enroll in at least 9 credit hours per semester
  • Exchange students must enroll in at least 12 and no more than 19 credit hours per semester, regardless of level of study at home university and regardless of immigration status (including US citizen exchange students)

In all cases, the online course limits apply as well. Students may count a maximum of one (1) three-credit course towards the minimum full-time enrollment requirements for their student type. In other words, an undergraduate or exchange student must take at least nine (9) credits in a traditional, in-classroom course. Graduate students must take at least six (6) credits in traditional credits of in-person coursework or research credits.

During the Add/Drop Period you can arrange your schedule, though we strongly recommend being fully registered before that time. If needed, during that period you can temporarily drop below full-time so you can adjust your schedule. You must be enrolled full-time by the end of the Course Add/Drop Period. You can see the dates for the Course Add/Drop Period here.

If you enroll in fewer than the minimum requirements without authorization from OIE after the Add/Drop period, this would be a violation of your student immigration status. Likewise, exceeding the online enrollment limit violates your F-1 student record. Violation of the rules causes the termination of your SEVIS (immigration) record, which is very serious. It means you immediately begin to accrue days of unlawful presence in the USA and would need to cease all work on campus immediately.  If this happens to you, you will need to follow the steps in one of the two options of gaining your student status again. US citizens and permanent residents participating in a UVM exchange would be in violation of their exchange program requirements and may lose their exchange spot.

Authorized Reduced Course Loads

In some circumstances, a reduced course load may be possible. You must receive authorization from an OIE advisor before dropping below full-time. Students with this authorization must stay enrolled in more than half-time status unless explicit permission otherwise is obtained. The reasons for RCLs are outlined below.

  • Health Problems: If you have a medical condition which prevents you from successfully staying enrolled full-time, a reduced course load may be possible for that semester. You must have documentation from a licensed doctor or psychologist indicating that you cannot take a full course-load for physical or psychological health related issues. 
  • Academic Reasons: Certain academic reasons permit a one-time reduced course load. The reasons are for Unfamiliarity with US Teaching Methods or Improper Level of Study and are agreed upon in conjunction with the OIE and your academic advisor. You cannot receive a reduced course load simply because you are not doing well in a course and do not want it to hurt your GPA. 
  • Last Semester Before Graduation: If you expect to graduate at the end of the semester and need less than a full course-load to complete all degree requirements, you can apply for a Reduced Course Load (RCL) and have permission to take only what you need to finish your degree requirements and graduate. However, you must have an in-person registration in your final term. This means that finishing a degree in the summer is often difficult given the limited number of in-person courses available at UVM in summer semesters. If you hope to finish your degree requirements in the summer, please plan for this early. 

Frequently Asked Questions

If I need to take less than a full-course load, how do I get approval from OIE?

For both F-1 and J-1 students, OIE will require certain documents from your academic advisor or your college dean’s office. If you are experiencing health problems, we will require a letter from your doctor or psychologist. There are very specific requirements for each of these letters. Additional information is available in the iStart e-form. If you still have questions, email the OIE at

Can I take a three credit class at another college and nine credits of coursework at UVM? Is this full-time enrollment?

If you are an F-1 student you may take credits at other institutions for a total of 12 credits of full-time enrollment. You must take at least 6 credit hours at UVM. To meet our requirements, you must show proof of concurrent enrollment and approval from your UVM academic department before the semester begins. You must also show proof that you completed the courses at the end of the semester or your immigration record will be terminated. J-1 students must take all 12 credits at the institution listed on their DS-2019.

Am I required to register for courses during the summer session?

In most cases students are not required to register for the summer session. However, if you begin or end your studies during the summer session you must register full-time. Remember, students in their last semester of study are eligible to take less than a full course load with approval from OIE. If you do need to register, then summer is another semester, which means 12 credits for undergraduate students and 9 credits for graduate students. the OIE has an annual date which we use to break first and second halves of the summer which could mean you have a lower enrollment requirement if you are starting in the second half of summer or finishing in the first half. All online enrollment rules still apply if summer is a required term.

I am a graduate student and I have completed all of my required coursework and research credits. All I need to do to complete my degree is write my thesis/dissertation. Do I need to register for courses?

Yes, international graduate students must still register for credits. Graduate students who have completed all coursework and research credits can register for Continuous Registration credits by registering for GRAD903. GRAD902 is permissible only in the final semester with an approved Reduced Course Load authorization from the OIE. GRAD901 counts as fewer than 4.5 credit hours and is never permissible as the only enrollment.

My DS-2019 was not issued by UVM, do I still need approval from OIE before dropping below a full-course load?

If your DS-2019 was issued by another organization then you will need approval from both OIE and the organization that issued your DS-2019 before you can take less than a full course-load. Visit the OIE to discuss this and work with your sponsoring organization.