Reduced Course Load

Authorization for a Reduced Course Load (RCL)

Students may enroll part-time and still maintain F-1 if approved for Reduced Course Load (RCL). Students must enroll in at least one in-person course to maintain status unless approved for Medical RCL, which allows enrollment in as low as zero units during the approved term.

RCLs are only approved for the following reasons:

  1. Academic Reasons
    Academic RCL is only approved for one term per degree level, is typically only granted in the first quarter of attendance, and requires enrollment in at least half the credits required for full-time. Students who have been granted Academic RCL remain eligible for future RCLs for medical reasons and/or the final term. Academic RCL can be requested for the following reasons:
    • Improper course level placement (explanation letter from advising staff or faculty required)
    • Initial difficulties with the English language
    • Initial difficulties with reading requirements
    • Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods
  2. Medical Reasons
    If you have a documentable medical reason that prevents you from enrolling full-time, you can apply for an RCL based on the medical condition.
    • Requires an official letter on letterhead, signed by a licensed medical professional (a U.S. medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or clinical psychologist), including the following details:
      1. Student’s full name and date of birth
      2. Clear recommendation the student reduce their course load due to medical reasons
      3. Date of recommendation (must be within a month of the request)
      4. Specific quarter(s) for which the RCL is being recommended
      5. Medical professional’s license number
    • Note: Letters from the UCSC Health Center can be on the Health Center form.
    • If your medical condition prevents you from enrolling full-time for multiple terms, you must apply for a new RCL authorization each term with updated documentation and supporting evidence, with a maximum of 12 months per degree level.
    • Medical RCLs are meant to cover a break in studies, which means you are going to return to your studies after the break. If you are in your final quarter of enrollment and have an approved Medical RCL, you will need to take at least one course. Please contact your ISSP adviser if you have questions.
      Note: Students on a Medical RCL should not be working on or off-campus during their Medical RCL period.
  3. Final Term
    • Degree-seeking students who are in their final quarter can request an RCL to only enroll in the number of units required to complete their degree.
    • Note: J-1 Exchange students (non-degree seeking at UCSC) are not eligible.

Requesting a Reduced Course Load

Undergraduate StudentsGraduate Students
Starting fall 2022 students will be able to apply for the university’s Part-Time Program by following the below steps:

1. Log into MyUCSC (“Full Site Login” for mobile devices)
2. Select the Undergraduate Student eForms tile on the Student Homepage
3. Select the Part-Time Application
1. Meet with your grad advisor to discuss dropping below full-time.
2. Log into iGlobal, navigate to “ISSP F1/J1 Requests” and choose “Reduced Course Load.”
3. If approved, an ISSP advisor will add the authorization to your SEVIS record.
4. You will only receive a new I-20 showing this approval if your program end date is changing as a result. Once ISSP approves your RCL, you are responsible for dropping the class(es).

Note: Do not drop below full-time before you have received RCL approval from ISSP or you may be in violation of your F-1 or J-1 status. Also, you must speak with your college or graduate advisor to apply for part-time enrollment with the university. Getting approval for part-time status with the Registrar or Graduate Division is a separate process from RCL authorization which only covers the immigration side of your student record.

Reduced Course Load FAQs

When will I get my RCL I-20? How long does processing take?

All RCL requests are reviewed within 7-10 business days after submission

When is the earliest I can submit my RCL request?

You may submit your RCL request as soon as the enrollment period opens for the term in which you are applying for RCL authorization. 

Will having an RCL impact my eligibility for OPT or CPT?

No. An approved RCL will not affect your eligibility for OPT or CPT as long as you apply in a timely manner. ISSP will not authorize CPT for a term during which you have a Medical RCL as a medical professional will advise you to focus on your health during that term.

With a Medical RCL, do I have to leave the country?

No, you can stay in the U.S. for the duration of the Medical RCL authorization period if you have an approved Medical RCL, even if you are not enrolled in courses.

What kind of information is disclosed about me to the government when I apply for a Medical RCL?

Diagnostic information is not required for a Medical RCL. The only information ISSP provides when adding the Medical RCL to your SEVIS record is that you are taking a Reduced Course Load due to a medical condition, as well as the dates of the RCL. USCIS and SEVP receive no information regarding your physician, care provider, condition, or other medical information.

Does a RCL look bad on my immigration record or cause an immigration problem?

No. There is no negative immigration impact if you apply for a RCL in a timely manner and it is approved.

Can I travel internationally if I have an approved RCL?

Academic RCL or Final Term RCL authorization has no negative impact on travel. Medical RCL, on the other hand, signifies that you are being treated by a medical professional in the US. As a result, ISSP does not recommend traveling outside of the U.S. for an extended period of time during the Medical RCL. Shorter travel periods where you can justify receiving medical care in the U.S. should not be a problem.

Will an approved RCL cause a problem with my ITIN or SSN application?

No. An approved RCL will cause no problems with ITIN/SSN applications.

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Last modified: Dec 04, 2023