Reduced Course Load Authorization (RCL)

F-1 and J-1 students must be registered full-time, unless they qualify for a reduced course load for a specific reason based on federal regulations.  This page is intended for ISSS/immigration purposes only; it only outlines reduced course loads as they relate to immigration status requirements for F-1 and J-1 students.  Your academic department, Human Resources, or other campus offices may have additional requirements for full-time status.

Full time enrollment at the University at Albany is 12 credits for undergraduate students and 9 credits for graduate students.  Regulations require F-1 and J-1 international students to be registered full time each semester of their academic program, except within the specific circumstances listed below. For F-1 and J-1 students, no more than one online or distance education course (or 3 credits) may count toward the minimum number of credits needed for full-time enrollment during the semester. If the student only needs one course to complete the program of study, that course cannot be fully online.. For more information please visit the Course Registration Requirements page.

Reduced Course Loads (RCLs) are approved on a term by term basis. This EForm is for DHS/ISSS reporting only.  It does not exempt a student from other full-time enrollment requirements, such as those tied to student employment or scholarships.  If you have on-campus employment please speak with your supervisor about minimum enrollment requirements for your position.  If you have a scholarship please speak with your scholarship provider about whether or not the scholarship will be impacted if you enroll less than full-time.   Tuition liability still applies.

To qualify for a reduced course load authorization, a student must meet one of the reasons below.  Please review these reasons with your academic advisor to determine if you qualify before submitting the Reduced Course Load (RCL) Request E-Form to ISSS: 

1. A documented illness or medical condition (1 calendar year limit)

When the student has a documented, qualifying illness or medical condition:

  • Students are required to submit a letter from a U.S. Medical Professional (MD or PSYD) outlining the medical condition for the request, the time period a reduced course load is needed, and recommendation of appropriate course load for the given semester.
  • This reason is limited to no more than 12 months total for an academic program, but requires a separate Reduced Course Load request each term.
  • Normal pregnancy is not a condition eligible for a medical reduced course load.

2. When the student is in the final semester of coursework.

This reason may be used only ONCE during a student’s program of study.  Students in their final semester may take the minimum credits required to meet the degree requirements within that semester. Under normal circumstances if the final semester registration is only one course, the course may not be a fully 100% fully online course, however this online-limitation requirement is not in effect in Fall 2020/Spring 2021 under the current special DHS COVID-related guidance.

3. The Doctoral Student has completed all coursework but has not yet been admitted to Candidacy.

Student typically must take a minimum of 3 credits unless authorized by the Graduate School to take 1 or 2 credits.

4. A required stand-alone Master’s Thesis / Project / Internship (3 credit) or a 1 credit continuation (699C / 698C / 680C) if no other coursework is required.

  • If the student must take a master’s thesis or project as a stand-alone course (i.e. the course cannot be taken alongside other coursework) this reason may be selected. If the master’s thesis or equivalent course can be taken alongside other work it should be, and the student should either be full-time or using the “final semester of coursework” reason above. This reason may also be used for a 1 credit continuation course if all other coursework has been completed.

5. Doctoral Dissertation (1 credit 899 course, other 3 credit course, or field work placement)

  • If the doctoral student has completed coursework and has been admitted to candidacy, this reason may be used if the student is taking the 1 credit 899 course, another 3 credit course required by the department as a part of candidacy, or a field work placement course approved by Graduate Education as full-time equivalent (APSY 895; ECPY 895; ESPE 580, 680/680A; 682; ESPY 894, 898; RSSW 400, 410)

6. The student is experiencing initial language or cultural difficulties that are affecting academic success

  • This reason can only be used ONCE and there is a 9 credit minimum for undergraduate students and a 6 credit minimum for graduate students
  • This reason is appropriate when difficulties related to English language, the American education system or reading requirements indicate that the student’s academic success would best be served by a reduced course load

Reduced course loads authorized by ISSS are for immigration purposes only and are only granted on a semester-by-semester basis.  A student must have an authorized reduced course load approved prior to dropping below full-time.  A student may submit a reduced course load request prior to the start of the semester they are requesting the reduced course load for, but the reduced course load can only be approved once appropriate pre-registration for the requested semester is reviewed by ISSS staff. 

Students who need to drop a course after the first week of classes will need to wait until the request is authorized by ISSS and the full-time registration hold is lifted by the Registrar, which can take up to 6-9 business days from when the complete request (include academic advisor's recommendation) is received.

A student who does not follow the regulations of their visa category will have ‘failed to maintain lawful student immigration status’. Failure to maintain lawful student immigration status is a serious violation of the law which can result in the following: loss of legal immigration status; accrual of unlawful presence and a potential bar on reentering the US; the need to depart the US; and/or the loss of eligibility for future benefits and statuses.

After reviewing the above information, you may submit a Reduced Course Load RCL Request EForm:

  1. Click here to navigate to the AccessISSS online system. Login with your UAlbany NetID (ex: AA123456) and password.
  2. Watch this recording to help you navigate to the EForm menu.
  3. Select the "Reduced Course Load RCL" from the EForm menu.
  4. All updates related to your EForm will be communicated over email. Please allow up to 5-7 business days for processing.



The information contained in this web site/form is provided as a service to international students, faculty and staff at the University at Albany. It does not constitute legal advice. We try to provide useful information, but we make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to this web site or any associated site or form. Neither the University at Albany nor ISSS is responsible for any errors or omissions contained in this website, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. Nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel; students may wish to consult an immigration attorney on the specifics of their case as needed.