Full-Time Enrollment Requirement

In order to maintain valid F-1 or J-1 student status, international students are required to pursue a full course of study during all required academic semesters (Fall and Spring) unless approved under a specific exception, in advance, by the Coordinator of International Education. Enrollment records of international students are reviewed every Fall and Spring semester and the SEVIS record of students who are not enrolled in a full-time course load or authorized equivalent are terminated.

Undergraduate Students
To maintain full-time status at the undergraduate level, a student must register for at least 12 credit hours during a semester. An undergraduate student may register for more than 18 credits during a semester with permission from the student’s academic advisor.

If it is your last semester of study and less than 12 credits are required for you to complete your program of study, you may register for only the required number of credits to complete your degree. If you register less than full-time because it is your last semester, you must report this to the Coordinator of International Education through the Last Semester Memo so that your SEVIS record can be updated accordingly.

Graduate Students
SUNY-ESF considers a graduate student full-time if you are matriculated in a graduate degree program and meet one of the following criteria:

  • You are registered for 12 credit hours;
  • You hold an appointment as a graduate assistant or research assistant, or hold a graduate fellowship and are registered for at least 9 credit hours for the given semester;
  • You require additional English language instruction and do not have an assistantship and you are registered for 9 graduate-level credits + 3 credits undergrad ESL
  • You require additional English language instruction and have an assistantship or fellowship and you are registered for 6 graduate-level credits + 3 credits undergrad ESL
  • You are a master’s student who has met all academic requirements except for your thesis defense or examination, it is your last semester, and you are registered for at least one credit of thesis research, professional experience or independent study and file the Certification of Full-Time Status; or
  • You are a doctoral candidate, have successfully completed your coursework and doctoral candidacy examination, are registered for at least one credit of dissertation research, professional experience or independent study, and file the Certification of Full-Time Status.

For the summer, graduate students will be considered full time if registered for at least one credit of thesis/dissertation research, professional experience, or independent study and their major professor verifies in writing that they are working full time on the completion of degree requirements.


If you do not meet the standards for full-time registration as established by the College, your major professor can recommend that the Office of Instruction and Graduate Studies certify you for full-time status based on the following criteria:

  • Matriculation in a master’s degree program and a) has completed all academic requirements (coursework and thesis/internship where appropriate); b) is completing what is potentially the final semester; and c) is registered for at least one credit of thesis research, professional experience or independent study.
  • Matriculation in a doctoral degree program, has successfully completed coursework requirements and filed 6b form leading to the doctoral candidacy exam, and is registered for at least one credit of dissertation research.

In order to be recognized in the College registrar system, as full-time a student must file the Certification of Full-Time Status. It must be endorsed by a student's major professor, the Associate Provost for Instruction and Dean of the Graduate School, and then submitted to the Registrar's Office.

The Certification of Full-Time Status must be filed EVERY semester a student meets the eligibility requirements.


No more than the equivalent of 1 on-line/distance education class or 3 credits per session may count towards the "full course of study" requirement each semester. For example, if you are required to take 12 credits in a semester to maintain full-time status, only 3 of the required 12 credits can be from an online course. You may however exceed the 12 credit requirement by taking additional online courses as long as you are taking at least 9 credits in class (not online).


It is the responsibility of an international student to abide by U.S. immigration regulations and to maintain valid non-immigrant student status.

  • Engage in a full-time course load (or authorized equivalent) every Fall and Spring semester
    • Undergraduate students: 12 credits
    • Graduate students without assistantship: 12 credits
    • Graduate students with assistantship/fellowship: 9 credits
    • Graduate students who require additional English language instruction: 9 graduate-level credits + 3 credits undergrad ESL
    • Graduate students who have met all academic requirements: 1 research credit & file a Certification of Full-Time Status every semester you meet the eligibility requirements
    • Last Semester Exception: You are only required to take as many credits as are required to finish your degree program but you must be enrolled in at least 1 credit the semester you will graduate (including the summer)
  • Make normal progress towards completing your degree (i.e., within timeframe allotted on I-20)
  • Report a change of address to OIE & Registrar within 10 days of the change
  • Do not work off-campus without authorization from OIE
  • Be aware of expiration dates of your immigration documents and renew/extend in a timely manner
  • Passport & I-20 must be valid at all times during your program
  • Keep your I-20 valid by following proper procedures for I-20 extensions, change of program/program level, and SEVIS transfers
  • Abide by rules requiring disclosure of information and prohibition on criminal activity
    • If you are arrested or charged with a crime, it is extremely important that you obtain legal counsel that is competent in both criminal law and immigration law
    • ESF must update SEVIS within 21 days with "Any disciplinary action taken by the school against the student as a result of the student being convicted of a crime
  • Abide by F-1 end of program grace period rules
    • 60 days to depart the U.S. following program/OPT completion
  • Seek advice and prior permission if you plan to:
    • Register for less than full-time/ drop a class
    • Take online courses
    • Take courses at another institution
    • Apply for employment
      • On-campus: Attend on-campus employment seminar at SCIS    
      • Off-campus: Attend CPT or OPT seminar at SCIS
    • Take a leave of absence or withdraw from the College
    • Transfer (during program or end of program)


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