Reduced Course Load (RCL)

Important Dates and F-1 Deadlines

There are very few exceptions to the full-time course load rule.  Students must request approval from an International Student Advisor at OIP before dropping below full-time academic status.   

To obtain approval, students must submit a signed and completed Reduced Course Load (RCL) form to OIP. The RCL form must be signed by the student and the student’s academic advisor (except RCL due to the medical condition).

Students who drop below a full course of study without the prior approval from OIP will be considered out of status and must be reported in SEVIS. The students SEVIS record will be terminated and they will lose F-1 status and their employment eligibility and other benefits.

Attention Graduate Students: Read Full-Time Equivalency (FTE) if you will be working on Culminating Experience requirement and register in less than 8 units.

There are three types of RCL:

RCL due to the academic difficulty is only available for students who are attending school in the US for the first time. This is a one-time only exception. Continuing students who have been attending SF State and the new students who transferred from another 4-year and 2-year institutions in the U.S. are not eligible for this exception.  Students who wish to request RCL due to academic difficulty must meet with an International Student Advisor at OIP and submit the RCL form in person.  The RCL form must be signed by both the student and by the student's academic advisor.  Permission from OIP MUST be obtained by university’s withdrawal deadline posted on Registrar’s website.

Federal Immigration regulations define academic difficulty as:

Initial difficulty with English Language or reading requirements (First semester in the U.S. only); or Unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods (First semester in the U.S. only); or improper course placement.  In some cases, students may be required to provide OIP with written proof from academic advisor explaining how they were misadvised.  Written proof must be printed on the department letterhead and sign by the academic advisor.

Once the RCL is approved, students must:

  1. Register for at least 6 units (for Undergraduate) or 4 units (for graduates) in the approved semester.
  2. Resume a full course of study in the next available Fall/Spring Semester in order to maintain legal student status.
  3. Will not be eligible for a second RCL due to academic difficulty authorization.
  4. Will be eligible for other RCLs.

Download RCL due to Academic difficulty Form

To apply for RCL due to the medical condition, permission from OIP MUST be obtained: 

  1. If the student is not planning to enroll full-time due to medical condition:  Your RCL must be approved by OIP within 2 weeks of the semester start at SF State.
  2. If the student is enrolled full-time and a medical condition occurs during the semester: Contact an International Student Advisor at OIP immediately.

Students must request an U.S. licensed medical doctor (MD), doctor of osteopathy (DO), or licensed clinical psychologist to complete the RCL form, or attach an original letter from the doctor (on the doctor’s original letterhead stationary) substantiating the student’s illness or medical condition (this means a brief but detailed description of the student’s medical condition/illness).  The doctor’s letter must also recommend that the student enrolls in either 0 units or in a part-time course of study for this semester.  

Important reminder:

  1. A reduced course load or withdrawal from SF State due to a medical condition cannot exceed a total of more than 12 months (3 academic semesters) at each degree level.  If you have filed RCL due to medical condition in the U.S. before, speak to an F-1 advisor to determine your eligibility.
  2. A separate RCL must be completed and approved each semester if more than one semester of RCL is needed.
  3. The student must resume a full course of study in the next available Fall/Spring semester in order to maintain legal student status unless another RCL is approved.
  4. Medical RCL will only be considered if the request is submitted BEFORE the end of the semester in which the student wishes to be part-time.  Medical RCL cannot be approved retroactively.

Download RCL due to Medical Condition Form

OIP may authorize RCL if the student is in his or her final semester and if fewer courses than a full-time course load are needed to complete a degree program listed on his/her I-20.  Please note:

  1. RCL due to Completion of Study is a one-time only exception.
  2. RCL due to Completion of Study can only be approved for Spring or Fall semester.  If you are graduating in Summer, you must maintain full-time status in Spring.  Also, if you have an approved RCL due to completion of study in Spring, you must graduate in Spring, not Summer.   
  3. All the remaining courses must be taken at SF State.  No concurrent enrollment at another institution is allowed.
  4. If a student needs only one course to complete the program in the Spring or Fall semester, it cannot be an online course.  A hybrid course is acceptable.
  5. All the remaining courses must be SF State graduation requirement.  RCL due to Completion of Study will not be approved for students who wish to take non-required courses for other purposes (i.e. raise GPA or just for personal enrichment).

To request an RCL due to Completion of Study, a student must:

  1. Have the RCL due to Completion of Study Form signed by both Major department and the Academic Advising Center.  Business and HTM major students must get a signature from BUS 112.
  2. Enrolled in the required units prior to submitting the submitting the RCL form to OIP.
  3. Submit the RCL form to OIP front desk by the “Adding Classes with Permission Numbers” deadline posted at Registrar's website


Attention Graduate Students!

If you have been approved for Full-Time Equivalency (FTE) for your "grace semester" and will continue to work on the Culminating Experience after your "grace semester" ends, you must submit RCL due to Completion.  
You RCL form must be signed by one of your committee members.  Also, you must also complete the following steps before submitting the RCL form to OIP:
  1. Clear the Health Insurance Hold: Purchase and maintain SF State sponsored health insurance for the entire semester, and
  2. Register for one for CEL 499 courses under your college name, and
  3. Apply for graduation at your Student Center (You can apply for graduation after semester starts)


Download RCL due to Completion of Study Form


Last updated: October 2019