Full-Time Equivalency (FTE)

Full Time Equivalency (FTE) is a full-time exception used for graduate students who meet one of the two following scenarios:

  • Have enrolled in their culminating experience course, or
  • Are in the semester after they have enrolled in their culminating experience course ('the Grace semester')

This definition is for maintaining F-1 student immigration status only.

General Information

An FTE may be granted in the following scenarios:

Scenario 1

Students are in their final semester of coursework and are enrolled in one of the following Culminating Experience course(s):

890 - Culminating Experience Seminar 895 – Field Study/Applied Research Project
892 – Supervised Field Internship 896EX – Comprehensive Examination
893 – Written Creative Work 898 – Thesis
894 – Creative Work Project 998 – Dissertation

Scenario 2

Students have completed all coursework(s), received an RP grade for their Culminating Experience course, and are continuing to work on Culminating Experience during the grace semester.

  • Students should check with their academic departments to ensure they are eligible for a grace semester.
  • During the grace semester, students are considered matriculated students and are eligible for most of the campus support services. An additional fee may apply if they wish to use Student Health Services (SHS).

Doctoral students

Doctoral students might not be eligible for FTE because they must adhere to program-specific continuous enrollment requirements. They should consult with their department chair before submitting an FTE request. See Continuous Enrollment Policy | Division of Graduate Studies (sfsu.edu)


The chart below explains international graduate students' academic and immigration requirements (including employment eligibility) while completing their culminating experience courses at the end of their programs.

  • Academic progress: Students should maintain frequent contact with their faculty advisor and make reasonable academic progress toward graduation.
  • FTE approval is not guaranteed: Students who delay their project due to non-academic reasons will not be eligible for FTE.
  • Delay caused by medical condition: If students are not able to make normal academic progress and meet the timeline due to medical reasons, they must inform their faculty advisor immediately. They might also be eligible for Reduced Course Load (RCL) due to medical conditions.
  • Must maintain F-1 status by remaining in the U.S.: Students can take short trips outside the U.S. However, students are required to remain in the U.S. to complete their Culminating Experience course.
  • Students who wish to complete their Culminating Experience outside the U.S. should file an F-1 Status Time Off Request Form instead of an FTE.
  • FTE request (with all signatures) is due before the Add/Drop Deadline for each semester posted on the SF State Registrar's website.
  • The earliest an FTE Request may be submitted is after the prior semester grade posting date (unless paired with other requests, such as an I-20 extension). For example, if a student is submitting an FTE for Spring 2024:
    • The earliest date to submit the request will be after the Fall 2023 grade posting date.
    • The deadline to submit is the Spring 2024 add/drop deadline.
  • Review the Full-Time Equivalency (FTE) qualifications above and download the Full-Time Equivalency (FTE) form (PDF, 143KB).
  • Obtain signature: Reach out to the Graduate Coordinator or one of the committee members to sign the form.
  • Register in the Culminating Experience course or have received an RP grade for the Culminating Experience course in the previous semester.
  • Clear the health insurance registration hold (including the grace semester): Students must purchase and maintain SF State pre-approved health insurance for the entire semester
  • Submit FTE: Email the FTE form with 2 signatures (student signature, graduate advisor/coordinator/committee signature) to f1@sfsu.edu from their SF State email address. We accept digital signatures, scanned copies, and high-resolution/clear pictures of the completed form. 
  • Wait for approval: Students will receive a confirmation email within 5 business days.

Last updated: January 2024

For PDF files,  Adobe Acrobat 5.0 or above is required to view it. Adobe Acrobat Reader it's available free from Adobe(link is external)