Office of International Education

Exception to Full Time

Exception to Full Time Requirements

Each semester all international students must complete a certain minimum number of credits to be considered "full-time" for immigration purposes:

  • Undergraduates must take 12 credits each fall semester and each spring semester
  • Graduate students must take 8-9 credits (Purdue programs: 8 credits, IU programs: 9 credits) each fall semester and each spring semester.
  • Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTA), or Graduate Research Assistants (GRA) may register for 5-6 credits (Purdue programs: 5 credits, IU programs: 6 credits). A copy of the graduate students GTA/GRA appointment letter may serve as authorization to carry a reduced course load.
  • Graduate Administrative Assistants (GAA) may be authorized to carry a reduced course load if their duties are directly related to their program of study. Authoization for GAAs to carry a reduced course load must be approved by both the Graduate Program Director and the Director of International Education.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allows the International Student Advisor to make exceptions to the full time requirement in four (4) types of situations. If your current situation qualifies you to drop below than full-time enrollment based on one of the four (4) following requirements, please come to OIE to collect the Exception to Full-time Form and to meet with one of the International Student Advisors before the beginning of the semester to check if you qualify for the exception.

Read the information below and prepare the required documentation from your doctor or academic advisor. Then, schedule an appointment with the International Student Advisor for approval before dropping below full-time enrollment.

  1. An illness or other medical condition to interrupt or reduce student’s course of study. (Student must submit a letter from his/her doctor indicating that (s)he recommends the student take a semester off or to reduce credit load for medical reasons).
  2. Difficulty understanding the English language, unfamiliar with American teaching methods or reading requirements. This exception is generally only allowed during the very first semester in an academic program in the U.S., not including “English as Second Language” training (the academic advisor must recommend a reduced course load for one semester by completing the Exception to Full-time Form).
  3. An improper level of study. The academic advisor must confirm that the course level is an improper placement for the student by completing the exception to full-time form and write a separate detailed letter to explain the situation.
  4. Last semester before graduation. Student is expected to graduate at the end of the semester and needs less than the full-time credit load to complete his/her coursework (the academic advisor must affirm this by completing the Exception to Full-time Form).
  5. The student is registered for required/recommended off campus internship credit. If this is the case, additional CPT authorization form is required. See more information on CPT here..
  6. The student has been approved for a graduate teaching, graduate research, or graduate administrative assistantship. Documentation is also required for these types of positions. Please see your academic advisor or stop by our office. You can visit this section of our website for more clarification (find the definitions of GTA, GRA, OR GAA)