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In order to maintain your lawful J-1 status you must be a full-time, registered student each term you are present in the U.S. with the exception of recognized vacation terms. For some programs there are no recognized vacation terms. It is important that you are aware of the expected registration requirements for your specific program. 

Students must consult with their school and/or academic program to confirm the definition of full-time enrollment and make sure to enroll in the appropriate number of credits to be in full-time status.

  • Undergraduate students must enroll in a minimum of 12 credits per semester to be considered in full-time status except when fewer credits are required to complete the program in the final term of study.
  • Graduate students must follow their program’s requirements to remain in full-time status except when fewer credits are required to complete the program in the final term of study.
  • Audited courses do not count towards full-time enrollment.
  • You may only count one online course towards your full-time enrollment.

J-1 Non-Degree Students Engaged in Research Only

J-1 Non-Degree students engaged in research only are registered for a research practicum course as defined by the invitation letter. Registration in this course meets full time requirements. These students are classified as visiting students or research trainees (SOM only) by the University. 

Reduced Course Load

There are certain circumstances in which dropping below full-time status is allowed with PRIOR approval from the OIS. Reduced course loads are authorized on a term basis. Students must submit the Reduced Course Load Request form through iHopkins and receive approval from OIS before dropping below full-time enrollment. Dropping below full-time enrollment without prior approval from OIS is a violation of your J-1 status. J-1 students, both Degree Seeking and Non-Degree may be able to request a reduced course load as described below. Some restrictions apply, please review the RCL reasons below and contact OIS if you have any questions.

Reduced Course Load (RCL) Reasons

  • For Academic Reasons: such reasons may include but are not limited to: difficulty with the English language, improper course level placement, unfamiliarity with American teaching methods, and students in the last term of their academic program. This reason does not apply to non-degree students, including visiting students and research trainees, who are engaged in research only.
  • For Medical Reasons: for any medical reason in which you can provide written documentation (see sample letter) from a medical doctor or doctor of osteopathy recommending that you take a reduced or no course load for a particular term. 

The letter must include the following: a recommendation for part-time or no enrollment, the number of credits/courses a student may take during the term (can be no coursework, if applicable), must be on the practitioner’s letterhead, written in English and include their credentials and contact information. Letters must be dated within 30 days of the date you submit the RCL eForm request in iHopkins.

Students who will be outside the U.S. while on a medical leave of absence are not required to request an RCL.  Instead, OIS can end your J-1 record and then you can contact us prior to your return to the U.S. to discuss your J-1 options.  If you are taking a medical LOA and will not request an RCL, you must notify OIS of your plans so we can update your J-1 record accordingly.

To Request a Reduced Course Load Authorization

Upon submitting your part of the RCL request, it will be routed to your academic advisor for their review. Once your advisor reviews their portion of the request and approves, it will be routed to OIS for final review and approval. Your request is not considered approved until you receive an email from OIS stating that the RCL authorization has been completed in your SEVIS record. Requests submitted to OIS before the term start will be processed once the term begins.

Submit the “J-1 Reduced Course Load” eFrom in iHopkins. To submit your request:

  • Go to
  • Click “Login” under “Active JHED Login.
  • Login with your JHED ID and password.
  • Once logged in, click on “J-1 Student Services” in the menu on the left, then click on “J-1 Reduced Course Load” eForm.
  • Enter all required information and upload all required documentation, if applicable. This eForm will then be routed to your Academic Advisor for approval.
  • Once OIS approves your eForm request, you will receive an email notification along with an updated DS-2019, if requested.

Failure to Maintain Full-Time Status

Dropping below full-time status without prior approval for a reduced course load from OIS is considered a violation of your J-1 status and will result in the termination of your J-1 SEVIS record. Once your J-1 SEVIS record is terminated, you will no longer be lawfully present in the U.S. OIS generally recommends departing the U.S. if your SEVIS record has been terminated.