Online Course Enrollment
F-1 and J-1 student visa holders have restrictions regarding the number of online (or distance learning) credits that can be taken during the semester as it relates to fulfilling the full-time enrollment requirement. There are also restrictions regarding online enrollment during the final term of study – especially when the final term for completion is in summer. Please note: ESL students cannot take online coursework to fulfill the fulltime enrollment requirement.
Fall and Spring Semester Enrollment
A student may enroll for up to 3 credits of online coursework in any given Fall or Spring semester that may count toward full-time enrollment requirements. For example:
- Fulltime enrollment for a graduate student is 8 credits; a minimum of 5 credits must represent enrollment in traditional courses if a graduate student were to take 3 credits of online coursework to meet the fulltime enrollment requirement.
- Fulltime enrollment for an undergraduate student is 12 credits; a minimum of 9 credits must represent enrollment in traditional courses if an undergraduate student were to take 3 credits of online coursework to meet the fulltime requirement.
As long as minimum credits levels in traditional coursework are maintained (for example, 5 credits for graduates and 9 credits for undergraduates), students may take more than 3 credits of online coursework.
For continuing students (that is, students who enrolled full-time for the Spring semester and intend to enroll full-time for the Fall semester), there are no restrictions regarding online enrollment in the summer. As summer term is considered a vacation period, it is not a required term for enrollment for continuing students.
Final Term of Study (Fall, Spring and Summer)
If only one course is needed to complete the program of study and the student intends to remain in the US, the final course cannot be online. Students intending to remain in the US while finishing degree requirements – and in order to be eligible to participate in post-degree completion work opportunities – must take final credits on-campus in a traditional course. Students considering completion of final work while abroad or through another institution must discuss this matter with ISS as there are serious consequences for F-1 and J-1 status and benefits.
Impact on Post-degree Work Permission (OPT and AT)
As noted above, in order to be eligible to participate in post-degree completion work opportunities, a student’s final credits must be taken on-campus in a traditional course. F-1 students intending to participate in Optional Practical Training (OPT) and J-1 students intending to participate in Academic Training (AT) cannot finish their degree requirements by only enrolling in online coursework.