U.S. federal government regulations require all F-1 and J-1 international students to maintain valid immigration status. One of the principal requirements of student status is full-time enrollment. Failure to maintain full-time enrollment can result in serious consequences. While it is ultimately a student's responsibility to maintain their full-time enrollment, the Office of Global Services (OGS) is here to guide you. You must maintain full-time enrollment each academic term (except during designated vacation periods) and make continuous progress towards the completion of your program of study.

Video: How to Maintain your F-1/J-1 Status

Maintaining full-time enrollment

Full-time enrollment is as follows:

  • Undergraduate: minimum of 12 credit hours per term
  • Graduate: minimum of 8 credit hours per term (9 credit hours per term in a 3-credit enrollment system)
  • Graduate students who hold an assistantship: 6 credit hours per term
  • International students enrolled in NU Immerse/Global Pathways must follow the requirements of their programs

Defined Instructional Methods

  • Traditional: meets fully on ground in a physical location with instructor present
  • Hybrid: meets majority on ground in a physical location with instructor present with some online instructional component
  • Live cast: meets fully on ground in a physical location with the instructor in a different location teaching synchronously and supported by an instructional assistant in the physical location
  • Online: meets fully online

Online Limitations

The U.S. federal government does not look favorably on F-1 students participating in online courses and imposes limitations on online course enrollment.  

In general, F-1 students may be eligible to take: 

  • one 3-credit online course, or 
  • one 4-credit online course in a 4-credit enrollment system 
  • up to three credits total for 1-credit courses, i.e., three 1-credit courses, or one 2-credit course and one 1-credit course 

Students must have on-ground presence throughout the academic term.  The traditional format for courses is fully on-ground and meets the F-1 on-ground presence requirements.  Hybrid courses meet the F-1 on-ground presence requirements. However, the combination of all hybrid courses plus one online course toward the full-time enrollment requirement is not acceptable for maintaining the F-1 on-ground presence requirements*.  

J-1 students are only permitted to take online courses if they have already met the minimum full-time on-ground requirements. 

It is important that students contact their academic advisor before enrolling in online courses or withdrawing from any courses, so that they can make an informed decision about their enrollment. There are exceptions based on academic program requirements in colleges where courses are offered in different instructional formats. 

Reduced Course Loads or Leaves of Absence

Students should not take a reduced course load or a non-medical leave of absence without discussing these options and obtaining authorization from OGS before the start of the term or before dropping any course. Please see sections on reduced course load and leaves of absence for more information on these topics.

Information for students in the College of Professional Studies

The same rules regarding maintaining full-time enrollment, as explained above, apply to F-1 students in the College of Professional Studies (CPS), but there are important differences in program delivery.  Courses in CPS span the entire academic term or may be offered in two sessions (A and B) but still count as one full academic term. CPS students must ensure that they are enrolled in on-ground courses throughout the entire term. For instance, F-1 students cannot enroll in courses that only occur in session A of the term and have no course enrollment in session B of the term.

F-1 students in CPS also cannot enroll in an online course without first speaking to an academic advisor to confirm their eligibility!

Please note, if F-1 students need to withdraw/drop from a course, they must withdraw/drop from the additional online course and not any of the on-ground core courses in order to maintain full-time enrollment.