Penn State Graduate School Penn State Penn State Graduate School

Credit Loads for International Students

Purpose: to set the minimum credit load per semester for international students.

Academic Goal: to assure that international graduate students meet minimum requirements for proceeding in a timely fashion toward completion of their degrees while ensuring compliance with US federal regulations.

Scope: all international graduate students on an F1 or J1 visa.

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 Background

The Department of Homeland Security requires that international students on an F1 or J1 visa proceed in a timely fashion toward completion of their degrees, as established by the graduate program and (usually) stated on their initial immigration document. Regulations further state that international students must be in residence, and enrolled full time. Failure to maintain normal progress toward completion of the degree will jeopardize the student’s ability to continue academic study, adjust status, or seek future employment in the United States.

Policy Statement

  1. International students may not be enrolled less than full-time during fall or spring semester without prior approval of the University Office of Global Programs Directorate of International Student Advising (DISA).
  2. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security requires the DISA to report violations of status, including failure to maintain full-time enrollment. The following is intended to provide guidance for international graduate students and for DISA in determining full-time status:
    1. A graduate student is considered full-time if registered for a minimum of 9 credits, excluding courses taken for audit, or if a Ph.D. candidate has successfully completed the comprehensive examination and is registered for SUBJ 601.
    2. On rare occasions, and under exceptional circumstances, international students in master’s degree programs who have completed all required course work and, if applicable, research for their degree, may be granted an exception to the need to maintain full-time status as defined above, for a limited period (in no case to exceed two semesters).
    3. Under all circumstances, international students must be enrolled either full-time or approved by DISA for a reduced course load.

Process

International students in master’s degree programs who have completed all required course work and, if applicable, research for their degree who wish to petition for an exception to full-time status must submit a special petition to DISA in advance of the semester in which the exception is needed. The academic adviser will be asked to justify the reduced course load.

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