Understanding Enrollment Requirements for International Students


This process page explains the regulatory background, enrollment requirements, exceptions allowed by regulation, and an explanation of required course configuration in Banner. This process is applicable to F-1 and J-1 students only. Students in other statuses have different requirements. International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) is required by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to provide an enrollment verification within in 30 days of the drop/add deadline of every semester for every F-1 and J-1 student sponsored by the University of Tennessee (UT).

General Requirement

In general, undergraduate student must be enrolled for 12 credit hours and graduate students must be enrolled in 9 credit hours. F-1 students can count 3 credit hours of online coursework towards their total. J-1 students cannot count any online course work towards their total.

Course of Study Definitions and Non-Approved Coursework

Regulations state that, “The student is considered to be maintaining status if he or she is making normal progress toward completing a course of study.” 8 CFR 214.2(f)(5)(i). This is understood to mean that the student must be taking classes that directly advance the progress of their degree. Given this fact, certain coursework does not meet the enrollment requirement for the maintenance of status for F-1 status students.

Academic Catalog

The UT Academic Catalog serves as the final reference point for any discussion regarding the applicability of a course towards degree progress. DHS will audit institutional compliance against Federal regulations, Federal guidance, and the UT Academic Catalog. Questions regarding the suitability of coursework for status is directly dependent on the UT Academic Catalog. Advisements from individual departments, advisors, professors, or deans will not meet federal compliance requirements.

Use of Facilities Courses

Use of Facilities courses are not part of curriculum map pursuant to a degree award. As such, they have no academic value as interpreted through the regulatory requirement of “normal progress.”

Course Completion

Audited and withdrawn courses do not meet the requirements of normal progress. Coursework registered for in this status does not meet enrollment requirements.

Online Course Designation

Courses with the Attribute, “fully online,” and any course affiliated with the Distance Education Campus are considered online for the purposes of immigration compliance.

Regulatory Background

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) governing the requirements are listed below:

8 CFR 214.2(f)(5)(i) (progress requirement)

(i) General …The student is considered to be maintaining status if he or she is making normal progress toward completing a course of study.

8 CFR 214.3(g)(2)(iii) (reporting requirement)

(iii) Each term or session and no later than 30 days after the deadline for registering for classes, schools are required to report

8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(B) (undergraduate enrollment requirement)

(B) Undergraduate study at a college or university, certified by a school official to consist of at least twelve semester or quarter hours of instruction per academic term in those institutions using standard semester

8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(A) (graduate enrollment requirement)

(A) Postgraduate study or postdoctoral study at a college or university, or undergraduate or postgraduate study at a conservatory or religious seminary, certified by a DSO as a full course of study

Note, due to the language of the CFR, the academic catalog defines full-time enrollment for graduate students.

8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G) (online study limitation)

(G) For F-1 students enrolled in classes for credit or classroom hours, no more than the equivalent of one class or three credits per session, term, semester, trimester, or quarter may be counted toward the full course of study requirement if the class is taken on-line or through distance education and does not require the student's physical attendance for classes, examination or other purposes integral to completion of the class. An on-line or distance education course is a course that is offered principally through the use of television, audio, or computer transmission including open broadcast, closed circuit, cable, microwave, or satellite, audio conferencing, or computer conferencing. If the F-1 student's course of study is in a language study program, no on-line or distance education classes may be considered to count toward a student's full course of study requirement.

8 CFR 214.2(f)(5)(iii) (summer vacation provision)

(iii) Annual vacation. An F-1 student at an academic institution is considered to be in status during the annual (or summer) vacation if the student is eligible and intends to register for the next term. A student attending a school on a quarter or trimester calendar who takes only one vacation a year during any one of the quarters or trimesters instead of during the summer is considered to be in status during that vacation, if the student has completed the equivalent of an academic year prior to taking the vacation.

8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(iii) (reduced course load exceptions)

(iii) Reduced course load. The designated school official may allow an F-1 student to engage in less than a full course of study as provided in this paragraph (f)(6)(iii). Except as otherwise noted, a reduced course load must consist of at least six semester or quarter hours, or half the clock hours required for a full course of study. A student who drops below a full course of study without the prior approval of the DSO will be considered out of status. On-campus employment pursuant to the terms of a scholarship, fellowship, or assistantship is deemed to be part of the academic program of a student otherwise taking a full course of study.