Enrollment Requirements & Academic Part-Time Authorization

Full-Time Courseload
Registering Below Full-Time
Concurrent Enrollment

Online/Distance Classes
Summer Sessions
Study Abroad or Research Abroad

Full-Time Courseload

F-1 & J-1 students are required by federal law to register full-time every fall and spring semester during their programs of study.  Full-time registration is considered to be 12 s.h. for undergrads and 9 s.h. for graduate students.


Reduced Course Load or Registering Below Full-Time

In some situations, F-1 & J-1 degree-seeking students may qualify to enroll below full-time.  The reasons are very limited, and generally relate to first-year adjustment and academic situations.  The reasons include:

Academic Difficulty: Below are two options of which are available to be used only once per degree level.

  • Initial Difficulty - If a degree-seeking student is in his/her first year of study in the U.S. and is experiencing
    (1) initial difficulty with the English language, or
    (2) unfamiliarity with American teaching methods, or
    (3) initial difficulty with reading requirements


  • Improper Course Level – Can be used once at any time during an academic program when a student has registered for a course that is too advanced or difficult for their level.  Students must still take at least 6 semester hours.

Other reasons:

  • Undergraduate or Master's degree candidates in their final semester of study.  This option may only be used once per degree level.  Students must graduate in the semester for which they received this approval.
  • Students who are experiencing serious medical issues may also seek limited permission to drop below full-time, not to exceed 12 months.

All of the above permissions to reduce course load require input from Academic Advisor, ISSS approval and reporting to the SEVIS system. An updated I-20 must be printed for any of these reasons.

Other students who may qualify for a reduced course load are students whose enrollment is considered "Full-Time Equivalent."  These students include:

  • Graduate degree-seeking students who have completed or will complete all course work during the current semester and are making normal progress on a required thesis/dissertation or who take comprehensive examination.
  • Graduate degree-seeking students who hold an assistantship and are registered for a minimum of 6 s.h.
  • Students participating in a full-time on-campus clinical program in Dentistry
  • Students participating in the TAPE or Iowa Intensive English program.  These courses earn no credit but are considered equivalent to 3 s.h. by the ISSS.  Ex. Undergrad is registered in one IIEP class and 9 s.h.; consequently, the student's enrollment may be considered full-time equivalent.

All of the above permissions to reduce course load require input from Academic Advisor and ISSS approval. 

Permission for a Reduced Course Load

Students who wish to receive authorization to register below full-time, or who are engaged in concurrent enrollment at another college or university, must request ISSS permission by following the instructions below:


  1. Login to your iHawk account (click the blue login button) using your HawkID and password. Go to "Other Student Services" and complete the e-form "Part-Time Authorization for Academic Reason."
  2. Once you complete the e-form, your academic advisor will need to review it. Your advisor will receive an email message from ISSS which will provide a link to review your request. Your advisor will be asked to comment on your request.  
  • If you are advised by the Academic Advising Center, you must make an appointment to meet with your advisor before they will approve the e-form request. 
  • If you are advised in an academic department, your departmental advisor may also prefer that you schedule an appointment to meet with them; it is a good idea to inform your academic advisor that he/she has been sent an email from the ISSS that will need to be reviewed and approved.
  1. After your advisor comments on your e-form request, ISSS will review your request.  Once your request is in order, we will send you a confirmation email stating that we have received and processed your request.

Note for Academic Advisors:  If you are unable to read the full reasons on iHawk, they are as follows:

  • Academic Difficulty:  First year of study in the US and having trouble adjusting because of academic difficulty,
  • Enrolled in Iowa Intensive English Program (IIEP) courses,
  • Enrolled at an improper course level (i.e. coursework is too advanced for the student),
  • Bachelor's or Master's student in final semester of study (is graduating this semester),
  • Has a Graduate Assistantship and is enrolled in at least 6 s.h.,
  • Graduate student done with coursework and preparing for comprehensive examinations,
  • Graduate student done with coursework completing Thesis/Dissertation,
  • Enrolled in TAPE (Teaching Assistant Preparation in English) Program,
  • Participating in full-time clinical program in Dentistry,
  • Student is concurrently enrolled at another institution in credit that will transfer to the UI.

Concurrent Enrollment at Another College or University 

Students may also wish to take a course or two at a nearby college and apply that credit to the degree program at the University of Iowa.  This is called concurrent enrollment.  Students must have been enrolled at the UI for a minimum of one semester to be eligible and must still be enrolled in a minimum of 6 s.h. at the University of Iowa to qualify.

Reminder about Long Distance Education/On-Line Classes

Only one on-line or distance education class (up to 3 s.h.) can be counted each semester toward full-time equivalency, or towards 12 s.h. for undergraduate students or 9 s.h. for graduate/professional students.  The class is considered “on-line” or “distance education” if it does not require the student’s physical attendance in a classroom for classes, exams, or “other purposes integral to completion of the class.”  These include courses offered “principally through the use of television, audio, or computer transmission, including open broadcast, closed circuit, cable, microwave, satellite, audio conferencing, or computer conferencing.” J-1 students cannot count any online course toward full-time enrollment.

If it is the final semester (whether fall, spring, or summer) and a full course load is not needed, students are not permitted to take only an online class.  At least one in-person course must be taken curing the final semester.

Summer Session

Registration during the summer session is not required unless it is the first semester of study OR a student has changed to a new degree level which becomes effective during a summer session.  In these cases, 6 s.h. is considered full-time for undergrads and 5 s.h. for graduate students.


Study Abroad or Research Abroad

If you will be absent from the U.S. for an extended period of time, but will be registered in an official study abroad program OR you will be maintaining your registration at the University of Iowa while doing research/working on your dissertation, your SEVIS record will not be terminated, provided you continue to maintain status and agree to meet certain requirements.

For students conducting research abroad, you must maintain full-time enrollment or be authorized for part-time enrollment by ISSS each semester you are absent (12 s.h. for undergraduates and 9 s.h. for graduate students).  If you pursue part-time enrollment, you must submit the appropriate part-time authorization e-form in iHawk no later than the second week of the semester

You are encouraged to e-mail isss@uiowa.edu at least one month prior to returning to the U.S. to confirm your SEVIS record is active and you will be able to return successfully.