MENU Office of International Services


Please note that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has released temporary guidance impacting F-1 international student enrollment requirements and status maintenance through the 2021-22 academic year. Please see our Fall 2021 International Student Status Maintenance Reminders and Coronavirus/COVID-19 Updates for the UIC International Community for the most up-to-date information.

Full-Time Enrollment

F-1 and J-1 students must maintain their legal immigration status at all times. Maintaining status is necessary in order to receive the benefits of F-1 and J-1 status. United States immigration law places responsibility on the individual student to know and follow all relevant immigration regulations. Failure to maintain non-immigrant status can result in serious consequences with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Please read the information and contact OIS with any questions regarding the following regulations:

Registration requirements:

Always maintain full-time enrollment during the Fall and Spring semesters.

Full time at UIC means:

Credit Hours Description
8 credit hours Graduate students, excluding professional programs, who are awarded a 50% assistantship (please note that graduate students need to register for 9 credit hours to be eligible for the CTA Ventra U-Pass Card. You may refer to the Graduate College Website for more information on registration.)
9 credit hours All other graduate students
12 credit hours All undergraduate students, professional program (DDS, DPT, and PharmD) students, and students who are awarded a fellowship or Graduate College tuition and service-fee waiver (without an assistantship)

Note: Graduate students on an F-1 or J-1 visa may be eligible to register for 597, 598, or 599 (zero credit-hours) and be considered full-time if all requirements are complete except for project or thesis, and a petition is submitted to the Graduate College and approved. Students having an active fellowship, assistantship, or tuition and service-fee waiver are not eligible for zero-hours.

Enrollment During the Summer Session:

Registration for the Summer semester is not required for students who are continuing their program and have registered the following Fall semester. (Students on 12 month programs must be registered for all 12 months.) Students who will complete their program in summer must be registered for summer.

Students who begin their program in the Summer semester must register for a full-course of study, which is 5 credit hours as defined by the Graduate College. For professional programs and undergraduate programs, full-time in summer is defined as 6 credits.

Online Courses:

International students with F-1 and J-1 visas must be careful when enrolling for online courses as each visa category carries limitations on online course enrollment as it relates to the full-time enrollment requirement.

F-1 students may only count one online course (up to 3 credits) toward their full-time enrollment requirement. J-1 students may not count any online courses toward their full-time enrollment requirement. If a student only needs one course to finish their program of study, it cannot be taken through online or distance education. There must be a physical presence requirement during the final term of study. F-1 and J-1 students may take additional online courses during the semester once the full-time enrollment requirement is met.

Students with government sponsorship may be subject to additional limitations on online course enrollment as per the terms of their funding agreement. Such students are encouraged to consult with their sponsoring organizations directly.


Concurrent Enrollment:

F-1 students considering enrollment at a different SEVIS-approved school while maintaining enrollment at UIC (concurrent enrollment) must meet with an OIS advisor PRIOR to beginning concurrent studies.

Final Semester of Study:

Students can register for less than full time only during their last semester. A student will need to provide a letter from their department verifying that it is their last semester.

Exceptions to Full-Time Enrollment:

Under limited circumstances, students may be authorized by OIS to reduce their course load based on certain academic and/or medical reasons. If a student is experiencing academic difficulties or a medical condition that requires them to drop below full-time, consult with an OIS advisor immediately. F-1 and J-1 international students must obtain prior authorization from OIS before dropping below full-time.

Change of Major or Change of Degree Level

Students must notify the Office of International Services (OIS) if there are any changes to their academic program, such as a change in major or degree level. When the student has been admitted into their new major or level, the student must request a new Form I-20 (F-1) or DS-2019 (J-1) from OIS.

How to Notify OIS of a Change in Major:

  1. Complete the Change of Major Notification form
  2. Attach copy of approval from academic department or college
    • If undergraduate, the student must submit a letter from their new major's department stating that they have been accepted.
    • If graduate, the student must submit a completed Request for Change of Graduate Program form from the Graduate College.
  3. If change/addition of major requires additional time to complete, an I-20/DS-2019 extension will be needed: Attach Program Extension Request form (available online at with financial documents to show that the student can cover tuition and living expenses of one academic year, or required period of extension, whichever is sooner.
  4. Submit Change of Major or Level notification (and Program extension, if needed) to OIS.

Note: OIS can only update a student's I-20/DS-2019 once the department or college has admitted the student to the new program and the new major is reflected in the University’s database system. Once the new major is reflected in your official University record, OIS can then report the change of major to SEVIS and print the new I-20/DS-2019, if needed.


Leave of Absence

International students that desire to take a leave of one semester or more from the University, with the intention of resuming studies at a later term, must obtain prior approval from their college or department and the Office of International Services.

Any student requesting a leave of absence should first meet with an international student advisor. Any leave from the University can have an impact on the student's immigration record.