As an international student, you are required by federal immigration regulations to be enrolled in a minimum amount of units per quarter to maintain your status. This guide provides information on your enrollment requirements, and some special exceptions to these requirements.


Undergraduate Students

Undergraduates must be enrolled in at least 12 units per quarter.

If you are finding it difficult to enroll in a full 12 units due to class selection, please contact your college advisor immediately:

College of Letters and Science:

College of Engineering:

College of Creative Studies:

Graduate Students

Graduate students must be enrolled in at least 8 units per quarter, however, your department may require you to be enrolled in more than 8.

If you are finding it difficult to be enrolled in a full 8 units, please contact your program advisor immediately.

Link to the Graduate Division homepage:

Exceptions To Full-Time Enrollment

F-1 and J-1 students must enroll as full-time students during every quarter of their program of study at UCSB. However, international students at UCSB are eligible to apply for a reduced course load under certain circumstances. Students must obtain approval from OISS before dropping below full-time enrollment. 

Below are the possible circumstances under which you may qualify for an exception to full-time enrollment:

  • Academic Reduced Course Load
  • Medical Reduced Course Load
  • Filing Leave (Graduate Students Only)

Keep reading below to find out which exception you might qualify for, the requirements, and how to apply.

Academic Reduced Course Load

F-1 and J-1 students must enroll as full-time students during every quarter of their program of study at UCSB. In order to drop below full-time enrollment, international students must receive prior authorization from OISS. This is done through requesting a reduced course load. Authorization is not automatic and not every student is eligible for a reduced course load.

  • It is your final quarter and you do not need a full course load to graduate (this option is not available to EAP reciprocity students.)
  • You are finishing your final coursework before your thesis/exams or it is your final quarter (graduate students).
  • You are having initial difficulties with the English language and/or with reading requirements.
  • You are experiencing unfamiliarity with American teaching methods.
  • You have been improperly placed in a course level that is too high.
  • Students must already be enrolled full-time prior to submitting their request.
  • Students requesting a Reduced Course Load must still be enrolled in at least 6 units, unless fewer than 6 units are required to complete your program.
  • A reduced course load for academic reasons may only be approved once during your academic program.
  • Getting a bad grade in a course does not make you eligible for a reduced course load. You may want to explore the Pass/Not Pass grading option when you are uncertain how well you will do in a class or when you do not want a class to count toward your GPA.
  • If one of your final courses is an online course, then you will need to ask OISS about current online course requirements for Reduced Course Loads.
  • Students will need to wait until their first pass time to apply for a Reduced Course Load.
  1. Meet with your college/department advisor to determine your eligibility for a reduced course load and the possible impact of part-time enrollment on your program of study. (For EAP reciprocity students, this is your EAP advisor.)
  2. Complete and submit the Academic Reduced Course Load form on the UCSBGlobal platform.
  3. Make sure to enter your advisor information as instructed. Your academic advisor will receive a request from UCSBGlobal to verify that you are eligible for the Academic Reduced Course Load for one of the valid reasons.
  4. Once approved, you will receive an email notification from OISS. Keep this approval email for your records as proof that you were authorized to drop below full-time enrollment.
  5. Log onto GOLD and drop the appropriate course(s).

Important: Make sure that after your drop your course(s), you are in the minimum number of units you have been approved to take.

Medical Reduced Course Load

Students who are requesting a Medical Reduced Course Load (RCL) are currently receiving treatment for a medical issue that prohibits them from attending a full course of study. If you are approved for a Medical Reduced Course Load, your F-1 or J-1 student status will remain active, and you are eligible to remain in the U.S. If you have a medical circumstance that requires you to go outside of the U.S. (such as surgery with a medical doctor in your home country), then you may want to take a Leave of Absence. Click here to navigate to the Leave of Absence policy page

  • The reduced enrollment must be recommended by a medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist. When requesting your Medical Reduced Course Load, you are required to submit a medical note (more on this next.)
  • Reduced enrollment for health reasons may be approved for no more than a cumulative 365 days during the student’s degree program.
  • Approval for reduced enrollment will be given for only one quarter at a time, thus, continuing health problems may need more than one approval if continued beyond one quarter.
  • If you are approved to take a reduced course load of zero units, you are responsible for coordinating your medical leave and readmission through your academic department/college, and the Office of the Registrar (Graduate Division for graduate students.)

When requesting a Medical Reduced Course Load, you must also submit a medical note. The note must satisfy the following requirements:

  • On official letterhead from a licensed U.S. doctor:
    • medical doctor
    • psychiatrist
    • doctor of osteopathy
    • licensed psychologist
    • licensed clinical psychologist
    • (acupuncturists, dentists, chiropractors, social workers, etc. do not qualify)
  • The letter must include:
    • Quarter or dates during which Medical RCL is being recommended
    • Doctor's printed name, signature, and contact information
  • The letter must indicate that you are a patient who is currently being seen and/or treated by this doctor.
  • All medical notes will be verified by OISS. Any forgery or falsification of medical documents will be reported to the Office of Student Conduct and may result in the student losing their lawful immigration status.


1. Locate the Medical Reduced Course Load request on the UCSBGlobal platform.

2. Indicate the current quarter in which you are requesting the Medical RCL, as well as the number of units you will be taking after you are approved.

3. Upload your medical note that satisfies all the requirements listed above.

4. If you will be taking zero units, upload the UCSB Registrar's Cancellation or Withdrawal Form (undergraduate students.) 

5. Once you receive approval notice from OISS, you are now permitted to drop your enrollment to the number of units for which you were approved.

Filing Leave of Absence (Graduate Students Only)

Graduate students who are in their final quarter can submit a Filing Leave to complete their dissertation or final exam. Please refer to the Graduate Division’s policies on the Filing Leave of Absence. OISS approval is required, but the process is managed by the Graduate Division. International students who are approved to go on Filing Leave will be eligible to maintain an active international student status.

Concurrent and Online Enrollment

Concurrent Enrollment

Students may enroll at other colleges or universities for courses in excess of their full-time course load at UCSB. For more information, including how to apply for authorization, read through the Concurrent Enrollment page. 

Online Enrollment

Students can only be enrolled in one course that is completely online and which counts towards their minimum unit requirement. OISS authorization will be required.