Once an international student has finished all required course work and will no longer be enrolling full time, she/he may choose to enroll with a reduced course load. In order to do this, the student must obtain a “reduced course load certification” from UC International Services. International graduate students who have completed all required course work MUST register for at least one graduate credit hour during an academic year (preferably fall semester) to maintain university and immigration status. However, an international student must register for one graduate credit hour each semester (excluding summer) if: he/she lives in university housing; has office space or uses university equipment, or laboratories; uses any university facilities including computer labs, libraries, practice facilities or recreational facilities; or if he/she is authorized for Curricular Practical Training. Unless an international student registers for 6 credit hours or more he/she will not be charged for the university student health insurance policy. If needed, an international student is eligible to purchase university student health insurance if he/she is a graduate student and registered for one credit hour. However, the student MUST go to the student health insurance office and enroll to get it. If the student decides not to get the university policy, she/he MUST have insurance while in U.S.; information on policies that can be purchased can be obtained from UC International Services (7148 Edwards Center One) or the office’s website.
An international student needs to be aware of how reduced course load affects his/her ability to work on campus. International students are permitted to work on campus 20 hours a week while school is in session. There is no hourly limitation during scheduled breaks (i.e., summer semester, spring break, break between the end of fall semester and the beginning of spring semester) and students can work up to 40 hours a week.
While registering for 1 credit hour (or not enrolling at all), it is assumed that the student is writing her/his thesis or dissertation full-time for that semester as well as the semesters not enrolled. As such, international students can only work 20 hours a week except during the breaks stipulated above. Students who are "enrolled and regularly attending classes" are eligible for the optional exemption from withholding in the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS). Such students are also exempt from withholding of Social Security and Medicare taxes. "Enrolled and regularly attending classes" is defined as half-time enrollment for the current term (5 or more credit hours for graduate students). Graduate students actively working on a thesis who are registered for 1 credit hour are not considered enrolled and regularly attending classes. As such, PERS deductions would be taken from a student’s paychecks.
Graduate Assistants on Reduced Course Load will need to register for at least one credit hour for each semester they will be working as grad assistants (whether as a teaching assistant or research assistant). Students funded by grants do not need to be registered for 12 credit hours.
Many international graduate students who have completed all required course work decide to return to their home country while working on their thesis/dissertation. It is important to understand that if an international student leaves the U.S. for more than 5 months his/her current SEVIS record will be terminated. In order to return to the U.S., UC International Services will need several things. First, the office needs the student’s college/department to certify that she/he is still a student in good standing and when she/he will complete the program. Next the student will submit proof of financial support for the remainder of her/his program of study. Upon receipt of these two things UC International Services will create a new SEVIS record for the student and send him or her a new I-20. Federal regulations will require that the student pay the $200 SEVIS fee again and go to the U.S. embassy and get a new F-1 visa stamp before he/she can reenter the U.S. If the student plans to leave the U.S. for a period of at least 5 months, she or he should notify UC International Services prior to departure.