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Distance Education Courses for F-1 Students

Online Courses for F-1 Students

What is Considered an Online Course?

According to federal regulations, an online course is a class taken online or through distance learning which “does not require the student’s physical attendance for classes, examination, or other purposes integral to completion of the class.” (Source: U.S. Code of Federal Regulation: [8 CFR § 214.2 (f)(6)(i)(G)])

How Many Can I Take Per Semester?

“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 online 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.” (Source: U.S. Code of Federal Regulation: [8 CFR § 214.2 (f)(6)(i)(G)])

What Does This Mean?

Important: This regulation pertains only to F-1 international students physically present in the United States.

For F-1 students studying at SUNY Plattsburgh, a full-time course load is required only during the fall and spring semesters.

During the fall and spring semesters, an F-1 student is limited to only one online or distance education course that can be counted towards a full-time course load, whether it is a SUNY Plattsburgh course or a course offered by another school.

There is no requirement that students be enrolled during summer or winter sessions, which are optional. Thus, F-1 students can take as many online or distance education courses from SUNY Plattsburgh or from another institution as they wish (with SUNY Plattsburgh’s approval) during summer or winter sessions.

How Does This Work in the Real World?

Example 1:

An undergraduate international student is taking 16 credits, 9 of which are in traditional on campus classes and 6 online in the fall semester. Since fall is a required term for SUNY Plattsburgh, only one online course, or 3 credits, counts toward the full-time course load. This student is thus maintaining his or her F-1 student status because he has 12 credits (9 traditional plus 3 online credits).

Example 2:

An undergraduate international student in their senior year wants to take three online courses during the winter term. They want to stay at SUNY Plattsburgh during the winter term. Winter term is optional for SUNY Plattsburgh students, and those who do enroll can take up to 9 credits during the winter term. Therefore, they may take all three online courses in the winter term and still maintain their F-1 student status.

What if I Want to Take More Than One Online Course?

Taking more than one online course is fine, but students with an F-1 visa MUST make sure they are also taking at least 9 credits worth of classes that include meeting physically on campus.

If I am in My Last Semester of Study & Only Need One Course to Graduate, Can I Take a Distance Education Course?

No. Immigration regulations strictly prohibit students in their last semester of study from taking ONLY an online course. Even if students only need to take an online course, they must still take another traditional course that requires regular classroom meetings. It is best to consult with an International Student Advisor before making these plans.

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