Rules for Taking On-Line or Distance Education Courses If You Are an International Student in F-1 Status
On-line courses have become increasingly popular for students. Many colleges and universities, including Binghamton, have greatly expanded their on-line and distance education course offerings in the past few years. The US federal government, however, limits the number of on-line courses that an F-1 student can count towards a full-time course load during a required term. Please note that course registration choices allowed for an international student can be very different from what is allowed for a US citizen student. You must follow the immigration regulations governing your status.
Here is the text of the federal regulation:
"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 on-line 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. An on-line or distance education course is a course that is offered principally through the use of television, audio, or computer transmission including open broadcast, closed circuit, cable, microwave, or satellite, audio conferencing, or computer conferencing."
What does this mean?
The rules for on-line courses are complicated, this is especially true if:
- You will graduate in the Winter or Summer Terms. If this is your situation, it is a potential issue for your course registration and status. We highly recommended you meet with an international student advisor to avoid a serious visa status issue.
- You will be enrolled less than full-time during your final semester of study. If this is your situation, it is a potential issue for your course registration and status. We highly recommended you meet with an international student advisor to avoid a serious visa status issue.
When is a course "Distance Learning": If the course requires you to come to the sponsoring university's location for more than 50% of the course activity then you are not enrolling in a distance learning course. If you do not come to the University for more than 50 % of the course activity it is a distance learning course. No more than one such course can be taken in the Fall or Spring semesters, if the student is physically present in the United States.
During the Fall or Spring Semester: For Binghamton F-1 students, a full-time course load is required only during the Fall and Spring semesters. During the Fall and Spring semesters, an F-1 student may only take one on-line or distance education course, or 3 credits of an on-line course, that can be counted towards a full-time course load. This is true whether the course is a offered by Binghamton University or by another school.
During the Winter or Summer Terms: There is no requirement that you be enrolled during the Summer or Winter sessions, since they are optional. Unless the Winter or Summer Term is your final semester of study, an F-1 student can take as many on-line or distance education courses from Binghamton or from another institution (with the approval of academic advising) during Summer or Winter session.
When you are in your final semester of study: If you will graduate at the end of this semester or if the current Winter or Summer Term is your final semester of study, it is mandatory that you enroll in an on-campus course that you will attend at Binghamton University. You can only enroll in an on-line or distance learning course if you are also enrolled in an additional class on campus. This means if you are enrolled in 3 credits of distance learning, you must also be enrolled in at least 3 credits of coursework where you come to class at Binghamton University. Please meet with an advisor if this is your situation to be sure you enroll correctly. Do not put your status at risk.
Remember, if you only need one course to finish your program of study in your final semester (and this includes summer session and winter session), it cannot be taken solely through online/distance education. There must be a physical presence requirement on campus for the course. If you remain in the United States without reporting to any class, it becomes a security issue and will not be allowed.
Confused? Don't be. Send your questions regarding on-line or distance education courses to the ISSS at firstname.lastname@example.org or meet with an international student advisor during Advising Walk-In Hours: Monday and Tuesday Mornings: 10-11:45 a.m. and Wednesday and Thursday Afternoons: 1:30-3:30 p.m.