Online/distance learning rules

The U.S. federal government limits the number of online courses that an F-1 student can count toward a full-time course load during a required term. Course registration choices allowed for an international student can be very different from what is allowed for a U.S. 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 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. An online 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."

The rules for online courses are complicated. This is especially true if:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

If the course requires you to come to the Binghamton University campus for less than 50% of the course activity, then you are enrolling in 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.

For Binghamton University students with an F-1 visa, a full-time course load is required only during the fall and spring semesters. During these terms, an F-1 student may only take one online or distance-education course, or 3 credits of an online course, that can be counted towards a full-time course load. This is true whether the course is offered by Binghamton University or by another school.

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 online or distance-education courses from Binghamton or from another institution (with the approval of academic advising) during these terms.

During 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 online 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 education, you must also be enrolled in at least 3 credits of coursework where you come to class at Binghamton University. This is true for ALL terms (fall, winter, spring, summer). 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.

If you have any questions regarding online or distance-education courses, send an email to isss@binghamton.edu or meet with an international student advisor during advising walk-in hours.