Frequently Asked Questions

How is my reduced course load authorization be reported to SEVIS?

When you confirm that you are taking all remaining courses to complete your degree and need less than full-time coursework to complete, your OISA advisor will enter authorization for a reduced course for final term into your immigration record in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). In addition, if your I-20 reflects an end date in the future, this will be shortened to reflect your new expected program end date at the end of the current term (May, August or December). A new I-20 will be issued to you to reflect the Final Term RCL, and shortened end date (if applicable).

When will my new I-20 be issued to show I have been approved for a reduced course load?

Your OISA advisor will review your request and issue a new I-20 showing authorization for a reduced course load in your final term is issued after we receive (1) your written request for a Final Term RCL, and (2) confirmation in Banner that you are on track to complete your degree this term. If your eligibility to complete is unclear, a letter from an academic advisor may be necessary.

Why was my I-20 end date changed?

At the time you are admitted to your program of study, Emerson College estimated the length of time that would be required for a student to complete your program of study. When your Final Term RCL is authorized, OISA may need to shorten your I-20 end date to reflect your new expected graduation date if the estimated end date on your I-20 is longer than necessary.

I am a graduate student in my final semester and will be registered as a continuing student. Do I still need a Final Term RCL authorization from OISA?

If you are a graduate student taking less than 8 credits, but engaged in non-course related academic requirements that are the equivalent of full-time status (such as a Master’s thesis), then your department may consider you a full-time student and may enroll you in “continuing” registration. In this case, you are considered to be taking the equivalent of full-time study, and do not need authorization for an RCL.

What happens if I don’t graduate as I expected this term?

OISA cautions students from requesting a Final Term RCL unless you are confident that you will be able to complete all remaining academic requirements in the current semester (including all courses, projects, as well as meeting the GPA requirement for graduation). 

If you request a Final Term RCL, OISA confirms to the USCIS that you are on track to complete your program of study in that semester, and may amend your program end date on your I-20. If, due to unusual academic circumstances, you will not be able to complete your program after being approved for a Final Term RCL, OISA can grant one further I-20 extension and RCL to complete your degree. Any request for an I-20 extension must be submitted to OISA in advance of your I-20 expiration in order to maintain status. A request for extension after a Final Term RCL, requires a complete extension request and a detailed letter from your academic department outlining the complications that prevented you from graduating as expected. 

If you are granted a second Final Term RCL, further I-20 extensions cannot be granted. In this case, you should contact OISA for guidance about alternative legal options.


To request an authorized reduced course load for final term:

  • Confirm your intent to graduate in writing to your OISA advisor via direct email or at oisa [at] (oisa[at]emerson[dot]edu)
  • Email must be received prior to the beginning of last semester or registration, or no later than the deadline to add classes in final term. 
  • In order to approve a Final Term RCL, your expected graduation status must be updated in Banner to reflect that you are on track to finish this term.
  • Final Term RCL is generally granted for one semester only. 
  • If you are not able to complete your degree after requesting a Final Term RCL, you must inform OISA immediately and before the expiration of your I-20. 
  • Authorizing a second Final Term RCL will require: (1) an extension of your I-20, and (2) a letter from your academic advisor explaining the academic reason for the unexpected delay. 
  • Extensions beyond a second Final Term RCL are not permitted and will result in termination of your SEVIS record.