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International Student & Scholar Services

F-1 Student Severe Economic Hardship Employment


When an international student is issued the immigration document I-20, the student has provided evidence that they have the funds available to them to attend school. We do understand that things change. F-1 students who are experiencing unforeseen* financial hardship while studying in the US, may be able to obtain off-campus employment authorization from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) under certain conditions. Students must first exhaust the avenues of on-campus employment and any practical training opportunities. Severe Economic Hardship work authorization may provide help in difficult circumstances by allowing the student to secure employment off-campus. This authorization, however, will not enable students to earn enough to bear the cost of full-time study that is required to maintain F-1 student status; therefore, it should not be seen as a solution for serious financial difficulties.

*Immigration regulations state that unforeseen circumstances may include loss of financial aid or on-campus employment without fault on the part of the student, substantial fluctuations in the value of currency or exchange rate, inordinate increases in tuition and/or living costs, or unexpected changes in the financial conditions of the student's source of support, medical bills, or other substantial and unexpected expenses Source: [8CFR§214.2(f)(9)(ii)(C )-(D) and (F)].


F-1 students are eligible to apply for severe economic hardship employment if: 

  • the student has been in F-1 status for one full academic year; AND
  • the student is in good academic standing and is taking a full course load: AND
  • Employment will not interfere with the student's studies: AND
  • the student can demonstrate that the employment is necessary to avoid severe economic hardship due to unforeseen economic circumstances beyond the student's control

Documentation Needed to Apply 

To apply for employment based on severe economic hardship, the student must schedule an appointment with an immigration advisor in the ISSS Office, and bring the following documents to the appointment: 

  • A personal statement describing the unforeseen hardship situation and backup documentation (news articles, a letter from home telling of a change in family circumstances, proof of a currency devaluation in the student’s home country, etc.). Please use this Application for Eco Hardship Employment for your information.
  •  Completed Form I-765. The “Eligibility Category” for Severe Economic Hardship is ( C ) (3)(iii)

At Your Appointment: The ISSS Office will go over your application and documents with you and then process a recommendation for Severe Economic Hardship work authorization, if warranted. Once the new immigration document I-20 is printed, the ISSS Office will email you to come to the ISSS Office and pick up the document. If you wish to get a start on collecting the required documentation that must be submitted with your new I-20, you can view the Economic Hardship Check List

After picking up your I-20, SIGN IT AND DATE IT. There will be a checklist attached to your I-20; read the checklist carefully and put all documents in the order that they are listed on the checklist. We advised students to make a photocopy of your complete application packet for your records. 

Mail your application either by “regular” mail or express/courier mail; both addresses are listed on the checklist.

NOTE:  you must submit your application within 30 days after your I-20 was signed by the ISSS Office on page 1

Processing Time: Once USCIS receives your application, they will send you a receipt notice indicating your case number (do not lose this document); it is not an approval notice - it can take 3 months or more to get a decision. If your application is approved, you will receive an approval notice and an EAD card. You will also receive a notice if your application is denied.


  • You are required to be registered as a full-time student during the academic year; failure to be registered appropriately will cause your immigration status and work authorization to be terminated.
  • You cannot work until you receive your EAD card.
  • After you receive your EAD card, you must scan a copy of the card to the ISSS Office (, or bring it to the ISSS Office and we will make a scan of it. NOTE: you will receive a new immigration document I-20 which will show your approved work authorization on page 2.
  • Your card will have a start and end date; you can only work between those dates.
  • You are only able to work part-time during the semester; you can work full-time during breaks.

Work authorization is automatically terminated when you graduate, transfer universities, or violate your F-1 status in any way.