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International Student Affairs

F-1 Severe Economic Hardship

What You Need To Know About Employment Authorization

What Is It?

Severe Economic Hardship Employment is off-campus authorization for F-1 students who are experiencing serious financial difficulties caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond their control. If authorized, you may get any kind of job, anywhere, and work a maximum of 20 hours per week while school is in session, and full time during summer vacations and semester breaks.

How Can You Qualify for It?

  1. You must have been in F-1 status, at either the undergraduate or graduate level, for one academic year.
  2. You must have a grade point average of 2.0 or higher.
  3. You must explain how on-campus employment has been either unavailable or insufficient to meet your needs.
  4. You must have, and be able to provide, evidence that proves you have financial problems that are caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond your control. Examples of unexpected expenses may be medical or dental bills, illness, death, or business problems where your sponsor lives, currency devaluation, or large tuition increases.

If your financial difficulties are caused by problems your sponsor (the person whose name appears on your I-20 form) is having, that person will have to write a letter indicating what caused the hardship and provide evidence of the circumstances that are affecting your support. Evidence may include newspaper articles, back issues of The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal showing currency devaluation, official school notices, or medical or dental bills.

How Do You Apply?

If you think that you qualify for employment authorization under the Severe Economic Hardship Rule, make an appointment to a member of the International Student Affairs staff to discuss your situation. Bring any documentation that you have to prove how your financial situation is being affected by the economic crisis. At your meeting you will receive a Severe Economic Hardship Employment Application to fill out and return to us.

We will then review your application to make sure that you qualify. If we agree that you do, we will recommend that USCIS authorize your employment and return your application to you to send to USCIS for processing of your work permit.

How Long Does it Take?

After you mail your application to USCIS, you should expect that it will take about two to three months for your EAD (Employment Authorization Document) to be processed.

How Long Will You Be Able to Work?

USCIS will grant your employment authorization for a one-year period. It can be renewed annually up to your expected date of completion of studies. Your employment authorization is automatically terminated if you fail to maintain F-1 student status.

You cannot work until you receive your employment authorization card and cannot start working until the date indicated on that card. 

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