Severe Economic Hardship

Sometimes, unforeseen changes in your financial circumstances can make paying tuition and living expenses extremely difficult.

If severe economic hardship happens, you may apply to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for authorization to work off-campus.

F-1 students are only allowed to work off campus when pre-approved by USCIS.

Eligibility & Other Requirements

To be eligible under "severe economic hardship", a student must:

  • Be in valid F-1 status for at least one academic year (9 months)
  • Be in good academic standing
  • Provide evidence of economic hardship based on unforeseen circumstances beyond the student's control. Retirement of your sponsor is not a valid reason to apply.
  • Show that on-campus employment is neither available nor sufficient
  • Make a good faith effort to locate employment on campus before applying


Off-campus employment due to severe economic hardship is granted by USCIS for one year at a time or until the program end-date, whichever is shorter.

You cannot begin employment until you receive the EAD from USCIS. Your work authorization ends when you transfer your SEVIS record to another institution.

Hours per Week

Students are not allowed to work more than 20 hours per week while classes are in session. During summer and winter break periods, students may work full-time. 

This applies to both on campus jobs and off campus jobs.

Field & Level of Work

You can work in any job -- it does not have to be related to course of study.

How to Apply

The student must apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS with the help of the Designated School Official (DSO).

You'll meet with an advisor in ISSS to discuss the requirements below:

  • Receive a new I-20 from ISSS with employment recommendation.
  • Complete the I-765 form, using the code (C)(3)(iii) at item 16. Do not date the form until you are ready to send the application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • Include a $410 check; make check or money order payable to "Department of Homeland Security"
  • Copies of all previous I-20s, including the new one with employment recommendation
  • Copies of passport (biographical pages and expiration date) and visa
  • Copy of I-94 record. Copy of front and back if you have a card or find your most recent I-94 online
  • Include two passport photographs as per USCIS instructions
  • Copies of any previously issued EAD cards
  • Letter in English from your sponsor explaining why promised funds are no longer available (if applicable)
  • Letter from student describing the unforeseen hardship situation and, if possible, supporting documents. For example, this could be a copy of the sponsor’s death certificate or proof of a currency devaluation in the student’s country. This letter should also mention why other employment opportunities are unavailable or insufficient.
  • A completed budget form comparing income (sponsorship money, on-campus job) versus expenditures (tuition, fees, rent etc.).