Severe Economic Hardship

Definition

Source: [8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(9)(ii)(C)-(D) and (F)]

Severe economic hardship employment authorization is occasionally authorized by USCIS. The authorization is usually for 1 year at a time to address major, unforeseen financial needs beyond an F1 student’s control that arose after the student began enrollment.  Authorization is granted only after all other potential employment opportunities have proven insufficient. Examples 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
  • unexpected changes in the financial condition of the student’s source of support, medical bills, or other substantial and unexpected expenses.

Note: pregnancy and related costs are not considered unforeseen.

  • The work performed can be in any type of job, not just related to the field of study.
  • The work can be done in addition to a GRA or other on-campus employment.
  • The authorization is automatically terminated if the student changes schools or loses F1 status, regardless of the dates on the EAD card the applicant will receive.
  • A change of program or degree level at the same school are permitted and will not affect this type of authorization.

You are eligible to apply for employment authorization based on severe economic hardship if:

  • You have been in F-1 status for one full academic year (fall + spring).
  • You are in good academic standing and enrolled full-time.
  • Employment will not interfere with your studies.
  • You can demonstrate:  A. the employment is necessary to avoid severe economic hardship due to unforeseen economic circumstances beyond your control. B. the needs creating the hardship were also unforeseen. C. on-campus employment opportunities are not available or they are insufficient to meet your need.

Advice: Have you considered CPT? This is another valid form of employment that has $0 application fee, and has the advantage of potential income, work experience, and academic credit. Ask your international advisor if this might be an option.

  • A succinct, factual and well-prepared personal statement addressed to USCIS. You may use the greeting, "Dear Immigration Officer, " on your statement. In your statement, describe the unforeseen hardship situation in detail. Backup documentation is suggested - for example: news articles, a letter from home telling of a change in family circumstances, or proof of a currency devaluation in your country, etc.
  • Completed Form I-765, 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).
  • Copies of your current and previous I-20s
  • Copy of electronic Form I-94 (please click on the link for instructions)
  • Copy of your F-1 visa page (except Canadians) or I-797 (approval of change of status to F-1), if applicable
  • Copy of your unofficial transcript available from the GSU Registrar's Office.
  • Copy of your passport page showing your biographical information and the expiration date
  • Check or money order for $410 payable to USCIS
  • Two full-face passport style photos:
    • must be color, identical, with a plain background and without wearing glasses.
    • no more than 30 days old at the time of the application.
    • put photos in a plain, white envelope with the check attached to the envelop. Do not staple. Use a paperclip.

ISSS will prepare an updated I-20 that indicates a request for Economic Hardship Authorization. Put this together with all the above materials in your application. Once you have all the documents, you will need to prepare and submit the above mentioned items to USCIS in one packet at your own expense.

  • Visit ISSS to meet with your international advisor during open advising hours. Bring all the documents listed in the Required Documentation section above.
  • ISSS will review your items and send your request to SEVIS electronically. This will generate a new SEVIS I-20. The recommendation for this benefit will appear on page 3 of the new I-20.
  • ISSS will notify you when your new SEVIS I-20 is available in 3-5 business days.
  • Bring your GSU Panther ID to the ISSS front desk to pick up your new SEVIS I-20.
  • Sign your I-20 immediately.
  • Mail your request to USCIS. See below.

Send your complete request to USCIS at the following location:

USCIS Service Center P.O. Box 87765 Lincoln, NE 68501-7765

If the application is approved, USCIS will issue an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) to you. If the application is denied, you will be notified by USCIS in writing but you may not appeal. The fee is nonrefundable.

  1. You may not begin employment until you have received the EAD.
  2. Authorization is granted in 1-year intervals up to the expected date of completion of studies.
  3. You may work part time with the EAD when school is in session but you must be enrolled as a full time student. You may work full time with the EAD during vacations.
  4. The employment does not have to be related to course of study and it does not count towards the 20-hour on campus maximum. You are advised to find employment relevant to your career goals, but that is not required.