F-1 visa economic hardship

Off-campus employment for F-1 students is defined at 8 CFR 214.2 (f)(9)(ii)(A). Generally, it is employment that is for economic need and is not required to be related to the student’s academic course of study. Off-campus employment is authorized only in cases of severe economic hardship occurring during a student’s enrollment in an academic program or in emergent circumstances defined by Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Emergent circumstances are established when a world event impacts a group of non-immigrants and the Secretary of DHS publishes a special notice in the Federal Register to grant special relief to the group. Recommendation for severe economic hardship is granted on a case by case basis by the Office of International Students and Scholars.


  • Student must have been enrolled full-time as an F-1 student for one continuous academic year.
  • Student must maintain good academic standing.
  • Student must have experienced an emergent circumstance as defined by DHS.
  • Meet one or more of the following circumstances:
    • Loss of financial aid or on-campus employment that is not caused by the student;
    • Large increases in tuition or living costs;
    • Substantial decrease in the relative value of currency the student depends upon to pay expenses;
    • Unexpected changes in the financial conditions for the student’s source(s) of financial support;
    • Unexpectedly large medical bills not covered by insurance;
    • Other substantial, unexpected expenses.

Important information about economic hardship

  • Do not work off-campus until you receive the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and the start date is effective.
  • A job offer is not required to apply for severe economic hardship.
  • Students must maintain their F-1 status. Students may not work more than 20 hours per week when school is in session and may work more than 20 hours per week during school breaks (spring, summer and winter).
  • Severe economic hardship work approval is granted for 1 year. Reapply if you want to continue employment.
  • Employment authorization is automatically canceled if you: complete your program, do not maintain your status or transfer to a different institution.
  • Employment authorization will not affect your eligibility for post-completion Optional Practical Training.
  • International students are exempt from paying Social Security and Medicare taxes for the first 5 years in the U.S., but are required to pay all federal and state taxes.

How to apply for economic hardship

Meet with an OISS advisor to determine if you are eligible to apply for severe economic hardship. It is recommended that you bring a draft letter and any documents explaining your severe economic hardship.

If the OISS advisor determines that you are eligible to apply for severe economic hardship, gather the following documents to receive the SEVIS recommendation for the hardship from the OISS advisor:

  • Complete the Severe Economic Hardship form
  • A personal statement addressed to USCIS from the student (and sponsor, if applicable) describing the unforeseen severe economic hardship. Attach backup documentation such as news articles and/or bills;
  • The letter should also include your monthly budget and state that on-campus employment is unavailable or provides insufficient funds and that work will not interfere with studies;
  • Completed Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization). Talk to an OISS advisor before e-filing Form I-765. Please read the instructions and questions carefully before answering;
  • *Personal check or money order for the filing fee payment of $380.00 (three hundred and eighty) payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security with “Severe Economic Hardship filing fee” in the memo line;
  • 2 passport photos (2” x 2”) with your name and I-94 number written on the back of the photos in a small envelope.
  • Copies of the bio page of your current passport (include extension page if applicable), current visa and front and back of your I-94 card;
  • Copies of the 1st and 3rd pages of all I-20s issued for you;
  • If you changed your status to F-1 within the U.S., make a copy of Form I-797 Approval Notice;
  • Front and back copy of any previous EAD card(s), if applicable;
  • You may attach Form G-1145 (E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance) to the first page of the application to request an e-Notification of the receipt of the application at the USCIS Lockbox facility. There is no filing fee for this service;
  • Schedule an appointment with an OISS advisor for severe economic hardship approval. Bring applicable items 1-10 to the appointment. The OISS advisor will review your documents and will request severe economic hardship in SEVIS if everything is in order. You will receive a new I-20 with page 3 listing the severe economic hardship request. The OISS advisor will arrange the documents for you to mail. Make a copy of all documents for your records.
    • If the address in item 3 of your Form I-765 is not in Nevada, refer to " Instructions for Form I-765" for the mailing address
    • If the address in item 3 of your Form I-765 is in Nevada, mail all documents listed in point 1 and a copy of the new I-20 with OPT endorsement to one of the addresses below:

U.S. Postal Service deliveries (request tracking option)

PO Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036

Express mail and commercial courier deliveries

1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85034

*Filing fee and delivery addresses subject to change. Check the "Instructions for Form I-765" to verify the filing fee and delivery address.

Documents must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the date the OISS Advisor requests severe economic hardship in SEVIS or the I-20 will no longer be valid and your application may be denied.

Note: In 2 to 4 weeks you will receive a Form I-797C, Notice of Action with your Receipt Number (WAC followed by numbers) confirming that USCIS has received your severe economic hardship application. This does not indicate severe economic hardship approval.

Use the Receipt Number to check the status of your application under Case Status. You should receive your EAD card within 90 days of the receipt date on the Form I-797 if your application is approved.

If you receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) from USCIS, immediately contact an OISS advisor before responding