F-1 students may apply for off-campus employment if s/he is able to provide evidence of severe, unforeseen economic need. When an F-1 student first enters a program of study, s/he must provide evidence of financial support in order to obtain an initial Form I-20. However, if there are extenuating circumstances that are out of the control of the student, s/he may be eligible to apply to work off-campus for a period of one year.
Severe Economic Hardship
In order to be eligible to apply for Employment based on Severe Economic Hardship, a student must:
- Be in valid F-1 student status
- Have completed 1 full academic year (2 semesters or 3 terms)
- Be able to demonstrate that loss of funding is beyond the student’s control and that off-campus work is necessary for the student to continue academic program
Circumstances that may warrant a reason to apply for Severe Economic Hardship 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, unexpected changes in the financial condition of the student’s source of support, medical bills, or other substantial and unexpected expenses.” 8 CFR 214.2(f)(9)(ii)
If a student is approved by USCIS for Employment based on Severe Economic Hardship, then s/he will receive an EAD card for one year at a time (or until end of program). A student cannot begin work until he/she has been approved and receives the EAD card.
Once the student has the EAD card, then he/she can work:
- Off-campus in a position that does not need to be related to his/her major
- Up to 20 hours/week during the academic year, or full-time during a vacation period
In order to discuss the possibility of applying for Employment due to Severe Economic Hardship, student must first make an appointment with an advisor at the OGS. In this appointment, the student and advisor will discuss student’s eligibility to apply for this work authorization and review the application process.
If it is determined that the student is eligible to apply for employment due to severe economic need, the student should expect to:
- Obtain a new Form I-20 from OGS Advisor with recommendation for work authorization
- Write a statement for USCIS describing the unforeseen hardship situation
- Provide evidence/supporting documentation to demonstrate financial need
- Complete Form I-765 and supporting documents to USCIS
- Provide a check to USCIS for $410
- Note: If request is denied, this fee is non-refundable
- Wait for approximately 90 days to hear a response from USCIS