If other employment opportunities are not available or are otherwise insufficient, an eligible F-1 student may request employment authorization based on severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond the student’s control. These circumstances may include a 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, or unexpected changes in the financial condition of the student’s source of support, medical bills, or other substantial and unexpected expenses. Source: [8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(9)(ii)(C)-(D) and (F)]
The employment authorization is granted by USCIS in increments of one year at a time. The authorization allows you to work for any employer up to 20 hours per week while you are registered full-time. It also allows you to work more than 20 hours per week during breaks and your annual vacation. Employment authorization is automatically terminated if you graduate, fail to maintain status, or transfer to another school.
Applying for Severe Economic Hardship requires submission of the Form I-765 through USCIS – there is a $410 cost to submit the Form I-765.
- You have been in F-1 status for one full academic year
- You are in good academic standing and are taking a full course load
- Employment will not interfere with your studies
- You can demonstrate that the employment is necessary to avoid severe economic hardship due to unforeseen economic circumstances beyond your control
How to Apply
- Write a personal statement describing the unforeseen hardship situation and why on-campus employment opportunities are unavailable or insufficient; attach backup documentation; for example, news articles, a letter from home telling of a change in family circumstances or proof of currency devaluation in your country, etc.
- Gather the following documentation:
- Copy of current I-20 with SEH Recommendation (issued by Caitlin)
- Copies of all previous I-20s
- Copy of most recent Arrival Form I-94
- Copies of passport (biographic, U.S. visa and passport extension pages)
- A color passport style photographs (2’x2’) with a plain background taken within the last 30 days.
- Official St. Olaf Transcript
- Log into USCIS.com and file the Form I-765.
- Select “(c)(3)(iii) Category for Severe Economic Hardship”
- Pay the $410 application fee
Within 2-4 weeks of filing your application you will receive an I-797C Notice of Action from USCIS. Please check this document to make sure there are no errors in your name or information. If you lose this document there is no way to replace it. Please keep it in a safe location.
If there is a problem with you application, USCIS will send a Request for Evidence (RFE). An RFE does not mean your application was rejected. You will need to respond to the RFE with supporting documentation ASAP.
Employment Authorization Card (EAD)
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, the fee is nonrefundable.
You may not begin employment until you have received the EAD. Authorization is granted in one-year intervals up to the expected date of completion of studies. You are allowed to 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. The employment does not have to be related to course of study and it does not count towards the 20-hour on campus maximum. The EAD may be renewed only if you are maintaining status and are in good academic standing. The employment authorization is automatically terminated if you transfer from one school to another one or if you fail to maintain status.