What is Economic Hardship?
F-1 students who are experiencing unforeseen financial hardship while studying in the U.S. are eligible to work off-campus if USCIS provides authorization. This authorization enables students to work up to 20 hours a week to sustain themselves while enrolled in school full-time. Students cannot begin employment until they have received their EAD or before their start date. Employment under economic hardship will not affect or count toward optional practical training. You are allowed to work in any field; it does not have to be directly related to your studies.How do I know if I am eligible to apply for Economic Hardship?
In order to qualify for economic hardship you are required to meet the following qualifications:
- You are enrolled as a full-time student in good standing and have been in valid F-1 status for at least one full academic year.
- Demonstrate written proof of the unforeseen financial hardship you are experiencing and how it is beyond your control.
- Maintain F-1 students and be enrolled full-time while working due to economic hardship.
Immigration regulations state that unforeseen circumstances "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 conditions of the student's source of support, medical bills, or other substantial and unexpected expenses."How do I apply for economic hardship?
Meet with the International Students Advisor to make sure you are eligible and review the conditions and procedures for applying. Prior to meeting, gather designated paperwork explaining your economic need and supporting evidence that documents this. If you are eligible to apply for economic hardship the International Students Advisor will issue a new SEVIS I-20 with a recommendation for economic hardship. You also have to complete the I-765 Form to receive work authorization and ensure you have all required documents that prove your economic hardship. Once all required paperwork is complete and gathered mail it to USCIS.Required Documents:
- A letter written by you to USCIS stating the circumstances you have encountered in detail that support your request for economic hardship employment authorization.
- Supporting document that confirms your circumstances (ex. letter from your department to document the loss of a scholarship, or exchange rate data showing a currency devaluation, or a letter from an accountant confirming unexpected business losses, etc).
- Completed USCIS Form I-765 (you can access I-765 under forms on the website): ensure contact information is current, such as physical address, e-mail, phone number, etc.
- Two identical color photographs: the photos cannot be more than 30 days old and should be full frontal/passport photos.
- $380 check or money order payable to "USCIS"
- SEVIS I-20 Form issued by the International Students Advisor with recommendation for economic hardship.
- Photocopies of all I-20's previously issued.
- Photocopy (front and back) of your I-94 card (white card, usually stapled in your passport).
- Photocopy of your passport information page (and the page including your photograph, if different).
- Photocopy of your visa stamp page in your passport (except Canadian citizens, who have no visa).
- Photocopy of any previous Employment Authorization Documents (EAD): if applicable
- ENSURE THAT YOU HAVE ALL PAPERWORK LISTED ABOVE AND MAKE COPIES FOR YOUR OWN RECORDS. Mail to: USCIS, Vermont Service Center 75 Lower Welden Street St. Albans, VT 05479-0001
- USCIS will mail you a receipt and final decision to the address you included on your application. Please note that USCIS may take up to 90 days to process your request.