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Severe Economic Hardship

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, or unexpected changes in the financial condition of the student's source of support, medical bills, or other substantial and unexpected expenses.

In order to apply for Employment Authorization based on Severe Economic Hardship:
  • Student must have been in F-1 status for at least one full academic year
  • Student must be in good academic standing
  • Student must be able to prove to USCIS that employment is necessary due to severe economic hardship caused by circumstances beyond his or her control that arose after obtaining F-1 status.
  • The student "has demonstrated that on campus employment is not available.
  • "The student has demonstrated that acceptance of employment will not interfere with the student's carrying a full course of study."
  • This type of employment authorization is primarily used to secure off campus employment and it does not need to be in your field of study.
Duration:  It is granted by USCIS in increments of one year at a time, or until the program end-date, whichever is shorter.
The work authorization ends if a student transfers schools.  It is limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session and the total number of work hours including on campus work cannot exceed 20 hours while school is in session.  Students can work full time during summer breaks.

Documentation needed to apply:
  1. Document the circumstances causing his or her economic need;
  2. The student can write a statement describing the unforeseen hardship situation and, if possible, should attach supporting documentation; for example, a letter from home telling of a change in family circumstances or proof of a currency devaluation in the student's country.
  3. Explain why other employment options are unavailable or insufficient
  4. Once this documentation is complete, the student should make an appointment with his/her DSO.  If the DSO approves the application, the DSO will issue a new I-20 with a recommendation for work authorization.  The student will then create a packet which will include;
  • Form I-765 completed by the student, marked with the code (c)(3)(iii) in the eligibility category boxes on the form.
  • Copy of Form I-20 issued with DSO recommendation for economic hardship employment;
  • 2 passport photos 
  • Copy of the student's Form I-94 (card or I-94 system printout);
  • Evidence that:
    • The student has been in F-1 status for at least one full academic year;
    • The student is currently in good standing;
    • Acceptance of employment will not interfere with the student carrying a full course of study;
    • The employment is necessary to avoid severe economic hardship due to unforeseen circumstances beyond the student's control;
    • On-campus employment is unavailable or otherwise insufficient to meet the student's needs that arose because of the unforeseen circumstances
  • Copy of the ID pages from the student's passport, or, for applications for renewal of work authorization, a photocopy of the previously issued EAD;
  • The student must sign the Form I-765 in ink.
  • I-765 processing fee.
Bring the packet to your DSO for review.  Then mail all of the above to the USCIS Lockbox Facility with jurisdiction over the student's place of residence.  If you use the USPS, then you should mail the packet via "registered mail" so that you have a tracking number and can confirm that it is received.
For Illinois:

USCIS Phoenix Lockbox

For U.S. Postal Service (USPS):

P.O. Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036

For FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:

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