International students in F-1 status who are experiencing economic hardship based on unforeseen circumstances beyond the student's control may be eligible for a specific work authorization from USCIS.
The regulations offer examples of unforeseen circumstances which may cause economic hardship, including the 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 rates, inordinate increases in tuition and/or living costs, unexpected changes in the financial condition of a student's sponsor, medical bills, or other substantial and unexpected expenses.
Employment is limited to no more than 20 hours per week when school is in session, full-time during holidays or vacation periods. Employment authorization is automatically terminated when a student fails to maintain status. Students may work for an employer at any job anywhere in the United States. A job offer is NOT required in advance of obtaining employment authorization. Employment may not begin until the student receives the work authorization (EAD) card from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Students seeking employment authorization based on economic hardship need to apply by mail to the USCIS Vermont Service Center to obtain an EAD, which will be valid for one-year intervals. There is an application fee for the EAD. Students interested in this type of work authorization must discuss their situation with an ISSS advisor.
To be eligible to apply, you must:
- be in valid F-1 status for at least one academic year (two semesters)
- be in good academic standing and registered for a full-time course load
- provide evidence of economic hardship based on unforeseen circumstances beyond your control
- demonstrate that on-campus employment is either unavailable or insufficient to meet your needs. You must make a good faith effort to locate employment on campus before applying for employment authorization based on economic hardship.
How to apply
Request an ISSS recommendation for authorization
You must meet with an ISSS advisor to discuss your eligibility. You will need to provide the following items for ISSS to review
- cover letter from student explaining unforeseen circumstances causing economic hardship
- statement of assets, income, and expenses and corresponding financial documentation.
Once the application for off-campus employment based on economic hardship is complete, the Office of International Student and Scholar Services will review the documents. ISSS will provide you with an updated SEVIS I-20 with off-campus work authorization certification on page 3.
Prepare and submit your application to USCIS
You will need to prepare a complete application and mail it to USCIS. You should include the following documents in your application:
- Two passport photos - taken within the last 30 days. Write your name and I-94 number on the back of the photos lightly in pencil or ballpoint pen.
- Check or money order for $410 made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
- G-1145 e-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance. Use this form to request a text and/or email when USCIS accepts your I-765 form.
- I-765 Form - on page 3, question 27, enter the code (c)(3)(iii)
- I-20 showing the ISSS recommendation on page 3
- Letter of explanation from you regarding your economic situation
- Supporting documentation confirming the unforeseen and unexpected nature of your economic situation, including bank statements, letters from your sponsor, and any additional evidence that supports your application.
- Copies of all previous I-20s
- Most recent I-94 record
- Copy of F-1 visa
- Copy of passport ID page
- Copy of any previously issued EAD cards
If you would like an ISSS advisor to review your application before you mail it, you may bring it to advising hours or email a pdf of all documents to email@example.com.
You must mail your complete application to USCIS using the appropriate mailing address. Be sure to use a mail service or courier that provides tracking information.
It can take up to 3-5 months for the application to be processed by USCIS. Approval is not guaranteed, and you may not begin working until you have received the EAD card from USCIS and are within the dates on the card.