Economic Hardship Employment

Front and back samples of Employment Authorization Document

Severe Economic Hardship


If you are suffering from severe economic hardship due to unforeseen changes in your financial circumstances, you may be eligible to apply to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for authorization to work off-campus.

Examples of unforeseen circumstances:

  • Loss of financial support or on-campus employment
  • 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 your source of support, such a loss of a family business
  • Excessive medical bills

The employment authorization is granted by USCIS in increments of one year. 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 quarter breaks and your annual vacation quarter. This employment does not affect your eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT). Employment authorization is automatically terminated if you graduate, fail to maintain status, or transfer to another school.

Eligibility Criteria:

You are eligible to apply for employment based on severe economic hardship if:

  1. You have been in F-1 status for one full academic year.
  2. You are in good academic standing and are taking a full course load.
  3. Employment will not interfere with your studies.
  4. You can demonstrate that the employment is necessary to avoid severe economic hardship due to unforeseen circumstances beyond your control.

Application Checklist:

To apply for employment based on severe economic hardship, you must schedule an appointment with your immigration advisor, and bring the following documents to the appointment. Your immigration advisor will issue a new I-20 for severe economic hardship that must be included in the application.

  • Completed I-765 form, signed with blue ink. The eligibility category is (c) (3) (iii).
  • Personal check for $410 made out to US Department of Homeland Security OR Form G-1450 for credit card payment of $410
  • Copies of your previously received I-20s
  • 2 passport style 2" x 2" photos
  • A copy of your passport ID page and F-1 visa stamp page
  • A copy of previously issued EAD card(s) (if applicable)
  • Copy of electronic Form I-94
  • ODU transcript
  • A letter of explanation:
    • Describing the unforeseen hardship situation
    • Your understanding that employment will not interfere with your ability to carry a full course of study
    • Explanation of how employment is necessary to avoid severe economic hardships due to unforeseen circumstances beyond your control
    • Verification that on-campus employment is not available or otherwise insufficient to meeting your needs that arose unexpectedly
  • Additional supporting documentation; news articles, a letter from home telling of a change in family circumstances, proof of a currency devaluation in your home country, medical bills etc.