F-1 Severe Economic Hardship

Students who have been in F-1 status for one academic year and who are experiencing extreme financial difficulties due to unforeseen changes that severely affect their financial resources may apply for work permission, known as Severe Economic Hardship (SEH). Authorization is given by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) with the recommendation of the International Student Services Office (ISS) in Welch Hall.


USCIS states that circumstances deemed “severe economic hardship due to unforeseen circumstances beyond the student’s control” may include “loss of financial aid or on-campus employment without fault on the part of the student, substantial fluctuations in the value of the currency or exchange rate, inordinate increases in tuition and/or living costs, unexpected changes in the financial condition of the student’s source of support, medical bills, or other substantial and unexpected expenses.” Retirement of a parent or birth of a child are not considered unforeseen and will not qualify as reasons for economic hardship.

As an F-1 student, you are eligible to apply for off-campus employment based upon severe economic hardship provided that ALL of the following requirements are met:

  • You are in good academic standing and are registered as a full-time student for a minimum of one academic year;
  • You can demonstrate unforeseen severe economic hardship (this will require documentation to prove the hardship);
  • You can show that employment opportunities on campus are otherwise unavailable or insufficient (proof must be provided);
  • Your acceptance of employment will not interfere with your full course of study (recommendations from two (2) advisors will be requested along with proof of good academic success to date).

Procedure to Apply

To apply for off-campus employment based on unforeseen severe economic hardship, you must submit the following documentation to a DSO in Welch Hall:

  • A letter clearly describing the reasons you are applying for employment because of unforeseen severe economic hardship, including the explanation of how it was unforeseen. See Example
    • You many need to provide relevant supporting documentation to the claims you make in the letter. This may include charts indicating valuation of the dollar, webpages or other articles substantiating the political or economic situation causing the hardship, etc.
  • A letter from the Campus Employment Office stating that there is insufficient on-campus employment.
Bring these letters and the below documentation to the ISS office for assistance with completing your application:
  • All current and previously issued I-20’s.
  • Form I-94 card, visa, passport
  • Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization).
    • Note: Item #16 will be (C)(3)(iii).
    • Do not date the form until you are ready to send to USCIS.
  • Fee of $380 (personal check is best; no cash).
    • Write your I-94 number at the top of the check.
    • Make checks payable to US Department of Homeland Security
    • Write Severe Economic Hardship in the memo line
  • Two (2) color photos. These photos must comply with passport photo requirements or they will not be accepted and your application will be returned.
    • Lightly print your name and your I-94 number on the back of each photo with a pencil.
The International Student Services Advisor will review your materials and copy all material to be sent to USCIS. The student is responsible for mailing the application in a traceable manner and paying all postage fees. The address for mailing the application is:

P.O. Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036

USCIS will mail a Notice of Action - Form I-979. Keep this form in a safe place. If your application is not processed, you will need the LIN number of the Notice of Action in order to inquire about your application.

  • If you wish to receive electronic notification of the receipt of the application, complete Form G-1145. This form is optional and there is no cost associated with it.

If employment is authorized, USCIS will issue and mail an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to Welch Hall. An Advisor will then contact you of the EAD arrival for you to pick up.

If the application is denied, you will be notified by USCIS in writing but you may not appeal. The fee is nonrefundable.

YOU CANNOT BEGIN EMPLOYMENT UNTIL YOU OBTAIN THE EAD. Employment authorization will be granted in one-year intervals up to the expected date of completion of your course of study. Off-campus employment based on severe economic hardship can only be renewed by USCIS and only if you continue to maintain lawful status and good academic standing. If your application is denied, USCIS will indicate the reason for the denial. A denial may not be appealed and your money will not be refunded.

Conditions and Restrictions of Employment

If USCIS authorizes your hardship employment application, you will receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS granting you permission to work off-campus. Typically, permission is granted for one year or for the remainder of your academic program, whichever period is less. Please also note the following:

  • You may work off-campus for up to 20 hours per week while school is in session and full time during vacation periods.
  • You may work in any job, related or not related to your studies.
  • You may not start employment until you have received an EAD or before the start date indicated on the EAD.
  • Hardship employment does not count towards your ability to work on-campus or affect your eligibility for practical training.
  • If you transfer to another institution, your EAD becomes invalid.

If you have any questions, contact a DSO in the International Student Services Office.