Severe Economic Hardship Employment Authorization

What is off-campus employment based on economic hardship?

F-1 students who have found themselves in serious financial difficulty due to severe and unforeseen circumstances which are beyond their control and, as a result, may not be able to continue their studies, are eligible to apply to the USCIS for employment authorization.

The purpose of employment in this case is to earn money (as compared to OPT where the purpose is to gain experience in your field of study). As a result, any type of job is allowable with this type of work authorization.

What factors determine eligibility?

Students who meet the following criteria are eligible to apply. The student must:

  • Demonstrate unforeseen severe economic hardship due to circumstances beyond the student’s control.*
  • Have been in valid F-1 status for a minimum of one academic year.
  • Receive certification from the International Student Advisor that no opportunities are available for on-campus employment or that on-campus employment is insufficient to meet the student’s financial needs.

Note: Examples of circumstances that might have been unforeseen include loss of an assistantship or on-campus employment without fault on the part of the student; substantial fluctuations in the value of currency or exchange rate; unexpected changes in the financial condition of a student’s source of support; medical bills, or other substantial and unexpected expenses. Documentary evidence supporting the hardship must be submitted (e.g. newspaper clippings showing currency fluctuation, affidavit from sponsor explaining inability to pay, verification from department regarding loss of assistantship, etc.)

How do I apply?

Make an appointment to see the International Student Advisor and bring the following to the appointment.

  • Completed Form I-765
  • Completed Form I-538
  • Completed budget sheet
  • Your current, valid Form I-20
  • Personal letter explaining the circumstances of the hardship. Explain clearly how the circumstances were unforeseen and the hardship you will suffer if the employment authorization is denied.
  • Documentation of the unforeseen hardship* (see Note above)
  • A letter from your academic advisor or college dean verifying that you 1) are in good academic standing, and 2) acceptance of the proposed employment will not interfere with your carrying a full course of study.
  • Two (2) photos taken according to USCIS specifications

The following must be sent to the USCIS Service Center in Vermont at the address below:

  • Check or money order made out to U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • Completed Form I-765
  • Two USCIS Photos
  • Completed Form I-538
  • I-94 (arrival/departure record)
  • Photocopy of Form I-20
  • Photocopy of any previously-issued EADs
  • Photocopy of passport identification and expiration page(s)
  • Personal letter
  • Supporting evidence of unforeseen circumstances and hardship (including budget sheet)

USCIS Vermont Service Center
75 Lower Welden Street
St. Albans, VT 05479-0001