Severe Economic Hardship

Severe Economic Hardship is new, unexpected circumstances beyond your control creating severe economic hardship. These may include: 

  • Loss of financial aid or on-campus employment (if you are not at fault) 
  • Devaluation of the currency you depend upon to pay expenses 
  • Unexpected changes to your sources of financial support 
  • Unexpected large medical bills  
  • Other substantial, unexpected expenses 

The employment authorization is granted by USCIS in increments of one year at a time. The authorization allows you to work for any employer up to 20 hours per week while you are registered full-time. You may work more than 20 hours per week during breaks and summer. Economic Hardship employment authorization is automatically terminated when you graduate, fall out of status, or transfer to a new school. This employment will not affect your OPT.  

Eligibility Requirements: 

You must have remained enrolled for at least one academic year. You must be in valid F-1 status, in good academic standing, and enrolled in a full course of study. You must be able to show that working will not adversely impact your ability to attend school full-time and maintain academic standing. You must show evidence that severed economic hardship due to unforeseen circumstances is beyond your control. 

Required Application Documents: 

STEP ONE: Prepare the documents listed below before meeting with your immigration adviser. 

  1. Complete the Severe Economic Hardship FORM
  2. Budget Worksheet
  3. Supporting evidence which may or may not include the following depending on your individual case. You should plan on having AT LEAST 8 separate documents of the evidence below in total:
    • Bank Statements (yours and your financial sponsor's)
    • Letter from your financial sponsor describing their financial difficulties. If not possible to get this letter, you must put detailed information as to why your sponsor is unable to provide this letter in your personal statement (1).
    • Evidence showing your and/or your sponsor's expenses: lease agreement, medicals bills, insurance payment, etc.
    • Evidence showing your and/or your sponsor's available funds: pay stubs, bank statements, etc.
    • Evidence demonstrating exchange rate
    • Evidence demonstrating any economic or geopolitical situations that are impacting your financial sponsor's ability to assist in funding your education in the US: news articles, official company communications, etc.
  4. After reviewing your evidence and budget worksheet, use them to help you write a 1-page letter describing your financial difficulties and why on-campus employment opportunities are unavailable or insufficient.
    • You should directly reference the value amounts for funds and expenses that you put in your budget worksheet to help explain your evidence.
  5. Form G-1145
  6. Form I-765 
    • Please note some new changes with the new I-765 form. You need to complete the page 7 and list all of your previous CPTs, OPTs, Economic Hardships and SEVIS numbers (if prior SEVIS numbers). Please see the Form I-765 FAQ: Severe Economic Hardship guide. 
  7. Filing Fee payable to US Department of Homeland Security
  8. Your unofficial transcript (available for download in e-services). 
  9. Two (2) new passport style photographs, in color, with I-94 and full name written on back
  10. Copy of valid passport page 
  11. Copy of visa
  12. Copy of your I-94 record
  13. Copy of any previous EAD's (front and back)

STEP TWO: Set up a meeting with your immigration advisor. Bring documents 1-9 with you to the appointment. Your immigration advisor will prepare the following documents for you:

  1. SEVIS event history print out
  2. DSO statement of support
  3. I-20 with Severe Economic Hardship work authorization recommendation
    • You will sign and date it. 
    • You will send a copy of the I-20 and keep the original.
STEP THREE: After going through the entire Severe Economic Hardship work authorization packet with your immigration advisor, package the following documents into a legal-sized envelope:
  • Step 1 documents 1-9
  • Step 2 documents 1-3

STEP FOUR: Send the package to USCIS. REMEMBER:

  • You are responsible for sending all items of your SEH application to the USCIS. 
  • Find the appropriate Lockbox to send your SEH application on the USCIS website.
  • You MUST send the package within 30 days of the processing date on your I-20 with DSO recommendation.

NOTE: Application processing average time is 90 days. Do not begin working until you receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD).