Severe Economic Hardship

Severe Economic Hardship is for F-1 students who experience severe changes in funding that are unforeseen and uncontrollable:

  • Provides one year of off-campus work authorization before completion of studies.
  • Authorizes work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session, 21 or more hours during school breaks.
  • Student must maintain full-time enrollment.


  • Lawfully enrolled full-time in a U.S. university for at least one academic year (two long semesters).
  • Valid F-1 status.
  • Good academic standing.
  • Since arriving in the U.S. something unexpected happened to your funding, such as a sponsor dies or unexpected medical bills.
  • You have looked for an on-campus job and have been unable to find sufficient work.

Application Process

  • Set an appointment to speak with the CIE Director to review requirements and required documents.
  • Submit the required documents to CIE to obtain a new I20 with economic hardship recommendation.
  • Pick up the I-20 and mailing instructions.
  • Send the required documents to USCIS. USCIS processing usually takes about three months.
  • If approved, USCIS will send you an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) authorizing off-campus employment.

How to Apply for Severe Economic Hardship Employment

  1. Schedule an appointment with the CIE Director, and bring your personal statement and completed I-765 form (see below).
  2. The CIE Director will review your documents, and if complete, will send your request to SEVIS electronically, and generate a new SEVIS I-20. The recommendation will be written on page 2 of the new I-20.
  3. You will compile your Economic Hardship packet for mailing to USCIS.  CIE is available to review and give feedback on packet instructions.
  4. Send your request to USCIS. Refer to Submitting Your Severe Economic Hardship Request Application to USCIS below.

Documentation Needed to Apply to USCIS

  • A personal statement describing the unforeseen hardship situation and, if possible, attach backup documentation; for example, news articles, a letter from home telling of a change in family circumstances or proof of a currency devaluation in your country, etc.  Include the date you are requesting yoru Economic Hardship to begin, which should be no earlier than 60 days after your letter is dated.  
  • Completed Form I-765, using the code (C)(3)(iii) at item 16. Do not date the form until you are ready to send the application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • Copies of your current and previous I-20s
  • Copy of paper or print-out of electronic Form I-94 (please click on the link for instructions)
  • Copy of your F-1 visa page (except Canadians) or I-797 (approval of change of status to F-1), if applicable
  • Copy of your unofficial transcript available from ACIS

Submitting Your Severe Economic Hardship Application to USCIS

Once you have requested a Severe Economic Hardship Employment recommendation and received your new I-20 from the CIE Director, you will need to prepare and submit the following list of items to USCIS:

  • A copy of the new I-20 with employment recommendation
  • Copies of your previous I-20(s)
  • Copy of paper or print-out of electronic Form I-94 (click on the link for instructions)
  • Copy of your passport page showing your biographical information and the expiration date
  • Copy of your F-1 visa page (except Canadians) or I-797 (approval of change of status to F-1), if applicable
  • Form I-765 and the base fee
  • Two full-face passport style photos. The photos must be identical and in color with a plain background. They must be no more than 30 days old when the I-765 is filed to USCIS. Photos can be obtained at U-M Photo Services. Put photos in an envelope. You should attach the fee and the photo envelope on top of the entire application (on the upper left-hand corner). Please do not staple the fee and the photos.
  • The personal statement along with any other supporting documents, if available.

Mailing to USCIS

Send your complete request to USCIS at the following location:

USCIS Service Center
P.O. Box 87765
Lincoln, NE 68501-7765

NOTE: The U.S. Postal Service is the only service that delivers to a P.O. Box address. You may want to send your application via express (next day) mail.

Employment Authorization Card (EAD)

If the application is approved, USCIS will issue an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) to you. If the application is denied, you will be notified by USCIS in writing.

You may not begin employment until you have received the EAD and the dates are valid. Authorization is granted in one-year intervals up to the expected date of completion of studies. You may work part time while school is in session and full time during official university holidays.