International Student and Scholar Services

Severe Economic Hardship

Please note:

Until further notice, USCIS is delaying both the increase of their Form I-765 filing fee and the release of the 10/2/20 edition of the Form I-765. Students applying for OPT, STEM Extension, and Severe Economic Hardship work authorization should submit the 08/25/20 edition of the Form I-765 and pay the original $410 filing fee.

If employment opportunities are not available on-campus or the employment is not sufficient for the student, they may request employment authorization based on severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond the student's control. Circumstances may include a loss of financial aid or on-campus employment without fault on the part of the student. Additionally, substantial fluctuations in the value of currency or exchange rate, inordinate increases in tuition and /or living costs, or unexpected changes in the financial condition of the student's source of support, medical bills, or other substantial and unexpected expenses can also be a reason for a student to apply. 

Students must apply for an employment authorization from USCIS with the help of the designated school official to be eligible for this option. 

It is important that students know that employment cannot begin until the student receives the employment authorization designation from USCIS.  

The approval of employment for Severe Economic Hardship is intended for off-campus employment. If the employment is on-campus, that is acceptable.  


  • You must have been in F-1 status for one full academic year 
  • You need to be in good standing as a student and taking a full course load
  • Employment must not interfere with your studies
  • You need to prove that employment is necessary due to severe economic hardship caused by circumstances beyond your control that arose after obtaining F-1 status.
  • Retirement of your sponsor is not a valid reason to apply.

Some things to know when applying 

  • The hardship is granted by USCIS in one-year increments or until the program end-date, whichever is shorter; authorization ends if a student transfers their SEVIS record to another institution. 
  • Students are not allowed to work on or off campus for more than 20 hours per week while classes are in session.  
  • Students may work full-time during summer and winter breaks.
  • A student's work does not need to be related to their course of study. 

 Steps to apply 

  1. Application
    • You will need to complete the forms in the Severe Economic Hardship packet in full. See below for all application materials needed to move your application forward. 
  2. Make an appointment with Center for International Studies
    • All paperwork must be completed before scheduling an appointment. If it is not completed, you will have to reschedule your appointment.  
    • The Center for International Studies DSO will review your completed documents 
  3. The Center for International Studies advisor 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. 
  4. The Center for International Studies will notify you when your new I-20 is available. 
  5. Bring your SCSU ID to the Center for International Studies front desk to pick up your new I-20. 
  6. Sign your name on the I-20 immediately.
  7. Send your request to USCIS. Refer to Submitting Your Severe Economic Hardship Request Application to USCIS below. 

Bring completed forms and these items to your appointment: 

  • CompletedI-765, (instructions).
  • Copy of current I-20 (pages 1and 2). 
  • Copy of I-94 card both front and back.
  • Copy of U.S. visa.
  • Two (2) full frontal view photos against a white background with your I-94 number written on the back in pencil.
  • Copy of valid passport.
  • $410.00 application fee in the form of a money order payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security".
    • If the student cannot afford the $410, they can try submitting a fee waiver request, though that may extend the processing time and is not guaranteed to be accepted. 
  • Letter in English from your sponsor explaining why promised funds are no longer available (if applicable).
  • Letter from student describing the unforeseen hardship situation and, if possible, with attach supporting documentation.
    • For example, a copy of the sponsor’s death certificate or proof of a currency devaluation in the student’s country. This letter should also mention why other employment opportunities are unavailable or insufficient.
  • A completed budget form comparing income (sponsorship money, on-campus job) versus expenditures (tuition, fees, rent etc.).
  • All past Employment Authorization Documents/work permit cards. 

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 Center for International Studies, 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 (please 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 Walgreens, CVS, or a local photography shop.  
    • 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). Do not staple the fee and the photos.
  • Your personal statement along with any other supporting documents, if available. 

Mailing to USCIS 

The student is responsible for mailing their application packet within 30 days from the date the designated school official recommends off-campus work authorization in SEVIS (this date is shown on the signature line on your I-20).

For U.S. Postal Service
PO Box 805373
Chicago, IL 60680

For Express mail and courier services
Attn: I-765 C03
131 South Dearborn - 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517


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. 

As stated above, 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. 


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