Definition of Severe Economic Hardship

The USCIS considers severe economic hardship to be situations that are unforeseen and beyond control. These may include loss of financial aid or on- campus employment that is not your fault, significant devaluation of your home currency, inordinate tuition increases, or unexpected changes in the financial condition of your main source of support.

Student Eligibility Requirements

You are eligible for employment based on severe economic hardship if:

  • You are in good academic standing and are taking a full course load.
  • You can demonstrate unforeseen severe economic hardship.
  • Employment is not available or is insufficient on- campus
  • You have been in F-1 status for one full academic year.
  • Employment will not interfere with your studies. You should first consult with IMP staff to make sure that there are no employment opportunities available on- campus.

Application and Authorization Procedures

You should ask the International and Multicultural Programs (IMP) staff to evaluate your situation and verify that you meet the eligibility requirements. Here is a helpful checklist that will assist you in the application process:

  • Make an appointment with an IMP staff member to complete your application process. Please bring your passport, I-20, and I-94.
  • Bring a $410.00 money order. USCIS will not accept personal checks or cash. Money orders are available at banks, supermarkets, convenience stores, etc.
  • Provide two immigration style photographs.
  • Complete USCIS form I-765. We will provide you with these forms and help you complete them.
  • You should also submit materials documenting your economic hardship. The IMP staff will help you put these materials together. These materials include a letter from the student and their sponsor (if applicable).

Upon approval of your Economic Hardship Application your work permit will be noted on the Employment Authorization Document/Card (EAD). Employment will be granted in one-year periods up to the time you are expected to complete your studies. You are eligible to work 20 hours per week. Your work permission can only be renewed by the USCIS and only if you continue to meet the eligibility requirements. You may not begin employment until you have received an EAD Card form the USCIS.

USCIS can take 90-120 days to process your application before giving you a response. This type of work permit is hard to obtain. If the USCIS denies your request, you will be told why, however, you may not appeal the decision.

Employment Eligibility Verification

Once approved, when you begin work, you and your employer must complete a form entitled "Employment Eligibility Verification" (USCIS Form I-9), which the employer retains.

Tax Concerns

In general, F-1 students who have been in the United States less than five years are exempt from Social Security (F.I.C.A.) taxes. Your earnings are subject to applicable federal, state, and local taxes. Students may be entitled to a refund of taxes withheld from their wages if the amount of tax is less than the amount withheld.

A Note of Caution

While USCIS regulations provide a variety of opportunities for you to be employed during your time in F-1 status, working without authorization is a serious violation of your status. Therefore, you should consult with an IMP staff member before engaging in any type of employment. It is your responsibility to comply with all immigration regulations that apply to F-1 students. The office of International and Multicultural programs is available for advising and counseling you regarding your responsibilities. If you fail to meet your obligations, you may not be eligible for benefits normally granted to F-1 students.

Further Information

Additional information on F-1 employment is available at the International and Multicultural Programs office located in R. Kirk Landon Student Union, Suite 108. The IMP staff is available to advise you on federal regulations governing your non-immigrant student status. For any questions pertaining to your F-1 status please contact us via email at or by phone at 305-899-3082.