Employment Based on Severe Economic Hardship

On rare occasions, students are faced with a sudden change to their financial situation completely beyond their control, such as the outbreak of war, a dramatic devaluation of the currency in their home country, or the death or loss of employment of their primary supporter.

If you are facing a situation like this, you can apply to US Citizenship and Immigration Services for work authorization based on severe economic hardship.

Authorization is granted for 1 year at a time. You can work up to 20 hours per week during the school year, and full time during breaks. This type of employment doesn't need to be related to your field of study.

F-1 students


To qualify, you need to:

  • Have been in F-1 status for at least 1 academic year (30+ weeks of class time)
  • Prove to USCIS that off-campus employment is necessary due to the severe economic hardship caused by circumstances beyond your control
  • Demonstrate that these circumstances arose after you were granted F-1 status


  1. Fill out an I-765 form. In box #16, write (c) (3) (iii). Instructions >>
  2. Schedule an appointment with your ISSS advisor. You should bring:
    1. A written description of the unforeseen financial hardship and an explanation of why on-campus employment options aren't sufficient to meet your needs
    2. Documentation of your financial circumstances (for example, a letter from home about a change in family circumstances, or proof of a currency devaluation)
    3. 2 passport-style photos. Photo requirements >>
    4. Your filled-out form I-765
    5. Check for payable to US Department of Homeland Security
    6. Copies of all previously issued I-20s (pages 1 and 3)
    7. Copy of any previous EAD cards
    8. Copy of your I-94
    9. Copy of the ID page of your passport, plus any extension pages
    10. Copy of your current visa
  3. Your ISSS advisor reviews your documents and discusses your eligibility with you. During this appointment, ISSS creates a new I-20 for you to sign.
  4. ISSS mails your application to USCIS.
  5. If your application is approved, USCIS mails an EAD card to ISSS.
  6. ISSS emails you when your EAD card is ready for you to pick up.

J-1 students


You can apply for work authorization based on economic necessity if you:

  • Are in good academic standing
  • Maintain a full course load, except during school breaks
  • Will work no more than 20 hours a week (except during breaks, when you can work full time)
  • Show evidence of your urgent, unforeseen financial circumstances

Application procedure

  1. Schedule an appointment with your ISSS advisor.
  2. Bring your financial documentation to your appointment.
  3. If your application is approved, ISSS will write a letter that will serve as proof of your employment authorization.