Severe Economic Hardship
Economic Hardship employment authorization is permission granted to F-1 students by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to work off-campus due to specific economic hardship criteria.
What is Economic Hardship Employment Authorization?
Permission granted to F-1 students by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to work off-campus on the basis of severe economic hardship due to unforeseen circumstances beyond the student’s control [8CFR 214.2(f)(9)(ii)(c)].
Who is eligible for Economic Hardship Employment Authorization?
If you are suffering a severe economic hardship due to unforeseen changes in your financial circumstances, you may apply to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for authorization to work off-campus.
To be eligible for Economic Hardship employment authorization, you must document that:
- You have been in valid F-1 status for at least one academic year (two semesters).
- You are experiencing economic hardship based on unforeseen circumstances (see below) that arose after you obtained F-1 status.
- You are currently in good academic standing and are carrying a full course load.
- Employment opportunities on campus are unavailable or insufficient.
- Acceptance of employment will not interfere with your full-time study.
What are unforeseen circumstances?
- Loss of financial aid or on-campus employment resulting from circumstances beyond the student’s control
- Substantial fluctuations in the exchange rate or value of home country’s currency
- Unexpected changes in the financial condition of the student’s financial sponsor
- Unexpected medical bills
- Other substantial and unexpected expenses
HOW TO APPLY
STEP 1: SUBMIT A REQUEST TO VIS FOR AN I-20 RECOMMENDING ECONOMIC HARDSHIP
Submit the Severe Economic Hardship request in accessVIS, uploading copies of the following document:
- Current Form I-94 (card both sides or electronic copy),
- Passport (including identity pages and expiration date),
- F-1 Visa stamp (if applicable).
- Personal statement describing the unforeseen hardship situation; address the letter to the USCIS
- Evidence and/or documentation of your Economic Hardship
STEP 2: REVIEW YOUR NEW I-20 & PREPARE YOUR I-765 APPLICATION
When your application is complete, VIS will enter your Economic Hardship application into the SEVIS system, and produce a new I-20 with the Economic Hardship recommendation. You will receive an email from VIS with a link to download, print and sign your the updated I-20. If you notice any mistakes on your I-20 please contact your VIS Advisor immediately.
Gathered and prepare the following documents to support your I-765, Application for Employment Authorization:
- $410 Application Fee*: Fee payment in the form of a money order, personal check, cashier’s check, or credit card using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions found at www.uscis.gov. If paying by check, it must have your name and address pre-printed in the top left corner and be made payable to: U.S. Department of Homeland Security. If your name and address printed, we recommend getting a money order instead.
* Please note, the US government fee increase to $550 for any application received on or after October 2, 2020 has been temporarily halted by a court order, so the fee remains at $410 until further notice.
- Passport-Style Photos: Two identical passport-style photographs, issued within the last 30 days, name and I-94 # gently written on back. See Department of State’s guidelines.
- Form G-1145: Download from uscis.gov, include your full name, email address and telephone number. This optional form tells USCIS that you’d like to be notified upon receipt of your application.
- Form I-765: Download the most recent Form I-765 from uscis.gov (Fill-able PDF version recommended). Complete and sign by hand.
- I-20 Recommending Economic Hardship: Provide a signed and dated copy.
- All previously issued I-20s: Provide photocopies of all Form I-20s ever issued to you.
- Passport: Provide photocopies of the identification pages in your passport, including photo, passport # and expiration date.
- F-1 Visa Stamp: In passport, except citizens of Canada and Bermuda.
- Form I-94:Provide a copy of your most recent I-94, download your electronic I-94 from CBP's website.
- Admission Stamp:Copy of your most recent admission stamp issued at the port of entry upon your latest arrival to the U.S. (in passport).
- Evidence/Documentation of the unforeseen change in your financial circumstances.
- Letter of support from VIS. Your VIS advisor will provide this letter after you submit a complete application in accessVIS
Personal statement describing the unforeseen hardship situation; address the letter to the USCIS;
- Describe the facts that led to the problem, explain the difficult situation that could not be avoided and how you are not at fault, and present a reasonable plan that is short-term and designed to get you out of financial and academic trouble.
- Include a statement about how this employment will not impact ability to maintain a full course load in the future. If you have experience managing course work and on-campus employment mention that.
- Elaborate on why other on-campus jobs are not available
- If choosing a start date earlier than the published processing times, indicate that you accept a change in authorization dates due to adjudication.
STEP 3: SEND YOUR OPT APPLICATION TO THE US GOVERNMENT
Send your application to the USCIS Lockbox with jurisdiction over the address you indicated as your "Mailing Address" on the I-765 (Part 2, Item 5.e.) via FedEx or UPS. USCIS must receive it within 30 days of the date your I-20 was issued.
eShipGlobal has created an option for students to schedule pick up directly on UEMS (from your residential address) for your OPT packages to be mailed to USCIS office, at no additional cost.
Instructions for Students:
- Go to study.eshipglobal.com to log in or create a free account.
- Select "OPT Application" or "Send Documents to USCIS."
- Enter your mailing information and select the correct USCIS location.
- On the University Information, type SUNY at Stony Brook to avail an additional 10% discount over the already discounted price.
- Select the carrier you want to use, pay for shipping and print the label. Click on Schedule pick up and request for the carrier to pick up from your residence. eShipGlobal is offering pick up at no additional cost to help you during the pandemic situation.
*If you decide NOT to apply for or use your OPT, you must notify us.
STEP 4: CONFIRM USCIS RECEIVED YOUR APPLICATION & TRACK THE STATUS
You should receive an electronic receipt from USCIS within 2-3 weeks and a paper receipt within 3-5 weeks. Once you get your receipt notice, check your case status with your receipt number at www.uscis.gov/casestatus.
Contact VIS immediately if you receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) from USCIS, as an updated Form I-20 may be necessary.
Traveling outside of the U.S. is no recommended while your I-765 is pending with USCIS.
STEP 5: SET UP INFORMED DELIVERY WITH THE US POSTAL SERVICE
Once USCIS sends you any information regarding your application, they will send official notification to you through the US postal service.
Informed delivery allows you to digitally preview your mail and manage your packages scheduled to arrive soon. Learn more about how to set up your informed delivery account.
STEP 6: REPORT THE APPROVAL OF YOUR OPT BY USCIS
Once your request for Economic Hardship has been adjudicated by USCIS, AND you have received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD), please scan and email a copy to your VIS Advisor.
If you notice any mistakes on your EAD please contact your VIS Advisor immediately so we can assist you in getting the card corrected.
REMEMBER: You may not begin working, volunteering or interning until you have received your EAD card, AND not until the start date printed on the Employment Authorization Document (EAD).