Severe Economic Hardship

Severe Economic Hardship may be granted by USCIS in the event of an unforeseen hardship situation during the student’s academic program. The student initiates the application by scheduling an appointment with ISSA to determine eligibility and discuss options. If eligible, the documents will be reviewed and the student will be given instructions for mailing his or her application to the USCIS.

Severe Economic Hardship Eligibility Requirements and Application

Students should be prepared to document their financial situation completely and accurately in order to qualify for work authorization based on economic hardship. USCIS evaluates applications of this type very strictly and failure to establish eligibility may result in the denial of the application. Before applying, students must establish the following:

  • The student has been in F-1 status for at least one full academic year and maintained their F-1 status.
  • Economic hardship is both unforeseen and beyond the student’s control.
  • There are insufficient employment opportunities on campus to meet the student’s economic need.
  • Employment authorization is granted for 20 hours per week during regular fall and spring semesters and full-time during scheduled school breaks. Employment must not interfere with enrollment in a full course of study.
  • Employment authorization is granted in 12-month intervals (renewable) or until the program end-date, whichever is shorter.
  • Employment is not required to be related to a student’s major field of study and no job offer is needed to apply. 
  • The current application fee charged by USCIS is $410.00 USD and processing time is approximately 3-5 months. In severe cases, it may be possible to ask that this fee be waived.