Economic Hardship

Economic Hardship

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) defines “severe economic hardship” as “a financial condition caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond the student’s control that make it difficult for a student to continue education in the United States.

These financial conditions may include:

  • Loss of financial aid or on-campus employment through no fault of the student.
  • Substantial changes in the exchange rate or value of the currency upon which the student depends.
  • Inordinate increases in tuition or living costs.
  • Unexpected changes in the financial state of the student’s source of support.
  • Medical bills.
  • Other substantial and unexpected expenses.”

If eligible, a student can apply for economic hardship employment with USCIS, which would allow the student to work off-campus. If USCIS adjudicates the application favorably, the employment authorization is issued in increments of one year, or until the program end date, whichever is first. Employment in this category  is limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session, but can be full-time (e.g. more than 20 hours) during official school breaks. The off-campus job does not need to be related to a student's major field of study.


  • There is a one year waiting period, meaning a student must have been in F-1 status for at least one academic year (2 academic semesters) to be eligible.
  • The student needs to be currently pursuing a degree at SJSU. 
  • They need to meet with an ISSS advisor to see if they are eligible.
  • Authorization from USCIS is required before a student can start working.


  1. Schedule an appointment to meet with an advisor at ISSS to discuss your eligibility to apply. 
  2. Once you have met with an ISSS advisor and they have determined that you meet the required criteria and are eligible, they will email you the economic hardship I-20 request information and form. 
  3. You will then need to submit a completed economic hardship I-20 Request e-form to ISSS.
  4. Once the completed form is received by ISSS, we ask for 5-7 business days to review and process. ISSS will email you when the new I-20 has been issued. 
  5. USCIS is accepting digitally signed I-20’s from ISSS, so we will email you the I-20 with Economic Hardship recommendation. You will need this I-20 with Economic Hardship recommendation to file your application with USCIS.

Next Steps: Filing the application with USCIS

Once you have your I-20 with the economic hardship recommendation, you will need to prepare the following documents to file your form I-765 for economic hardship. Please note that this application cannot be filed online with USCIS, therefore, you will need to gather all of the following documents and mail them to USCIS.

  1. Filing Fee (Subject to Change) is currently $520.00.A personal check, cashier’s check, or money order payable to the “U.S. Department of Homeland Security” (do not abbreviate). If you want, write your I-94 # number on the check. If needed, search online for helpful information about how to write a check, endorse a money order or cashier’s check.
  2. Two recent  (within the past 6 months) passport style color-photographs. Please review the Department of State photo guidelines for more details. 
  3. Form G-1145, E-notification of Application/Petition Acceptance (highly recommended).
  4. Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. (All pages, completed, and signed).
    1. Read the USCIS Instructions for Form I-765 in its entirety. Pay special attention to instructions for F-1 student categories on pages 3-4. Failure to follow instructions may result in rejection or denial of your application. It is your responsibility to ensure Form I-765 is properly completed and signed.
    2. Review ISSS’  I-765 guide, specifically slides 8-26 This guide is for OPT/STEM OPT, but you can use it for how to complete the I-765. However, you must use the code c 3 iii on question 27, which is on page 3, part 2. Please note that the filing code for economic hardship is: (c) (3) (iii). 
    3. After carefully reviewing the instructions and the guide, complete the Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization (all pages) and sign.
  5. Photocopy of your new I-20 with the economic hardship recommendation issued by ISSS within the last 30 days. If it has been more than 30 days since the issuance date, please contact ISSS for an updated I-20.  Please make sure you have printed the I-20, then signed and dated page 1 in the appropriate section. Please  make a copy to submit with your application. Do not submit the original I-20.
  6. Photocopy of valid passport biographical page.
    1. If your passport will be expiring within 6 months, you will need to write a letter acknowledging your passport expiration date and that you plan on renewing your passport before it expires.
    2. If your I-94 or F-1 visa has your old passport number on it, then you will need to submit a copy of your current as well as your previous passport.
  7. Photocopy of F-1 visa stamp.
  8. I-94 record of arrival.
    1. Retrieve your most recent I-94 at
    2. If you have a paper I-94, include a copy of both sides of the card.
    3. If you changed your status to F-1 and have not left the US since getting F-1 status, you will need to submit a copy of your I-797A approval notice.
  9. Proof of enrollment and full course of study: Official transcript from SJSU, plus proof of enrollment for the current academic semester.
  10. Evidence for economic hardship.Submit documentation which proves to USCIS that employment is necessary due to severe economic hardship caused by circumstances that are beyond your control after obtaining F-1 status.We also recommend writing a detailed statement describing the unforeseen hardship situation and attach supporting documentation. For example, a letter from home telling of the change in family circumstances or proof of currency devaluation in your home country.
  11. DSO (ISSS advisor) support letter.
  1. Make a copy of your complete application before mailing to USCIS. You will put all of these documents in an envelope which is clearly marked on the front of the envelope, bottom right-hand side, with the phrase 'Economic Hardship.' Failure to include this notation may result in significant processing delays.
  2. Mail your complete application to the USCIS lockbox. Refer to ‘Where to File’ instructions on USCIS Form I-765 webpage
    1. ISSS recommends mailing your application via FedEx or UPS, since you can track your application.
  3. Approximately 2-4 weeks after USCIS receives your application, you should receive a receipt notice with a USCIS case number.
  4. Wait 2-4 months to receive work authorization from USCIS. You should receive an approval notice (I-797 Notice of Action) and EAD. You must have the EAD card, then you are eligible to work within the authorized dates on the card. 
    1. Work is limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session, but can be full-time during official school breaks. The off-campus job does not need to be related to a student's major field of study.

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