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Severe Economic Hardship

Severe Economic Hardship

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.

Examples of unforeseen circumstances:

  • Loss of financial support or on-campus employment
  • Substantial fluctuations in the value of currency or exchange rate
  • Inordinate increases in tuition and/or living costs
  • Unexpected changes in the financial condition of your source of support, such a loss of a family business
  • Excessive medical bills

The employment authorization is granted by USCIS in increments of one year at a time. The authorization allows you to work for any employer part time (up to 20 hours per week) while you are registered full-time at Fontbonne. It also allows you to work full time (more than 20 hours per week) during quarter breaks and your annual vacation quarter.

This employment does not affect your eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT). Employment authorization is automatically terminated if you graduate, fail to maintain status, or transfer to another school.


  • You must have been in F-1 status for one academic year
  • You must be in good academic standing
  • You must document that on-campus employment opportunities are unavailable or insufficient to meet your financial needs.

How to apply:

  1. Consult an ISS DSO to discuss your financial situation.
  2. After your ISS appointment, request an I-20.
  3. Gather the application documents to mail to USCIS:
  4. Form I-765 (write (c)(3)(iii) in item 16)
  5. Form I-765 filing fee paid by money order, personal check and make your check payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  6. Photocopy of Form I-20, with your ISS adviser’s recommendation for economic hardship employment
  7. Two passport style photos (write your full name and I-94 number on the back)
  8. Photocopy of I-94
  9. A letter describing your financial difficulties and why on-campus employment opportunities are unavailable or insufficient; include supporting evidence
  10. Photocopy of passport identification page
  11. Photocopy of visa page
  12. Photocopies of any previously-issued EAD cards
  13. After you receive your updated I-20 from ISS, make a copy. Include the copy of your new I-20 along with the other documents listed above.

Application processing times vary between two to four months. Do not begin working until you receive the Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

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