Immigration regulations allow an F-1 student who experiences unforeseen financial problems while studying in the United States to obtain off-campus employment permission under certain conditions.
This off-campus employment permission may provide real help in difficult circumstances by allowing a student to supplement his or her income in order to meet some living expenses. It will not, however, enable a student to earn enough to bear the cost of the full-time course of study required to maintain F-1 student status. It should not be thought of as a solution for serious financial difficulties.
If you are an F-1 student who is experiencing economic hardship due to an unforeseen change in your financial situation, you may qualify for off-campus employment authorization under relevant immigration regulations. You must, of course, be a full-time student in valid F-1 status to qualify for this, as for any other benefit of F-1 status.
If employment authorization is granted, you will be able to work off-campus for up to 20 hours per week while school is in session and full time (up to 40 hours per week) during vacation periods. Economic hardship employment authorization, which allows you to work in any job – related or not related to your studies, will be granted for one year or for the remainder of your academic program, whichever period is less.
When considering your eligibility for hardship employment authorization, the most important point to keep in mind is that, for you to qualify, an adverse change in your financial situation must have been unforeseen. More so, it must have been unforeseeable when you first came to the U.S. to study.
Immigration regulations provide that the unforeseen circumstances may include:
Only unforeseen problems can be the basis for hardship employment authorization because, as you will recall from the process of obtaining your I-20 and visa to enter the U.S., students must first demonstrate that all of the financial resources needed for their program of study are available before they are able to obtain F-1 status.
If you believe that your circumstances may qualify you for hardship employment authorization, please meet with an ISS advisor. If it appears that you are eligible for hardship employment authorization, the advisor will ask you to:
Once the need for hardship employment authorization is well documented, the ISS advisor will help you prepare an employment authorization application to be submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
For your employment authorization application you will need to present the following to the Office of International Student Services (ISS):
Your application will then be submitted by mail to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for consideration. USCIS will first mail a receipt and later mail notice of the UCSIS decision.
If your application is approved, you will receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) as evidence of your permission to be employed. Please note that USCIS processing usually takes 30 to 60 days and may take up to 90 days. You may not begin employment before you receive an EAD. Working before receipt of an EAD constitutes illegal employment that renders you illegally present in the U.S.