Severe Economic Hardship
USCIS is authorized to grant a severe economic hardship (SEH) work permit for off-campus employment in certain extreme situations:
“If other employment opportunities are not available or are otherwise insufficient, an eligible F-1 student may request off-campus employment work authorization based upon severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond the student’s control. These circumstances may include loss of financial aid or on-campus employment without fault on the part of the student, 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 the student’s source of support, medical bills, or other substantial and unexpected expenses.”
Source: 8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(9)(ii)(C)
Guidelines and Considerations
- Employment can only begin after you receive the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS. Please keep in mind USCIS processing time (7 to 9 months at the California Service Center, where SEH applications are typically processed).
- The SEH application currently costs $410.
- Employment may not interfere with your ability to maintain full-time enrollment and make normal progress towards your degree.
- Employment is limited to 20 hours per week during the academic year; no limitation on hours during official school breaks (including the summer term).
- Employment does not have to be related to your field of study.
- SEH authorization does not impact your eligibility for or duration of on-campus employment, CPT or OPT.
- USCIS will issue SEH authorization for one year, or until your I-20 program end date, whichever is shorter.
- SEH authorization ends if you graduate or transfer schools (even if your EAD indicates a later end date).
You may be eligible to apply for SEH employment authorization if:
- You have been in F-1 status for one academic year
- You are in good academic standing and are enrolled full time
- Working will not interfere with your studies
- You can document that:
- Employment is necessary to avoid severe economic hardship
- The circumstances creating the financial need were unforeseen and beyond your control
- On-campus employment is unavailable or otherwise insufficient to meet your new financial need
While the Severe Economic Hardship work permit is a potential resource for financial support, it might not be a great option for various reasons: can be difficult to get approved, takes a long time to process, costs money to apply, etc. Do make sure you’re also exploring other options for financial support:
- Pack Essentials NC State has resources available for students experiencing emergencies, including grant opportunities. Especially for short-term, immediate needs, Pack Essentials support could be a great resource.
- Other Employment: Don’t discount internships or co-ops. CPT might be an option for you and could certainly be quicker/easier than SEH if you find an opportunity that relates to your major.