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Severe Economic Hardship (SEH)

Off-campus employment for F-1 students is defined at 8 CFR 214.2 (f)(9)(ii). Generally, it is employment that is for economic need and is not required to be related to the student’s academic course of study. The SEH should occur during a student’s enrollment in an academic program or in emergent circumstances defined by Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Emergent circumstances are established when a world event impacts a group of non-immigrants and the Secretary of DHS publishes a special notice in the Federal Register to grant special relief to the group. Recommendation for SEH is granted on a case by case basis by the OISS.

Eligibility
  • Enrolled full-time (FT) or have authorization to be enrolled part-time (PT) for one continuous academic year without any breaks.
  • Must maintain FT enrollment or have authorization for PT enrollment during SEH.
  • Student must maintain good academic standing.
  • Student must have experienced an emergent circumstance as defined by DHS.
  • Meet one or more of the following circumstances:
    • Loss of financial aid or on-campus employment that is not caused by the student;
    • Large increases in tuition or living costs;
    • Substantial decrease in the relative value of currency the student depends upon to pay expenses;
    • Unexpected changes in the financial conditions for the student’s source(s) of financial support;
    • Unexpectedly large medical bills not covered by insurance;
    • Other substantial, unexpected expenses.
Important Information
  • Do not work off-campus until you receive the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and the start date is effective.
  • A job offer is not required to apply for SEH.
  • Students must maintain their F-1 status.
  • Students may not work more than 20 hours per week when school is in session and may work more than 20 hours per week during school breaks (spring, summer and winter).
    • Keep your official job offer letter stating the position title and description, start and end (if known) dates of employment and number of hours worked per week.
    • Keep all your timesheets and/or paystubs if you will be paid.
  • SEH work approval is granted for 1 year or until the end date of your I-20, whichever is sooner. Reapply if you want to continue employment.
  • Employment authorization is automatically cancelled if you: complete your program, do not maintain your status or transfer to a different institution.
  • Employment authorization will not affect your eligibility for post-completion Optional Practical Training.
  • International students are exempt from paying Social Security and Medicare taxes for the first 5 years in the U.S., but are required to pay all federal and state taxes.
  • Travel: you are eligible to travel in or out of the country while your application is pending and during your authorized SEH period.
How to Apply
Step 1: Documents needed to apply for SEH, you must bring the following to the OISS:
  • SEH application form submitted electronically
  • Original signed and dated personal statement addressed to USCIS from you (and sponsor, if applicable) describing the unforeseen SEH
    The letter should:
    • include your monthly budget
    • state that on-campus employment is unavailable or provides insufficient funds
    • state that work will not interfere with studies
  • Backup documentation supporting your request such as news articles and/or bills
  • Completed Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization)
  • *Money order, personal check, cashier's check, or credit card using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions in U.S. currency for the filing fee payment of $41000 (four hundred and ten)
    • Make checks and money orders payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security with "OPT filing fee" in the memo line
  • Two identical passport photos (2" x 2") taken within 30 days of filing your application with your name and I-94 number written on the back of the photos in a small envelope
  • Copies of:
    • the bio page of your current passport (include extension page if applicable),
    • current visa, and
    • I-94
  • Copies of the 1st and 3rd pages (or 1st and 2nd pages for I-20s issued after July 2015) of any (including at other institutions) I-20s with employment authorization (CPT, SEH, OPT)
  • Copy of Form I-797 Approval Notice if you changed your status to F-1 within the U.S.
  • Front and back copy of any previous EAD card(s), if applicable
  • OPTIONAL: You may attach Form G-1145 (E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance) from to the first page of the application to request an e-Notification of the receipt of the application at the USCIS Lockbox facility. There is no filing fee for this service.
Step 2: The OISS advisor will review your application and request SEH in SEVIS if the application is approved. You will then receive a new I-20 with the SEH request on page 2. The OISS advisor will arrange your packet for mailing.
Step 3: Make a copy of all the documents in the application packet before mailing.

THE SEH APPLICATION PACKET MUST BE RECEIVED BY USCIS WITHIN 30 DAYS OF THE I-20 ISSUE DATE LISTED AT THE BOTTOM OF THE FIRST PAGE OF YOUR I-20 OTHERWISE YOUR APPLICATION WILL BE DENIED