Severe Economic Hardship

If you are experiencing unforeseen financial hardship, you may apply to the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) for authorization to work off-campus. This authorization differs from most off-campus work for F-1 students as it does not have to be related to your major.

Examples of unforeseen financial circumstances include the following:

  • Loss of financial support or on-campus employment
  • Substantial fluctuations in the value of home country currency or exchange rate
  • Drastic increases in tuition or living costs
  • Unexpected changes in the financial support (i.e. death or incapacitation of sponsor, loss of family business)
  • Excessive medical bills

Facts about Severe Economic Hardship Authorization:

  • USCIS grants this authorization one year at a time.
  • The authorization allows you to work for any employer:
    • 20 hours per week while enrolled full-time.
    • Over 20 hours per week during breaks (i.e. summer, winter break, spring break)
  • This employment does not affect your eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT).
  • Employment authorization is automatically terminated upon graduation, failure to maintain status, or transfer to another school.
  • The application process takes time and is not a “quick” solution to support financial need.


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

How to Apply

We recommend that you first make an appointment with an advisor to see if you are a good candidate for Severe Economic Hardship. We must “recommend” you for this employment authorization in SEVIS to help with your application.

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Complete the I-765

Follow the USCIS instructions for how to fill out the I-765.

Note: Number 27 is for category (c 3 iii).

Pay the I-765 filing fee

The I-765 filing fee may be paid via personal check, cashier’s check, money order, or by credit card using the G-1450 Form.

Checks and money orders should be made payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Copy of I-20

To apply for severe economic hardship work authorization, an advisor at ISS must recommend you on your form I-20. As severe economic hardship applications are rare in ISS, we do not currently have a form in Terra Dotta. You should work directly with an advisor to request a new I-20.

Two passport style photos

All photos must be recent (taken within 30 days) and be 2×2 inches. See USCIS I-765 instructions for further details.

Copy of I-94 record

You may download a PDF of your most recent I-94 online.

Letter describing financial difficulties

You must write a letter to USCIS which describes your financial difficulties. The letter should describe why on-campus employment opportunities do not provide necessary funds. You should also include supporting evidence to support your cause.

Copy of Passport Identification Page

You should include a copy of your most recent passport’s photo page with your application to USCIS.

If you recently renewed your passport and you last traveled with your old passport, it is ok to submit copies of both passport pages.

Photocopy of Visa Page

You should include a photocopy fo your most recent U.S. visa with your application.

Photocopies of any previously issued EAD cards

You must include copies of any previously issued EAD cards with your application. These EAD cards serve as evidence for previous work authorizations you indicated on your I-765.

Mailing your I-765

Mail your application to the USCIS Phoenix Lockbox:

For U.S. Postal Service (USPS)

P.O. Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036

For FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:

1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Suite 100
Phoenix, AX 85034

General Guidance

  • Keep a copy of your full application for your records.
  • Do not begin working until you receive the Employment Authorization Document.

What are my options when finances are too tight?

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Are your finances related to the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Current students experiencing financial difficulties related to the COVID-19 pandemic should see the Chancellor’s website for options.

Applying for Scholarships

Our main funding opportunities page provides information on scholarships and grants for international students.

Taking out Loans

We have compiled information about educational loans on our main funding page.

Educational loans must be paid back.

Take a break from school

Sometimes, students take a break from school to relieve the financial burden of their student status. This requires students to request a leave of absence from school and can impact their visa. We recommend that you speak with an advisor if you are considering this option.