From time to time unexpected and unavoidable situations arise that cause sudden changes to the level of an international student’s available economic support. On these rare occasions, the regulations governing employment allow for students to apply to the USCIS for an Employment Authorization Document. This will allow the student to work off-campus. The rules are very strict, and students should not apply for an EAD based upon Economic Hardship unless they are certain that their situations meet all the criteria.
The student must:
- Have been in F-1 status for at least one full academic year.
- Prove to the USCIS that employment is necessary due to severe economic hardship caused by circumstances beyond his or her control that arose after obtaining F-1 status.
- Explain why other employment options are unavailable or insufficient.
- Apply for the EAD from USCIS after a DSO updates SEVIS with a recommendation.
- Include with application: Complete form I-765 (obtain from the USCIS website), two identical color passport photographs, a check in the amount of $380.00 payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security, a new I-20 showing DSO application, copies of both sides of I-94, copies of ID pages from passport, copies of any previously approved EADs.
Keep in mind that this benefit is intended to address situations where a financial need beyond the student’s control arises, which was unforeseen at the time the student applied to the school he or she is currently attending and after all other potential employment opportunities have proven to be insufficient. No application should be made by students who do not meet these criteria. The authorization is granted in one-year intervals and is terminated when the student transfers from one school to another.
A similar benefit is available to J-1 Exchange Visitors. J-1 status holders should see the Responsible Officer and obtain authorization before employment begins.
Both F-1 students and J-1 exchange visitors are limited to no more than 20 hours of employment while school is in session. Authorization may be obtained for full-time employment during school vacations.