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Severe Economic Hardship


Severe Economic Hardship employment is an employment option that is available to F-1 students facing unexpected and severe economic hardship.  The employment does not need to be related to a student’s academic program and is intended to be used off campus.

ISSS facilitates the application process, but final authorization is processed by Immigration.

What Does Unforeseen Severe Economic Hardship Mean?

Before receiving approval for F-1 status, students must prove that they have the ability to pay for their educational and living expenses while in the United States.  Severe economic hardship employment authorization is avaialble for situations when an unforeseen need arises that is outside the student’s control.

The financial need must have been unforeseen when the student was applying to the current school. Additionally, the student must be able to show that other employment opportunities, such as on campus employment, are not able to meet the financial need.

Examples of unforeseen economic hardship include but are not limited to “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.”  (8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f)(9)(ii)(C))

To Be Eligible for Severe Economic Hardship, You Must:

  • Have maintained legal F-1 status for at least 9 consecutive months or one full academic year.
  • Prove to USCIS that employment is necessary due to severe economic hardship caused by circumstances beyond your control that arose after obtaining F-1 status

Hours and Limitations

  • Employment is limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session.  Employment can be full-time during official school breaks.
  • There are no restrictions on the type of job or location of employment.
  • You cannot begin employment until you receive the employment authorization document (EAD) from USCIS.
  • Authorization is typically for one year, or until the I-20 program end date, whichever is shorter.
  • The authorization ends if you transfer to a new school or begin a new degree program at Vanderbilt.
  • USCIS processing times for employment authorization vary, but you should expect to wait 2-4 months before receiving the EAD.

Authorization Renewals

You may apply each year to renew the employment authorization.  The process to renew is the same as the initial application process. You should be prepared to demonstrate that you continue to have severe financial need that cannot be met by other sources of employment.

It is important to plan your renewal application carefully if you do not wish to have an interruption in your employment.  Be sure to submit the application with enough time for it to be processed before your current EAD expires.