Economic Hardship

F-1 student may request off-campus work authorization based on unforeseen and severe economic hardship caused by circumstances beyond the student's control if other employment opportunities are not available or are otherwise insufficient. This work authorization is issued by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

General Information


  • Economic Hardship Employment Authorization is a temporary employment authorization benefit for F-1 students who have been maintaining F-1 status in the U.S. and have unforeseen and severe economic hardship caused by circumstances beyond the student's control if other employment opportunities are not available or are otherwise insufficient.
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reviews and approves Economic Hardship applications. The current filling fee is $410 and an average 90 - 120 day processing time. USCIS will mail students an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card once their OPT application is approved. The EAD is the student's official work authorization in the U.S.
  • Economic hardship employment authorization will only be granted for a maximum of 12 months or up to their expected date of graduation (whichever is less). If they are still experiencing economic hardship, have not yet graduated, and wish to extend their work authorization, they will need to apply once again following the instructions above. The authorization can be renewed only if they are maintaining their full-time status and in good academic standing. The authorization is automatically terminated if they fail to maintain their full-time student status, if students are no longer in good academic standing, or if they transfer to another school.

Types of unforeseen and severe circumstances:

  • Loss of financial aid or on-campus employment without fault on the part of the student;
  • Substantial fluctuations in the value of currency or in the exchange rate;
  • Unusually high increases in tuition and/or living expenses;
  • Unusually high medical bills;
  • Other substantial and unexpected expenses

See Special Situations information on U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)'s website.

Word of Caution

  • Students must carefully consider their own situation before applying for Economic Hardship.
  • F-1 advisors cannot determine the chances of approval.
  • Previous students have received denials for their Economic Hardship applications due to the inability to produced supporting documentation, such as personal and sponsors' bank statements, showing economic hardship.
  • The $410 application fee is non-refundable.

Students must meet the following criteria in order to be eligible to apply for Economic Hardship:

  • Be in valid F-1 status
  • Be physically in the U.S. 
  • Fulfilled one-year full-time requirement in F-1 status.
  • In good academic standing (2.0 GPA for undergraduates/3.0 GPA for graduates) and demonstrate that the employment will not interfere with them carrying a full course of study;
  • Make a good faith effort to locate employment on-campus before applying for employment based on economic hardship.


  • Applicants are not required to have job offers before applying for this type of employment authorization.
  • Jobs allowed while on economic hardship are not restricted to the applicants' fields of study/major. 
  • Economic hardship permission does not affect Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT).  

Step 1: Request an I-20 with request for work authorization due to severe economic hardship

To request a I-20, email the following documents to from the SF State email account.  Include students' full name and SF State student ID in their email to OIP.  An F-1 international student advisor will review their request and issue a change of status  I-20 within 5 business days.  The start and end date of their requested work authorization will be printed on the 2nd page of the I-20.

  • A signed I-20 Request Form. Under type of request, check the first box, and type "Economic Hardship" in"other" field.
  • A letter of explanation
  • Evidence/supporting documentation which prove:
    • Acceptance of employment will not interfere with carrying a full course of study
    • The employment is necessary to avoid sever economic hardship due to unforeseen circumstance beyond their control
    • On-campus employment unavailable or is not sufficient to meet the needs that have arisen due to the unforeseen circumstances

Step 2: Mail students' application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

  • Students applying for economic hardship are not eligible to apply online. Students must mail the documents listed below to the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  Students
  • Students must mail their application within 30 days of the new I-20 issuance date. The issue date is typically a couple days before the I-20 print date located next to the F-1 advisor signature. Please account for mailing time. USCIS will reject the application if they receive the application 30 days after the I-20 issuance date.  If a student didn't mail their application within 30 days of the new I-20 issuance date, they must contact OIP and request a new I-20.

Required Documents

  • Completed and signed Form I-765,Application for Employment Authorization (Be sure to use the latest version Form I-765).  USCIS must receive the application within 30 days of students' handwritten (no digital signature), ink (in BLACK ink) signature on page 4.

    • We strongly advise students to type I-765 instead of filling out by hand
    • Type (C)(3)(iii) under Part 2. Information About You, question number 27 Eligibility Category for Economic Hardship
  • Two U.S. Passport-Style Photos.  See US passports photo requirement.
    • Write students' full name and I-94 number gently at back of the photos and place the photos in a small envelope. The application will be denied if they fail to submit photos.
  • Filing Fee
    • Click on the link for the USCIS Payment Options:
    • Follow the instructions carefully. If students are paying by personal check, the funds should be available in their checking account until USCIS cashes their check.  Their application will be denied they fail to submit payment correctly.
  • Photocopies of the I-20:
    • Make photocopies of the new I-20 first and sign under the “Student Attestation” section at the bottom of page 1 with a blue ink pen.  Students' are required to mail this photocopied I-20 with their handwritten, ink (in blue ink) signature.
    • Students' must sign the original I-20 the same way they signed the photocopied I-20.  Keep the original I-20. 
  • Most Recent I-94:
    • Print from OR provide copies of both the front and back sides of their I-94 card
  • Photocopy of their passport:

    • The photocopy must include name, current expiration date, and their photo
  • A letter of explanation
  • Evidence/supporting documentation
  • Official transcripts: Transcript must be in a sealed envelope
  • Photocopies of their previous Employment Authorization Document (EAD) (if any)
  • (Optional) G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance: If students would like to receive a receipt notification of their application electronically either via email or text, complete this form

USCIS Mailing Address:

If their address is IN California, mail the above documents to the specific address listed on the following website and look for (c)(3)(iii):

Keep the tracking number after mailing as proof

I-797C Notice of Action

  • USCIS will mail a paper I-797C notice to students' address after they received the filing fee, Form I-765, and supporting documentation.  The receipt number (usually starts from or “YSC”) is printed on the I-797C notice.
  • The “Received Date” on the notice is the date when the USCIS begins processing the application.  If students do not receive any I-797C notice within 3 weeks after mailing their application, request the receipt letter to be sent to them by using the USCIS online tools.
  • Students can check the status of their application by entering their receipt number under “Check your case status” at

Request for Evidence (RFE)

  • If there is a problem with the application, USCIS will send a Request for Evidence (RFE) to ask for more supporting documentation. An RFE does not mean that the application has been rejected. It simply means that they need to provide the missing and/or additional documents before their EAD can be issued. USCIS gives applicants 30 days to respond to the RFE.  The application will be denied if they fail to respond to the RFE in a timely manner. Unfortunately, receiving an RFE will delay the processing of the application. 
  • Students should reach out to an F-1 advisor before responding to a RFE.

Approval/Denial Notice

  • USCIS will mail students an I-797 (It is different from I-797C notice) letter at their mailing address regarding the approval or denial status.

Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

  • Students' with approved Economic Hardship must wait for their EAD. Permission to begin employment is not finalized until they have received an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card from the USCIS. The EAD will have their photograph and will also indicate the exact dates of their authorized employment. They cannot begin their employment until they have received their EAD from USCIS and the EAD is valid. Under this authorization students may work part-time (20 hours per week or less) while school is in session; full-time (up to 40 hours per week or less) during holidays or school vacations.

Last updated: January 2024

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The information contained in this website is provided as a service to the international students, faculty, staff, employees and administrators of San Francisco State University, and does not constitute legal advice on any immigration, tax or other matter. We try to provide useful information, but we make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to this web site or any associated site. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel. Neither San Francisco State University nor the Division of International Education is responsible for any errors or omissions contained in this website, or for the results obtained from the use of this information.