Economic Hardship

F-1 student may request off-campus work authorization based on unforeseen and severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen 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).  

Applicants must complete the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization and request an I-20 with Economic Hardship recommendation from OIP.  The standard processing time for Form I-765 is 90 - 120 days or longer. There is also a filling fee.

These unforeseen and severe circumstances may include:

  • 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

You are eligible to apply for employment based on unforeseen and severe economic hardship if you:

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

Economic hardship employment authorization will only be granted for a maximum of 12 months or up to your expected date of graduation (whichever is less).  The current filing fee  for Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization  is $410.  Applicants are not required to have job offers before applying for this type of employment authorization, also, the jobs are not restricted to the applicants' fields of study/major. 

Economic hardship permission does not affect Optional Practical Training (OPT).  

Applying for change of status is a two-step process.  

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

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

  • A signed I-20 Request Form   (PDF, 129 KB). Under type of request, check the first box, and type "Economic Hardship" after "other" field.
  • Your letter of explanation
  • Evidence/supporting documentation which prove:
    • Acceptance of employment will not interfere with you carrying a full course of study
    • The employment is necessary to avoid sever economic hardship due to unforeseen circumstance beyond your control
    • On-campus employment unavailable or is not sufficient to meet the needs that have arisen due to the unforeseen circumstances

Step 2: Mail your application to USCIS

Mail the following documents to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  Be sure to read the cover letter from OIP. The letter contains a list of things you need to mail to USCIS.  Also, you must mail your application within 30 days of the new I-20 issuance date.  The issue date is located next to the Adviser's signature on Page 1 of the I-20.  Please account for mailing time.USCIS will reject your application if they receive your application 30 days after the I-20 issuance date.  If you didn't mail your application within 30 days of the new I-20 issuance date, you must contact OIP and request a new I-20.

  1. Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization (All 7 pages)
    • 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 
  2. Photocopies of the I-20 with work authorization recommendation, and DSO letter issued by OIP
  3. Your letter of explaination
  4. Evidence/supporting documentation
  5. Most current I-20: Original or photocopy
  6. Photocopy of the identification page(s) in your passport. The photocopy must include your full name, current expiration date, and your photo
  7. I-94 admissions verification: Print the most recent I-94 at  If you entered the U.S. prior to April 30, 2013, provide a front and back copy of the I-94 card stapled to the passport.
  8. Photos: Two U.S. passport-style photographs (See USCIS photo requirement,(PDF, 106KB).  Write your full name and I-94 number gently at back of your photos and place the photos in a small envelope.
  9. Official transcripts: Transcript must be in a sealed envelople
  10. Photocopies of your previous Employment Authorization Document (EAD) (if any)
  11. (Optional) G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance: If you would like to receive a receipt notification of your application electronically either via email or text, complete this form

USCIS Mailing Address:

If your address is IN California, mail the above documents to:

For U.S. Postal Service: Private Courier (FedEx, DHL or UPS)
USCIS, PO Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036
(If you choose this option, send your application by U.S. Postal Services' Priority Mail - additional fee will apply for tracking)

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

Keep your tracking number after mailing as proof

USCIS will mail a paper I-797C notice to your address after they received your filing fee, Form I-765, and supporting documentation.  Your 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 your application.  If you do not receive any I-797C notice within 3 weeks after mailing your application, request the receipt letter to be sent to you by using the USCIS online tools.

You can check the status of your OPT application by entering your receipt number under “Check your case status” at

Request for Evidence (RFE)  
If there is a problem with your application, USCIS will send you a Request for Evidence (RFE) to ask for more supporting documentation.  An RFE does not mean that your application has been rejected.  It simply means that you need to provide the missing documents before your EAD can be issued.  USCIS gives applicants 30 days to respond to the RFE.  Your application will be denied if you fail to respond to the RFE.  Unfortunately, receiving an RFE will delay the processing of your application. 

Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
Your permission to begin employment is not finalized until you have received an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card from the USCIS.  The EAD will have your photograph and will also indicate the exact dates of your authorized employment. You cannot begin your employment until you have received your 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.

Economic hardship employment authorization will only be granted for a maximum of 12 months or up to your expected date of graduation (whichever is less). If you are still experiencing economic hardship, have not yet graduated, and wish to extend your work authorization, you will need to apply once again following the instructions above.  The authorization can be renewed only if you are maintaining your full-time status and in good academic standing. The authorization is automatically terminated if you fail to maintain your full-time student status, if you are no longer in good academic standing, or if you transfer to another school.

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 Office of International Programs is responsible for any errors or omissions contained in this website, or for the results obtained from the use of this information.

Last Updated: June 2020

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