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Severe Economic Hardship


If you are suffering severe economic hardship due to unforeseen changes in your financial circumstances, you may apply to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for authorization to work off-campus.

Examples of Unforeseen Circumstances

  • Loss of financial support or on-campus employment

  • 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 your source of support, such as loss of a family business

  • Excessive medical bills

Employment Authorization

  • Employment due to severe economic hardship is granted by USCIS in increments of one year at a time

  • This authorization allows you to work for any employer. Your employment does not need to be relevant to your degree program.

  • This authorization allows you to work up to 20 hours per week while you are registered as a full-time student

  • This authorization allows you to work more than 20 hours per week during quarter breaks and during approved annual vacation

  • The authorization is automatically terminated if you graduate, fail to maintain a lawful F-1 status, or transfer to another school.


Under the Severe Economic Hardship authorization, these activities will not affect your F-1 status or your post-completion OPT eligibility. Students granted this authorization are still responsible for meeting their on-campus attendance requirements.


Note about F-2 dependents: An F-2 dependent is NOT authorized to work in the United States, regardless of the employment authorization status of their F-1 student.

How to Apply

Step 1) Make an appointment to meet with Student Services to discuss your financial situation.

After you have met with Student Services and have been given preliminary approval to begin the application process, you can move on to step 2.

Step 2) Request supporting documentation from WUST

Submit an I-20 request form in order to receive an I-20 with a DSO recommendation for severe economic hardship on it. Under “reason for I-20 request,” select “Severe Economic Hardship Application.” You must meet with a Student Services advisor BEFORE requesting an I-20, or the request will be denied.


Submit a Student Verification Letter request form. In the box labeled “purpose of verification letter,” note the letter is for your Severe Economic Hardship application. This letter will serve as evidence that you have been in valid F-1 status for at least one full academic year, are a student in good standing, and are enrolled in a full course of study.


**I-20 and student verification letter requests may take 3-5 business days for processing.


Step 3) Fill out the Form I-765

Fill out Form I-765 to file for employment authorization. Read the instructions sheet before filling out the form.


On Part 2 of the form, you must enter the correct eligibility category: (c)(3)(iii)


Do NOT forget to sign the form! USCIS will deny any application that has not been signed by the student. 

Step 4) Gather your required documents

You must submit ALL of the required documentation at the same time. You cannot add documents to your application once you have submitted the application to USCIS. If proper documentation and evidence is missing, your application may be denied. 


You will need:

  • Student Verification Letter 

  • Form I-20 with a DSO’s recommendation for economic hardship employment

  • Form I-765

  • A letter written by you describing: 

    • Your financial difficulties and circumstances

    • That on-campus employment opportunities are unavailable or insufficient to
      meet your needs that have arisen due to unforeseen circumstances

    • That employment will not interfere with your ability to maintain enrollment as a full-time student

    • How employment is necessary to avoid severe economic hardship

  • Any evidence you can provide to support the information in your letter

  • Two U.S. passport-style photos

  • Most recent I-94 record (arrival and departure record)

  • Photocopy of your passport identification page

  • Photocopy of your visa page

  • Photocopy of any previously-issued EAD cards

You can pay the fee ($410) by money order, personal check, cashier’s check, or credit card using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions. If you pay by check, you must make your check payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Any student who is unable to pay the fee may submit the Form I-912 Request for Fee Waiver along with their Form I-765. Submission of the Form I-912 must include an explanation about why USCIS should grant the fee waiver and the reason(s) for the inability to pay, and any evidence to support the reason(s).

Step 5) Submit your application to USCIS

Unfortunately, USCIS does not allow online applications for Severe Economic Hardship. You must apply by mail. Review the USCIS mailing instructions to find the correct filing location.


If you are sending your application via the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), send to this address: 

Attn: I-765 C03
P.O. Box 805373
Chicago, IL 60680-5374


If you are sending your application via FedEx, UPS, or DHL, send to this address:

Attn: I-765 C03 (Box 805373)
131 South Dearborn - 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517


Application processing times vary between two to four months. If your application is approved, USCIS will mail you an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card. Do not begin working until you receive the EAD card. You must notify your DSO when you receive Severe Economic Hardship approval.

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