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Special Student Relief


Special Student Relief (SSR) is a suspension of certain regulatory requirements by the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for an F-1 student from parts of the world that are experiencing emergency circumstances.

There are times when the U.S. government designates a country Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in order to support international students impacted by natural disasters, wars and military conflicts, and national and international financial crises. When the DHS issues a Federal Register Notice authorizing special student relief, students are allowed to apply for work authorization and, once approved, may enroll in fewer credits each quarter. 


You must meet ALL of the following conditions:

  • You are a citizen of a country specified in a Federal Register Notice (or be an individual having no nationality who last habitually resided in the specified country)

  • You must have lawfully resided in the U.S. in F-1 student status on the date of publication of the Federal Register Notice

  • You are enrolled in an SEVP-certified academic institution

  • You are currently maintaining lawful F-1 student status. This means that you have abided by all of the rules and regulations of your F-1 status as a WUST student

  • You are in good academic standing

  • You are enrolled in a full course of study

  • You are experiencing severe economic hardship as a direct result of the crisis in the specified country

  • You are NOT on post-completion OPT

Special Student Relief is different from Severe Economic Hardship. To be eligible for Special Student Relief, you do NOT need to have been in F-1 student status for one academic year, demonstrate that on-campus employment is unavailable or insufficient for your needs, or demonstrate that you will still be able to be enrolled as a full-time student. These are additional requirements of Severe Economic Hardship, but NOT Special Student Relief.​

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.

Relief Granted

If USCIS approves your application, you will be able to:

  • Work for any employer. Your employment does not need to be relevant to your degree program

  • Work an increased number of hours while school is in session

  • Undergraduate students may reduce their course load, so long as they enroll in a minimum of 2 classes (6 credits minimum)

  • Graduate students may reduce their course load, so long as they enroll in a minimum of 1 class (3 credits minimum


Under the Special Student Relief 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.

How to Apply

Step 1) Make an appointment with Student Services to discuss your 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. Under “reason for I-20 request,” select “Special Student Relief 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 Special Student Relief application. This letter will serve as evidence that you are maintaining F-1 status at an SEVP-certified academic institution, are in good academic standing, and are currently 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-821

Fill out Form I-821 to file for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Read the instructions sheet before filling out the form.

Step 4) 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. Write (c)(19) if you are applying for Special Student Relief for the first time. Write (a)(12) if you have previously been approved by USCIS and are applying for re-registration.


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

Step 5) 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 Special Student Relief employment

  • Form I-765

  • Form I-821

  • A letter written by you explaining that:

    • employment is necessary to avoid severe economic hardship

    • that the hardship is a direct result of the crisis in the specified country

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

  • Evidence that you reside in the United States (this can include employment records, rent receipts, utility bills, school records, hospital or medical records, U.S. Social Security card, automobile license receipts, vehicle registration and title, insurance policies, etc.)

  • Two U.S. passport-style photos

  • Fingerprints and digital signature

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

  • Photocopy of your passport identification page

  • Photocopy of your visa page

  • Filing fee for Form I-765 ($410) 

  • Application fee for Form I-821 ($50)

  • Biometric services fee for Form I-821 ($85)

You can pay the fees ($545 total) 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 fees may submit the Form I-912 Request for Fee Waiver along with their Form I-765 and Form I-821. 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 6) Submit your application to USCIS

Once you have all of the documentation required, you can submit your application to USCIS. Unfortunately, USCIS does not allow online applications for Special Student Relief for some countries. You might have to apply by mail. Review the USCIS mailing instructions to find the correct filing location. This information varies by country, so be sure to check the USCIS website for the most accurate information for your country.


If you are applying by mail, you must write “SPECIAL STUDENT RELIEF” on the bottom right-hand side of the envelope. Failure to do so may result in significant processing delays.

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 Special Student Relief approval.

How to Apply





El Salvador







South Sudan






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