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Employment Based on Economic Necessity


To be eligible for employment based on severe economic hardship, you must:

  • Be in valid F-1 status for at least one academic year (2 semesters)
  • Have a valid passport and valid I-20
  • Be in good academic standing (GPA of at least 2.0 for Bachelor’s students, 3.0 for Graduate students)
  • Be enrolled in a full course of study
  • Be able to demonstrate that this employment is necessary to avoid severe economic hardship due to unforeseen circumstances beyond your control
  • Document why other employment options are unavailable or insufficient.

Conditions of Employment

  • The employment cannot interfere with your pursuit of a full-time course of study
  • Limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session
  • May be full-time during annual school vacations
  • Is authorized in one-year increments
  • Becomes invalid if you transfer, graduate, or fail to maintain status

To apply for off-campus employment authorization based on economic necessity you must:

  • Make an appointment to speak with an ISSS advisor. During the appointment, the advisor will discuss the application process and explore any other options for employment that might be advantageous in your situation. 
  • Gather all application documents (see The Application Packet section)
  • Bring all application documents with you to a second scheduled appointment. At this visit, the advisor will review the paperwork, create a new I-20, sign documents, and put the application package together
  • Make photocopies of each item in the application packet for your records and mail the entire packet to the address specified for USCIS in category ( c)(3)(iii).
  • Expect an official USCIS receipt notice within a month of mailing. After receiving this receipt you may check on the status of your application on the Case Status Online section of the USCIS website
  • Employment authorization comes in the form of a card, the Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which will show the dates of your authorized employment.

The EAD application packet consists of the following:

  • A personal check or money order made out to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security" for $520.
  • Two color passport photos (2"x2", write name and SEVIS number on back of both photos; must be taken within 30 days)
  • The original Form I-765 filled out in blue ink. Question #27 = (c)(3)(iii)
  • Photocopy of your current I-20 with DSO economic hardship recommendation.
  • Photocopy of your passport number/photo/expiration date page(s)
  • I-94, electronic record or photocopy of the front and back of your hard copy I-94
  • Photocopy of F-1 visa stamp
  • A letter that summarizes your economic hardship and why other employment options are not available or insufficient.  If your situation is due to general economic difficulties in your home country, detail how the crisis has directly affected you and your family
  • Supporting materials that attest to the unforeseen nature of the economic hardship (a list of assets, income, and expenses; newspaper articles describing a recent disaster or currency devaluation in your home country; medical bills; a letter from your sponsor; affidavits, etc.)
  • A supporting letter from the DSO.

*Note: Photos that do not meet the specifications will be rejected and will result in delays. ISSS recommends Campus Photographic Services located on 5201 Paint Branch Parkway, Suite 1117 (in the Patapsco building near the College Park metro station). Their phone number is (301) 405-0577. Hint: Do not wear white.

You may begin working:

  • After you have received the EAD, OR
  • On the beginning date as noted on the EAD, whichever is the later

Benefits and Responsibilities

  • You are limited to 20 hours per week when school is in session.
  • You will need to file federal and state taxes. Please visit the IRS website (Publication 519) for more information.
  • The USCIS website states that generally you should not file for a renewal EAD more than 180 days before your original EAD expires.
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