Severe Economic Hardship

Severe Economic Hardship (SEH) is employment authorization granted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to an F-1 visa holder who has suffered severe economic hardship due to unexpected economic problems.

Some facts about Severe Economic Hardship

  • You must have been in proper F-1 status for at least one full academic year.
  • You may only work 20 hours per week during the school year (more than 20 hours per week during official breaks and summer.)
  • Authorization is granted only in one year increments, although you may re-apply for another employment period.
  • You must be considered a full time student to apply for / engage in employment.
  • You do not need a job offer prior to applying for SEH assistance.
  • Employment authorization does not affect eligibility for practical training.
  • Employment authorized for SEH is not limited to your field of study.  You may accept any kind of lawful employment once you have your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card.
  • If you transfer to another institution, or if you violate F-1 status, your employment authorization is automatically terminated.
  • You need to have a Social Security number in order to work in the US.  If you do not have one, you will need to apply for one as soon as you receive your EAD card.  The Office of International Student Services will be happy to help you apply for a SSN, once you have received your employment authorization.  It is not possible to apply for a SSN without the EAD card.

How do I choose the dates of employment?

Keep in mind that Immigration may take up to 3 months to issue a card. You should apply for SEH about 3 months before your desired start date. If granted, the employment period will last one year.

What do I need to do to apply for Severe Economic Hardship?

Fill out the application and gather all the necessary documents as stated in the Severe Economic Hardship packet. Then submit the completed packet to the Office of International Student Services (ISS). We will process the paperwork, create a new I-20 for you, and ask you to sign it.  Once your paperwork is completed we will create a packet for you to mail to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) via certified return receipt mail.  Address and other mailing information will be provided. Download a Severe Economic Hardship packet or pick one up in ISS.

When will I get an answer from USCIS?

USCIS may take 3 months or more to make a final decision regarding your employment authorization. You may not work until you receive your card! When you receive your card, we ask that you provide OISS with a copy of it.

What if I get a “blue letter” from the USCIS?

A blue letter from USCIS is notification that something is missing or incorrect on your application, or that the Immigration Officer handling your case would like more information regarding your case.

As soon as you receive this letter, it is critical that you notify the Office of International Student Services so we can help you to remedy the problem. Do not delay! 

As always, please call the Office of International Student Services if you have any questions.