March 18, 2009

Severe Economic Hardship for F1 Students in the U.S.A

Any international student suffering "severe economic hardship" as defined by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is eligible to work off-campus for up to 20 hours per week while school is in session, and full-time during breaks.

To be eligible, an international student must:
  • be in valid F-1 status for at least one academic year (9 months)
  • be in good academic standing
  • provide evidence of economic hardship based on unforeseen circumstances beyond the student's control
  • show that on-campus employment is neither available nor sufficient
  • have made a good and spirited effort to locate employment on campus before applying
The rules for this type of off-campus employment gives clear examples of the types of situations or conditions that could be considered "severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond the student’s control".

These 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 exchange rate
  • inordinate increases in tuition and/or living costs
  • unexpected changes in the financial condition of the student's source of support
  • medical bills or
  • other substantial and unexpected expenses.
All intending international students must apply for an "employment authorization document" (EAD) with the help and guidance of their International Student Office. Note that the student does not need a job offer before applying for the EAD.

However, several forms and documents are required for this application, together with fees and photos, etc. Processing can in most (or some) instances take up to 12 weeks or even longer.

Such intending students cannot start their intended off campus work until they have received the EAD. And the designated school official (DSO) at their school's International Student Office (usually an international student advisor) must certify to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) that the student have or meets all the necessary requirements.

Once the EAD is received, the student may then begin work for any employer at any job, anywhere in the United States. Employment authorization is automatically terminated when a student fails to maintain valid F1 status.

Visit the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) website to peruse the table on page 53, and read page 54 of the Temporary Migration to the United States document; and also section 274a.12(c) of the Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations (8 CFR § 274a.12(c)(3)) to get the full and complete text of the articles and documents stipulating the regulations governing this form of off-campus employment.

Related: Off Campus Rules for U.S.A bound international students

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