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Severe Economic Hardship for F-1 Students

Severe Economic Hardship is off-campus employment permission authorized by the USCIS for F-1 students who have proven that they are experiencing severe financial problems caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond their 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.

After Severe Economic Hardship is granted, an F-1 student is allowed to work off-campus for up to one year at a time (part-time up to 20 hours per week during the semester and full time during the summer or official university breaks).  However, the student must continue to maintain a full-course of study.  Work permission becomes invalid as soon as the student interrupts or completes their academic program, is suspended or withdraws from the school, or in any way violates their F-1 status.


To be eligible to apply for Severe Economic Hardship work authorization, you must:

  • Have been in F-1 status for one full academic year (9 consecutive months);
  • Be in good standing as a student and be carrying a full course of study;
  • Demonstrate that acceptance of employment will not interfere with your full-time study; and
  • Demonstrate that the employment is necessary to avoid severe economic hardship due to unforeseen circumstances beyond your control, and that on-campus employment is unavailable or otherwise insufficient to meet the needs that have arisen as a result of the unforeseen circumstances.
Applying for Severe Economic Hardship
You must contact the ISSO to apply for a recommendation for Severe Economic Hardship.  You will then mail your application to the USCIS.  If approved, the USCIS will grant authorization by issuing you an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).  It is illegal to begin employment before you have received the EAD.

It can take 2-3 months for the USCIS to reach a decision on your application; therefore it is recommended that you apply as soon as possible and be prepared to cover yourself financially while your application is pending.

Special Note
If your source of financial support comes from Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, or the Philippines, and you started full-time study in F-1 status before June 10, 1998, please also see our section on Special Student Relief.


Boston University
February 28, 2005

Boston University International Students & Scholars Office