Work Authorization Due to Economic Hardship

Sometimes in life, the unexpected happens. As a student, particularly an international student, life is particularly risky. You may suddenly find that, through no fault of your own, you’ve lost your financial aid or on-campus employment. Maybe the professor you’ve been working for is retiring or going on sabbatical. Or there’s been a sudden and significant fluctuation in the currency or exchange rate, or an unexpected increase in tuition and/or cost of living. Maybe a family member back home loses his or her job, and can no longer afford to support you financially. Or maybe you’ve had an accident or long illness, and have had to pay a large amount in medical bills. At any rate, your current income/financial support are no longer sufficient, and you need work badly. If this is the case, and you are an international student studying in the United States on an F-1 visa, you may request employment authorization due to severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond your control.

In order to be eligible for employment based on severe economic hardship, you must:

  • Be a valid F-1 status-holder for at least one academic year (nine months)
  • Be in good academic standing, and enrolled in a full course load
  • Be able to provide evidence of unforeseen economic hardship caused by circumstances beyond your control
  • Show that on-campus employment is either unavailable or insufficient
  • Guarantee that employment will not interfere with your studies

To gain work authorization due to economic hardship, you must first apply for an “employment authorization document” (EAD). You can do this with the help and guidance of your school’s International Student Office. They will be able to help you with the forms and documents you need. You will also need to supply two photos of yourself, and pay a fee of $380 USD.

Cons of Work Authorization Due to Economic Hardship

There are several downsides to this kind of employment. The most obvious of these is the application fee. If you are an international student applying for work authorization based on the grounds of severe economic hardship, chances are you do not have the resources to pay the application fee. It is possible (and recommended) to see if you can have this fee waived.

Another downside to this type of employment is the wait time for authorization. After you have submitted your application, it can take three months or longer for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to process it. Three months is a very long time, particularly if you are struggling to make ends meet financially. You may not be able to wait that long for employment.

Pros of Work Authorization Due to Economic Hardship

In spite of the fee and wait time, there are several advantages to this kind of employment. For instance, after you receive your EAD, you are allowed to work for an employer at any job, anywhere in the US. This allows for more employment options and a higher income than on-campus employment.

In addition, hardship employment does not affect future eligibility for employment authorizations like Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT), so you will continue to have the employment benefits available to you as an F-1 visa-holding international student. This means that you will be able to continue to work and receive income after the end of your hardship employment.

With hardship employment, you are authorized to work part-time (20 hours per week) during school and full-time (40 hours per week) during vacations and holidays. Your employment can be authorized for up to one year, and can be renewed up until you complete your current course of study.

Watch videos and learn more with our International Financial Aid Resources center

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