An F-1 student may apply with USCIS to obtain work authorization to work off-campus on a part-time basis after having been in F-1 status for at least one full academic year, provided that the student is in good academic standing and the need to work off campus is “based upon severe economic hardship (SEH) 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.”

Part-time off-campus employment authorization under SEH is limited to up to twenty (20) hours per week when school is in session. A student who is granted off-campus employment authorization under SEH may work full-time (over 20 hours per week) during official school vacation periods (winter break, spring break, or summer break) if the student has not yet completed their program and expects to enroll full time in the following semester. The employment authorization is automatically terminated whenever the student fails to maintain status or completes their program of study.

Eligibility to apply for SEH Authorization

To be eligible for SEH employment authorization, the student must:

  • be in valid, F-1 status, for one full academic year (Fall and Spring),
  • be in good academic standing and carrying a full course load, registered in compliance with F-1 student regulations,
  • be able to show that working will not adversely impact the ability to attend school full-time and maintain good academic standing,
  • demonstrate that the economic hardship is based on unforeseen circumstances that arose after the student obtained F-1 status and are beyond the student’s control, and 
  • demonstrate that employment opportunities on campus are unavailable or insufficient to meet the new, unexpected financial needs.

    NOTE: Mexican and Canadian border commuter students are not eligible for SEH work authorization. 

What are “unforeseen circumstances”?

Unforeseen circumstances are described as:

  • Loss of assistantship or on-campus employment resulting from circumstances beyond the student’s control 
  • Large increases in tuition or living costs
  • Substantial decrease in the relative value of currency the student depends upon to pay expenses
  • Unexpected changes in the financial conditions for a student's sources of financial support (as documented when the student obtained the I-20 from the school)
  • Unexpected large medical bills not covered by insurance
  • Other substantial and unexpected expenses

Key Points:

  • SEH employment is limited to part-time, up to twenty (20) hours per week when school is in session.
  • During official school vacation periods, SEH employment is allowed full-time, over twenty (20) hours per week. The official school vacation periods are winter break, spring break, or summer break, if the student has not yet completed their major degree program and expects to enroll full-time in the following semester.
  • The employment eligibility code for an F-1 student seeking off-campus employment due to Severe Economic Hardship is (c)(3)(iii).
  • Approval for off-campus employment due to Severe Economic Hardship is valid for up to one year.
  • The student may apply for SEH employment authorization up to 90 days prior to the desired employment start date.
  • USCIS must receive the application for SEH authorization within 30 days of the day the F-1 Advisor makes the recommendation for SEH in SEVIS.
  • The application will generally take at least three to four months for USCIS to adjudicate, once they receive the application.
  • If USCIS approves the application, the student will receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card from USCIS; the student must have the EAD card in hand and the start date on the EAD card must be effective before the student can begin working.
    • Please send a copy of the SEH EAD card to; title the email “SEH Card” and include the UFID # in the email.
  • SEH employment authorization is automatically terminated/invalidated whenever the student fails to maintain status, completes their program of study, transfers to another school, reaches the program end date on their I-20, or reaches the SEH EAD end date, whichever comes first.
  • If the F-1 student needs to continue working off-campus during their program, the student must re-apply for SEH. The student must request a new SEH recommendation I-20 from their F-1 Advisor for each SEH application to USCIS. The student may then submit an application to USCIS for renewal of SEH work authorization by following the same procedures outlined on this page. The earliest the student may request a renewal is 180 days before the current SEH EAD expires (note, this 180-day-in-advance SEH EAD renewal filing policy does not apply to OPT or STEM OPT applications.


To start the SEH Recommentation I-20 Request, click the following button and use your GatorLink credentials to login (please make sure you only create one request). Remember to click SUBMIT after completing the SEH recommendation I-20 application:



Documents Required to Request a SEH Recommendation I-20 from the F-1 Advisor

  • A personal statement letter addressed to USCIS which includes the student’s full name, SEVIS ID number, and contact information in the letter, and which outlines the sponsor’s financial situation and describes how the student’s financial circumstances have changed since being in F-1 status for at least one academic year. Include any past or current on-campus employment. If not currently working on campus, explain efforts made and the inability to find on-campus employment. If currently working on-campus, explain why the on-campus employment is not sufficient to meet the unforeseen financial circumstance. Attach supporting documentation, such as:
    • news articles of the situation in the home country,
    • a letter from the sponsor(s) describing the change in financial circumstances and sponsor’s bank account showing current balance,
    • proof of a currency devaluation in the home country,
    • medical bills showing balance owed (block out all private medical information),
    • proof of tuition bill payment, 
    • apartment lease contract, utility bills, etc. 
    • any other significant, substantial, and unexpected expenses. 

      NOTE: The student should collect as much documentation about their current financial situation as possible in order to make a compelling case. The more documentation, the better.

  • Copy of Form I-94 (click on the link, then “Get Most Recent I-94” for instructions)
  • Copy of Travel History (click on the link, then “View Travel History” for instructions)
  • Copy of most recent F-1 POE Stamp in passport (if available)
    • some POE locations no longer stamp the passport, so it is fine if the student does not have one which matches the most recent I-94 entry record
  • Copy of F-1 Visa photo page (may be expired) or I-797 F-1 Change of Status Approval Notice from USCIS
  • Copy of Passport photo page (must be valid)
  • Copies of any previously issued EAD cards, front and back (if applicable)

The F-1 Advisor will then review the documents in order to issue the SEH Recommendation I-20. The I-20 can only be issued within 90 days prior to the requested employment start date. The student will then receive an email at their GatorLink account when the I-20 is ready. The student must use the new, SEH recommendation I-20 in the SEH application they will mail to USCIS.

Documents to Include in the SEH Application to USCIS

After the student receives the new I-20 with recommendation for SEH, the student may then assemble all required documents to mail a SEH work authorization application to USCIS.  We highly recommend that you make and keep a copy of all documents which you include in your application to USCIS for your records.

Documents to include in the SEH application to USCIS:

  • Application Fee or Fee Waiver (either include the fee payment or fee waiver)
    • Filing Fee:
      • Include a Personal Check or Money Order, made payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security.” Sign and date the check (month/day/year) on the front of the check (do not sign the back of the check).  On the memo line, indicate I-765 for SEH and your I-94 number
  • If  you’d like to request the I-912 Fee Waiver instead:
    • Review the form instructions, confirm your eligibility and submit with the required evidence
    • Keep in mind, USCIS does not usually grant the fee waiver.
  • 2” x 2” on plain white or off-white background in accordance with Department of State photo requirements.
  • Do not cut, trim, or otherwise alter the photos.
  • Do not reuse old photos or photos used in passport/visa applications.
  • Gently write your name and I-94 number on the back of each photo (use felt tip pen, such as a thin sharpie)
  • Passport photos may be processed at the UF Mail & Document Services, Bldg. 715, Radio Road or at a local Wal-Mart, CVS, Walgreens, etc.
  • G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance (optional)
  • Place this form on the top of your complete application if you would like an email/text message when USCIS accepts your application at the Lockbox.
  • USCIS will send a one-time text message or email confirming they have received the application and will provide the application receipt number.
  • Form I-765: Review the Form I-765 instructions on the USCIS website.
    Please read Student Guide for Completing Form I-765 for Severe Economic Hardship
  • Copy of the new I-20 with Severe Economic Hardship recommendation on page 2
    • The I-20 must be signed and dated by your F-1 Advisor on page 1 and 2; confirm that it is.
    • Print and sign the I-20 (must be physical, ink signature) above your name on page 1. This is now your current I-20.
    • Make a copy and include the signed I-20 copy in your application.
  • Your Personal Statement Letter
  • Copy of current Form I-94 (click on the link, then “Get Most Recent I-94” for instructions)
  • Copy of most recent F-1 POE Stamp in passport (if available)
  • Copy of most recent U.S. entry F-1 Visa (may be expired) or I-797 Change of Status to F-1 Approval Notice
  • Copy of your valid Passport ID page(s) and any renewal, extension, amendment, or correction pages
  • Copy of Official UF Transcript for proof of registration (does not need to be original/sealed)
  • Enrollment Verification showing current registration and verifying good student standing at UF
  • Copies of previous I-20s (whichever ones you have available)
  • All supporting documentation/evidence which details your unforeseen/unexpected situation and resulting financial hardship.
  • Copies of any previously issued EAD cards, front and back (if applicable)

Mail the application to USCIS

It is the student’s responsibility to mail the Severe Economic Hardship application and supporting materials to the USCIS Lockbox or Service Center that processes applications for the SEH eligibility category and place of residence.

  • The mailing address is dependent upon the service utilized to mail the application. It may be mailed using the U.S. Postal Service or a courier service (FedEx, UPS).
  • Visit the USCIS I-765 Direct Filing Address for the current lockbox mailing address. Be sure to click on "Foreign Students" and use  the USCIS address for category “(c)(3)(iii) F-1 seeking off-campus employment due to severe economic hardship”
    • USPS: You must go inside of USPS to pay for the postage fee; we recommend USPS Certified Mail or USPS Express Mail. Obtain and keep the tracking number for the package in order to be able to track USPS mailing.
    • Courier Deliveries (FedEx, UPS): Keep a copy of the label with tracking number in order to track FedEx or UPS delivery.
    • USCIS must receive the application for SEH authorization within 30 days of the day the F-1 Advisor makes the recommendation for SEH in SEVIS.

USCIS Processing Times, Online Case Status, and Change of Address Information

The application will first go to a Lockbox facility. From there, it will be sent to a Service Center. The receipt notice that USCIS sends the applicant, will indicate which Service Center is processing the case.  With the service center information from the receipt notice, the applicant can check the estimated USCIS processing time for that particular type of application. The average processing time is estimated to be 90-120 days. However, processing times vary widely, depending on the time of year and workload at the Service Center in which the application is being processed. The receipt notice from USCIS will also contain the applicant’s receipt (or case) number.  The applicant may track the status of the case on the USICS Case Status Online website.  If the student changes U.S. home or mailing address while the application is pending with USCIS, the student must complete the Change of Address (AR-11) with USCIS to receive mail at the correct address.  It is recommended to file the change of address online. The student cannot begin employment until having received the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and the “start date” printed on the EAD card is effective.