This information has been adapted from the Special Student Relief (SSR) Notice in the Federal Register: Employment Authorization for Venezuelan F-1 Nonimmigrant Students Experiencing Severe Economic Hardship as a Direct Result of the Current Humanitarian Crisis in Venezuela

Additional information is added here to clarify processes for University of Florida F-1 students from Venezuela seeking SSR approval. Please read this information thoroughly and carefully and direct case-specific questions to the assigned Designated School Official (DSO), also called the International Student Advisor (ISA). The list of F-visa advisors (ISAs) is available on our Contact an Advisor page for F-1 students.

What is Special Student Relief (SSR)?

Special Student Relief (SSR) is the suspension of certain regulatory requirements for lawful F-1 students from designated countries determined by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In this specific case, it allows F-1 students from Venezuela to:

  • request employment authorization
  • work an increased number of hours while school is in session
  • reduce their course load while continuing to maintain F-1 student status
    • a student who receives employment authorization by means of the SSR is deemed to be engaged in a “full course of study” for the duration of the employment authorization
    • must meet the minimum course load requirements described in the SSR Notice

SSR for Venezuela is effective from April 22, 2021 until September 9, 2022.

SSR is for F-1 students only; F-2 dependent spouses/children remain ineligible to work in the U.S. and do not qualify for SSR approval.

SSR minimum course load requirements

Minimum course load requirements with approved SSR

  • F-1 students with approved on-campus or off-campus employment authorization under the SSR notice must register for a minimum of:
    • Undergraduate F-1 students: six credits per academic term, including up to three credits per term of online or distance education
    • Graduate F-1 students: three credits per academic term, including up to three credits per term of online or distance education
      • However, graduate students with a Graduate Appointment (GA) will need at least 9 credits per fall or spring semester and 6 credits in the summer semester to meet the enrollment requirements for the GA, including up to three credits per term of online or distance education

Normal course load requirements remain unchanged for F-1 students without SSR approval

  • F-1 students not approved for SSR on-campus or off-campus employment authorization must register according to the normal enrollment requirements:
    • Undergraduate F-1 students: 12 credits per academic term, including up to three credits per term of online or distance education
    • Graduate F-1 students: 9 credits per academic term, including up to three credits per term of online or distance education
    • Students applying for SSR approval but with a pending employment authorization application must register according to the normal requirements while the SSR application is pending

Eligibility requirements for SSR

The F-1 student must meet all of these eligibility requirements:

  • country of citizenship is Venezuela (regardless of country of birth)
  • present in the United States in lawful F-1 status as of April 22, 2021
  • enrolled in an SEVP-certified school (UF is SEVP certified)
  • currently in lawful F-1 status
  • experiencing severe economic hardship as a direct result of the current humanitarian crisis in Venezuela

An F-1 student covered by the SSR notice who transfers to another SEVP-certified school remains eligible for the relief provided by the SSR notice.

An initial (new) F-1 student who enters the U.S. after April 22, 2021 is ineligible to obtain SSR approval.

A continuing F-1 student who departs the U.S. after April 22, 2021 and who needs to apply for a new F-1 visa before returning to the U.S. to continue the program of study remains eligible for the SSR as long as this reason is notated in the SEVIS record by the DSO.

Documentation to provide to the DSO

The documentation information applies for both on-campus and off-campus employment authorization requests seeking the SSR approval or SSR recommendation.

  • Completed Special Student Relief (SSR) Request Form
  • The most recent I-94 Record and Travel History
  • Copies of the most recent passport and F1 visa page
  • Copies of any existing EADs (if applicable)
  • The F-1 student seeking SSR approval for on-campus or off-campus work must provide evidence to demonstrate to the DSO that the employment is necessary to avoid severe economic hardship directly resulting from the current humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. Examples of such documentation may include but is now limited to:
    • A detailed explanation letter about the student’s individual circumstances, including the current financial ability, the type and scope of expenses to support themselves while in the U.S., and the potential consequences if the financial difficulty is not alleviated.
    • Proof of the currency exchange rate and how it has changed from when the student first began the degree program
    • Any other supporting evidence that illustrates the student’s specific circumstance; documents must be provided in English. If a document is provided in Spanish, a certified English translation must accompany the Spanish language document.

SPECIAL STUDENT RELIEF (SSR) REQUEST FORM

 

F-1 Students with existing employment authorization (on-campus or off-campus)

F-1 Students with existing on-campus or off-campus employment authorization may still benefit from this notice.

  • Existing on-campus work is work conducted on-campus and paid by the University of Florida. See our On-Campus employment page for more information.
  • Existing off-campus work means work done for any off-campus entity that is specifically approved by USCIS by issuance of an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), such as for Severe Economic Hardship (SEH) or Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
    • Caution: To work on a TPS-EAD and be able to maintain valid F-1 student status, the SSR must be approved first in SEVIS and on the Form I-20. Starting work on a TPS-EAD without the SSR approval violates the F-1 student status.

To benefit from this notice, the F-1 student must request that the DSO enter a statement in the remarks field of the student's SEVIS record, which will appear on the student's Form I-20.

  • The F-1 student must demonstrate to the DSO that the employment is necessary to avoid severe economic hardship directly resulting from the current humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.
  • If the SSR request is approved, the DSO will provide the F-1 student with an updated Form I-20 which contains the DSO statement. The updated I-20 must then be provided to the employer as proof of the SSR approval.

The SSR does not provide a regulatory suspension of requirements for F-1 students on CPT or OPT (practical training); those requirements for work hours, type of work, practical training duration, and/or enrollment while on CPT or on OPT remain unchanged.

New On-Campus Employment Authorization under SSR

An eligible F-1 student who obtains an on-campus job, under this SSR notice, may be authorized to work more than 20 hours per week while school is in session. For the 20-hour per week limitation to be suspended the DSO must enter a statement in the remarks field of the SEVIS record, which will appear on the student's Form I-20.

  • To obtain the SSR on-campus employment authorization, the F-1 student must demonstrate to the DSO that the employment is necessary to avoid severe economic hardship directly resulting from the current humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.
    • An F-1 student authorized by the DSO to work on-campus by means of the SSR notice does not need to file an application with USCIS.
    • The standard rules that permit full-time employment on-campus when school is not in session or during school vacations still apply. 
  • If approved for the SSR on-campus employment authorization, the DSO will provide the F-1 student with an updated Form I-20 which contains the DSO statement. The updated I-20 must then be provided to the employing department as proof of the SSR approval for UF HR processes.

New Off-Campus Employment Authorization under SSR

Under normal Severe Economic Hardship (SEH) requirements, the F-1 student must provide to USCIS evidence as outlined below.  If approved by USCIS, the F-1 student may work off-campus for up to 20 hours per week while school is in session and must continue to maintain a full course of study.

  • The 20 hours per week while school is in session provision is suspended by the SSR
  • If approved for the SSR-EAD, the full course of study requirement must meet the minimums provided in the SSR notice as explained in the section that addresses minimum course load requirements.

F-1 Student Seeking Off-Campus Employment Due to Severe Economic Hardship--(c)(3)(iii).  (Normal Requirements)

  • File Form I-765 with a copy of the Form I-20 that includes the employment page completed by the DSO certifying eligibility for off-campus employment due to severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond your control.  Include evidence that:
    • You have been in F-1 status for one full academic year; (suspended by the SSR)
    • You are in good standing as a student;
    • You are carrying a full course of study;
    • Acceptance of employment will not interfere with your carrying a full course of study; (suspended by the SSR)
    • The employment is necessary to avoid severe economic hardship due to unforeseen circumstances beyond your control; and
    • On-campus employment is unavailable or is not sufficient to meet the needs that have arisen due to the unforeseen circumstances (suspended by the SSR)

The following regulatory requirements relating to off-campus employment for F-1 students are suspended under the SSR notice

  • The requirement that a student must have been in F-1 student status for one full academic year to be eligible for off-campus employment;
  • The requirement that an F-1 student must demonstrate that acceptance of employment will not interfere with the student's carrying a full course of study;
  • The requirement that limits an F-1 student's employment authorization to no more than 20 hours per week of off-campus employment while school is in session; and
  • The requirement that the student demonstrate that employment under 8 CFR 214.2(f)(9)(i) is unavailable or otherwise insufficient to meet the needs that have arisen as a result of the unforeseen circumstances.

However, the F-1 student must still provide evidence regarding:

  • The student’s good standing at the school
  • The requirement for carrying a full course of study is currently being met
    • For the above two points, a recent UF transcript is suggested as evidence plus the current semester course schedule
  • The employment is necessary to avoid severe economic hardship due to humanitarian crisis in Venezuela
    • For the above point, the same documentation provided to the DSO is acceptable to provide to USCIS

New Off-Campus Employment Authorization – Filing the I-765 with USCIS

An F-1 student must file a Form I-765, with USCIS to apply for off-campus employment authorization based on the severe economic hardship directly resulting from the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

  • Filing instructions are at https://www.uscis.gov/i-765.
  • Eligibility category on the I-765 is the same as the one used for SEH: (c)(3)(iii)
  • Must file a paper-based application (not eligible for online filing)
  • Submission of a Form I-765 currently requires payment of a $410 fee. An applicant who is unable to pay the fee may submit a completed Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver, along with the Form I-765. See https://www.uscis.gov/forms/filing-fees/additional-information-on-filing-a-fee-waiver. The submission must include an explanation of why USCIS should grant the fee waiver and the reasons for the inability to pay, and any evidence to support the reasons.
    • Read all information thoroughly and carefully to understand how to properly request a fee waiver.  For questions about the fee waiver process, the applicant must contact USCIS directly.
    • If the request for a fee waiver is denied by USCIS, the applicant will need to refile the application along with the proper filing fee.

New Off-Campus Employment Authorization – Application Procedure

An F-1 student seeking off-campus employment authorization due to severe economic hardship must demonstrate the following to the DSO:

  • This employment is necessary to avoid severe economic hardship; and
  • The hardship is a direct result of the current humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.
    • See the section on “Documentation to provide to the DSO” for an explanation of the type of documentation that may be prepared and submitted.
  • If the DSO agrees that the F-1 student should receive such employment authorization, the DSO must recommend to USCIS that the student be approved for Off-campus employment due to the SSR and must enter a statement in the remarks field of the student's SEVIS record.
    • The off-campus employment recommendation (due to SSR) will be entered in SEVIS
    • The DSO remark will appear on page one of the Form I-20
    • The updated I-20 will be provided to the F-1 student
  • The F-1 student must then file the properly endorsed Form I-20 and Form I-765 according to the instructions for the Form I-765. The F-1 student may begin working off campus only upon receipt of the SSR-EAD from USCIS. Working prior to the receipt of the EAD from USCIS is a violation of the F-1 student status.
  • While the application is pending at USCIS, the F-1 student must continue to enroll according to the normal F-1 enrollment requirements.

New Off-Campus Employment Authorization – USCIS application packet

Documents to send to USCIS for the I-765 application:

  • Completed and signed I-765 application form available at: https://www.uscis.gov/i-765
    • Use the eligibility code (c)(3)(iii) on the Form I-765
  • $410 check or money order payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Or the Filing Fee Waiver request as explained at: https://www.uscis.gov/forms/filing-fees/additional-information-on-filing-a-fee-waiver
  • Two full-face U.S. passport style photos. The photos must be identical and in color with a plain white background. They must be no more than 30 days old when the I-765 is filed with USCIS.
    • Write your name and I-94 number in pencil on the back of each photo.
  • A personal statement and evidence that demonstrates the employment is necessary to avoid severe economic hardship directly resulting from the current humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.
  • Copy of the I-20 recommending the off-campus employment due to SSR and containing the DSO statement on page one
    • Be sure to sign your I-20 on page one at the student attestation section
  • Copies of the student’s previous I-20s, electronic I-94 Record, passport page showing the biographical information and the expiration date, F-1 visa page or I-797 (approval of change of status to F-1), if applicable
  • Copy of a recent transcript and current semester course schedule
  • Copy of any existing or past EADs (if applicable)
  • Optional: G-1145 E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance: https://www.uscis.gov/g-1145
    • If you include this, place it on top of all other application documents

New Off-Campus Employment Authorization – Processing at USCIS

To facilitate prompt adjudication of the student's application for off-campus employment authorization under 8 CFR 214.2(f)(9)(ii)(C), the F-1 student should do both of the following:

  • Ensure that the application package includes all of the following documents:
    • A completed Form I-765;
    • The required fee or properly documented fee waiver request as defined in 8 CFR 103.7(c);
    • A signed and dated copy of the student's Form I-20 with the appropriate DSO recommendation, as previously described in the SSR notice; and
  • Send the application in an envelope which is clearly marked on the front of the envelope, bottom right-hand side, with the phrase “SPECIAL STUDENT RELIEF.” Failure to include this notation may result in significant processing delays.

If USCIS approves the student's Form I-765, USCIS will send the student an EAD as evidence of employment authorization. The EAD will contain an expiration date that does not exceed the end of the granted temporary relief.

We are unable to provide a definitive processing timeline for this application; expect that the application will take several weeks to a few months to be processed at USCIS.

DSO Recommendation

In making a recommendation that an F-1 student be approved for Special Student Relief, the DSO certifies the following:

  • The F-1 student is in good academic standing and carrying a “full course of study” at the time of the request for employment authorization;
  • The F-1 student is a citizen of Venezuela (regardless of country of birth) and is experiencing severe economic hardship as a direct result of the current humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, as documented on the Form I-20;
  • The F-1 student has confirmed that the student will comply with the reduced course load requirements of 8 CFR 214.2(f)(5)(v) and register for the duration of the authorized employment for a minimum of six credit hours of instruction per academic term if at the undergraduate level or for a minimum of three credit hours of instruction per academic term if at the graduate level; and
  • The off-campus employment is necessary to alleviate severe economic hardship to the individual as a direct result of the current humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

DSO Remarks

DSO remark for existing on-campus or off-campus employment authorization (i.e. existing SEH or TPS):

Approved for more than 20 hours per week of [DSO must insert “on-campus” or “off-campus,” depending upon the type of employment authorization the student already has] employment authorization and reduced course load under the Special Student Relief authorization from [DSO must insert the beginning date of the notice or the beginning date of the student's employment, whichever date is later] until [DSO must insert either the student's program end date, the current EAD expiration date (if the student is currently authorized for off-campus employment), or the end date of this notice, whichever comes first].

DSO remark for new on-campus employment authorization

Approved for more than 20 hours per week of on-campus employment and reduced course load, under the Special Student Relief authorization from [DSO must insert the beginning date of the notice or the beginning date of the students employment, whichever date is later] until [DSO must insert the student's program end date or the end date of the notice, whichever date comes first].

DSO remark for new off-campus employment authorization/recommendation

Recommended for off-campus employment authorization in excess of 20 hours per week and reduced course load under the Special Student Relief authorization from the date of the USCIS authorization noted on Form I-766 until [DSO must insert students' program end date or the end date of the notice, whichever date comes first]

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Considerations

  • SSR is different than TPS; while TPS may be available to people in various visa categories, SSR is only available for F-1 students
    • UFIC is able to assist F-1 Students seeking SSR approval only, we are unable to assist with a TPS application.
  • For F-1 students considering applying for the SSR and TPS concurrently, please read thoroughly and carefully the SSR Federal Register Notice: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/04/22/2021-08368/employment-authorization-for-venezuelan-f-1-nonimmigrant-students-experiencing-severe-economic
  • If approved for both SSR and TPS, the F-1 student will be able to maintain compliance requirements for F-1 student status and TPS.
    • Option 1: Apply for TPS and TPS-EAD first, and then seek the SSR approval
    • Option 2: Apply for SSR-EAD and separately apply for TPS with or without TPS-EAD
  • If having a TPS-related EAD, an F-1 student may request that the student's DSO make the required entry in SEVIS, issue an updated Form I-20 as described in the SSR notice and notate that the F-1 student has been authorized to carry a reduced course load and is working pursuant to a TPS-related EAD. So long as the F-1 student maintains the minimum course load described in the SSR notice, does not otherwise violate the student’s F-1 status, including as provided under 8 CFR 214.1(g), and maintains the student's TPS, then the student maintains F-1 status and TPS concurrently.
    • If already approved for TPS with the TPS-EAD, the F-1 student must demonstrate and provide documentation to the DSO of the direct economic hardship resulting from the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. The DSO will then verify and update the student's record in SEVIS to enable the F-1 student with TPS to reduce their course load without any further action or application.
    • No other EAD needs to be issued for the F-1 student to have employment authorization.
  • While the application for employment authorization is pending, the F-1 student must continue to remain enrolled full time according to the normal F-1 enrollment requirements.
    • Only after having SSR approval, may an F-1 student be eligible for the SSR reduced course load.
  • If the student violated F-1 status under TPS approval, an out of status student may apply for reinstatement of lawful F-1 status. This is generally the case as long as the violation was not due to an employment infraction.