Severe Economic Hardship (SEH)

If other employment opportunities are not available or are otherwise insufficient, an eligible F-1 student may request employment authorization based on severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond the student’s control.

These circumstances may include a 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, or unexpected changes in the financial condition of the student’s source of support, medical bills, or other substantial and unexpected expenses. Source: [8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(9)(ii)(C)-(D) and (F)]

Eligibility Criteria

You are eligible to apply for employment based on severe economic hardship if:

  • You have been in F-1 status for one full academic year
  • You are in good academic standing and are taking a full course load
  • Employment will not interfere with your studies
  • You can demonstrate that the employment is necessary to avoid severe economic hardship due to unforeseen economic circumstances beyond your control

How to Apply for Severe Economic Hardship Employment

  1. Schedule an appointment with an International Student Services DSO, and bring the documents listed in “Documentation Needed to Apply” to your appointment.
  2. International Student Services will review your documents.
  3. International Student Services will generate a new I-20 with a Severe Economic Hardship recommendation on page 2 of the new I-20.
  4. International Student Services will notify you when your new I-20 is available.
  5. Bring your Jaypass to the office to pick up your new I-20.
  6. Sign your name and write the date of receipt on the I-20 immediately.
  7. Send your request to USCIS. Refer to Submitting Your Severe Economic Hardship Request Application to USCIS below.

Documentation Needed to Apply

  • Typed letter to USCIS explaining specific situation​
  • Supporting documentation as evidence
  • Completed Form I-765, using the code (C)(3)(iii) at item 16. Do not date the form until you are ready to send the application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • Copies of your updated Severe Economic Hardship I-20 and previous I-20s
  • Photocopies of the identity page(s) from passport (picture, number and expiration date)​ and F-1 visa page
  • Copy of paper or print-out of electronic Form I-94
  • Two color passport photos taken in past 30 days​
  • Copy of any previously issued EAD cards​​
  • Copy of your Unofficial Transcripts in the Academics section within Self Service, accessible via the MyElmhurst Portal (select all terms and “print” for a PDF copy)

Submitting Your Severe Economic Hardship Application to USCIS

Once you have requested a Severe Economic Hardship Employment recommendation and received your new I-20 from International Student Services, you will need to prepare and submit the following list of items to USCIS:

  • A copy of the new I-20 with Severe Economic Hardship employment recommendation
  • Copies of your previous I-20(s)
  • Copy of paper or print-out of electronic Form I-94
  • Copy of your passport page showing your biographical information and the expiration date
  • Copy of your F-1 visa page (except Canadians) or I-797 (approval of change of status to F-1), if applicable
  • Form I-765
  • Payment of the base fee or Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver (if you are unable to pay the application fee)
  • Two full-face passport style photos. The photos must be identical and in color with a plain background. They must be no more than 30 days old when the I-765 is filed to USCIS. Put photos in an envelope. You should attach the fee and the photo envelope on top of the entire application (on the upper left-hand corner). Please do not staple the fee and the photos.
  • The personal statement along with any other supporting documents, if available.

Mailing to USCIS

USCIS Chicago Lockbox

U.S. Postal Service (USPS):

PO Box 805373
Chicago, IL 60680

FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:

Attn: I-765 C03
131 South Dearborn – 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517

Employment Authorization Card (EAD)

If the application is approved, USCIS will issue an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) to you. If the application is denied, you will be notified by USCIS in writing.

You may not begin employment until you have received the EAD and the dates are valid. Authorization is granted in one-year intervals up to the expected date of completion of studies. You may work part time while school is in session and full time during official university holidays.

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