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Severe Economic Hardship


If you are suffering severe economic hardship due to unforeseen changes in your financial circumstances, you may apply to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for authorization to work off-campus.

Examples of unforeseen circumstances

  • Loss of financial support or on-campus employment
  • 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 your source of support, such as loss of a family business
  • Excessive medical bills

About authorized employment

  • The employment authorization is granted by USCIS in increments of one year at a time.
  • The authorization allows you to work for any employer up to 20 hours per week while you are registered full-time.
  • It also allows you to work more than 20 hours per week during quarter breaks and your annual vacation quarter.
  • This employment does not affect your eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT).
  • Employment authorization is automatically terminated if you graduate, fail to maintain status or transfer to another school.


  • You must have been in F-1 status for one academic year
  • You must be in good academic standing
  • You must document that on-campus employment opportunities are unavailable or insufficient to meet your financial needs.

How to apply

Go to Meet an Advisor or use the Contact ISS form to contact an ISS advisor to discuss your financial situation. After you have met an advisor, request Severe Economic Hardship I-20 through MyISSS.

Gather the application documents to mail to USCIS

  • Form I-765 (write (c)(3)(iii) in item 16)
  • Form I-765 filing fee paid by money order, personal check, cashier’s check, or credit card using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions. If you pay by check, you must make your check payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  • Photocopy of Form I-20, with your ISS adviser’s recommendation for economic hardship employment
  • Two passport-style photos
  • Photocopy of I-94 card (front and back)
  • A letter describing your financial difficulties and why on-campus employment opportunities are unavailable or insufficient; include supporting evidence
  • Photocopy of passport identification page
  • Photocopy of visa page
  • Photocopies of any previously-issued EAD cards

After you receive your updated I-20 from ISS, make a copy. Include a copy of your new I-20 along with the other documents previously listed.

Review the USCIS mailing instructions to find the correct filing location.

Application processing times vary between two to four months. Do not begin working until you receive the Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

Other Resources

From the UW Emergency Aid website:
We understand life can be unpredictable. Unexpected costs and needs can cause significant stress and impact your academic success and personal well-being. Thatls why the three campuses of the University of Washington have Emergency Aid to support currently enrolled UW students.