Economic Hardship Employment

What is Economic Hardship Employment?

Economic Hardship Employment allows current F-1 students who experience unforeseen financial hardship while studying in the U.S. to obtain off-campus employment authorization from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) under certain conditions. Economic Hardship Employment can help in difficult instances to supplement a student’s income and/or sponsorship. Economic hardship employment authorization will not allow an F-1 to earn enough to cover the cost of a full-time course of study required to maintain F-1 student status. It is a supplement to the student’s income and should not be the sole source of support.

Who is eligible for Economic Hardship Employment?

To be eligible for Economic Hardship Employment, an F-1 student must meet the following conditions per federal regulations:

  • Completed at least one full academic year of study (full-time enrollment in the fall and spring semesters) and be in good standing with ECC.
  • Prove to USCIS that employment is necessary due to severe economic hardship caused by circumstances beyond their control that arose after obtaining F-1 status. Examples of unforeseen economic hardship 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 the cost of tuition and/or living costs, unexpected changes in the financial conditions of the student's source of support, medical bills, or other substantial and unexpected expenses."
  • Be capable of continuing full-time study while engaging in Economic Hardship Employment.

Applying for Economic Hardship Employment


Economic Hardship Employment is limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session and 40 hours per week during official school breaks. Students may work in any field, and, unlike OPT or CPT, the job does not need to be related to the student's course of study. Authorization is granted in one-year intervals, up to the expected date of completion of studies. Students must reapply to USCIS each year to renew work authorization. If a student transfers schools, authorization becomes invalid.

Economic Hardship Employment requires a student to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS and receive the EAD card before employment begins. Students must be able to demonstrate the unforeseen economic hardship and receive the recommendation of the Center for International Education and Programs to apply for Economic Hardship Employment - PDF.

Important reminders about economic hardship employment:

  • If an application is preliminarily approved, the Center for International Education and Programs will inform USCIS and will issue a new Form I-20 with work authorization. Students cannot begin work until they receive an EAD card.
  • Apply for a social security number only after receipt of the EAD card and a job offer.
  • It is the student's responsibility to comply with all immigration regulations, which apply to F-1 students, including employment regulations. Working without proper authorization is a serious violation of F-1 status. Failure to comply with rules means students may not be eligible for benefits normally granted to F-1 students and may jeopardize a student's stay in the U.S.