Off-Campus Employment (Economic Hardship)

Off-Campus Employment (Applying for Economic Hardship)

F-1 and J-1 students are non-immigrants. Therefore they are not eligible for financial aid. Sometimes students may experience severe financial hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond his or her control, for example, the financial sponsor may become seriously ill or retire from employment; a natural disaster may impact the student's home country; etc. 

Eligible F-1 students may request a recommendation for off-campus employment authorization from the International and Exchange Student Center (IESC). F-1 students must have been in student status for at least one academic year and must be able to clearly document the circumstances causing the economic need. Approval is subject to adjudication by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). J-1 students may request employment authorization from the Responsible Official (RO).


  1. The F-1 student must have been in legal immigration status for at least one academic year (two semesters) or nine consecutive months prior to accepting any off-campus employment.
  2. The student must be able to clearly document the circumstances causing the economic need, for example, hospital records documenting the financial sponsor's illness; retirement documents showing loss of employment; newspaper articles about the natural disaster; etc.

Students are eligible for 20 hours of work during school sessions and 40 hours during break periods. The student is required to apply for employment authorization to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Approval is subject to review and adjudication by the California Service Center of the USCIS.

Duration of Employment Authorization

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which is a card that is mailed directly to the student. Employment authorization will begin on the date requested or the date the employment authorization is adjudicated, whichever comes later.

The EAD will reflect the period of validity (start and end dates) of employment authorization. In the case of economic hardship, employment authorization is granted one year at a time and must be renewed if the student needs to continue employment. The student will be required to resubmit all proof, documents and fees when applying for a renewal of this category of employment.


Students are required to make an appointment to meet with a foreign student advisor (FSA) at the International and Exchange Student Center (IESC). Please bring the documents listed under Step 1 to your appointment. This will assist you with obtaining preliminary approval. 

Step 1: The student must submit the following to a foreign student advisor at IESC:

  • Student letter explaining the circumstances that caused the economic need.
  • Letter from financial sponsor explaining circumstances that caused the economic hardship
  • Documents proving the circumstances that caused the economic need.
  • Copy of any previously issued Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) (for student file/record).
  • Completed form I-765 (available at When completing the I-765, the student must follow the instructions as listed for foreign students under category C. Use code (c) (3) (iii).

IESC will take three weeks to review and process the request. Please call (818) 677-3053 to ask if the I-20 is ready for step 2.

Step 2: The student must return to IESC to pick up the documents and bring the following:

  • Two passport photographs with small envelope. Photos must meet U.S. specifications (not taken in home country). The student must write his or her name and I-94 number on back of each photo lightly in pen.
  • Copies of passport pages showing passport number, expiration date, full name and visa.
  • Front and back of most recent I-94.
  • Copy of any previously issued EAD(s).
  • Check for $380 payable to "Department of Homeland Security". Write "For Economic Hardship" in the space provided.

Application Mailing Instructions

The foreign student advisor will put together the application packet. The student is required to mail the packet to the appropriate USCIS lockbox.

When mailing documents by U.S. Postal Service--use certified mail return receipt and send to: USCIS
PO Box 21281 Phoenix, AZ 85036

When mailing documents by express mail or courier service, mail to:
Attn: AOS 1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S. Suite 100 Phoenix, AZ 85034

If you are currently working and living outside of California, your application should be mailed to a different address. Please refer to the I-765 instructions at

Important Information

  • IESC does not require any fees for the services it provides to international students. No fees, under any circumstances, shall be submitted to IESC. When a student is submitting an application to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a check payable to "Department of Homeland Security" will accompany the student's application.
  • Foreign student advisors' responsibilities are limited to reviewing the check for accuracy and returning to the student who will mail the application directly to USCIS.
  • The California Service Center currently takes 90 to 120 days to process all application.
  • Students are not permitted to work prior to receiving employment authorization.
  • Students are required to submit a copy of the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to IESC as soon as they receive it.


Please contact IESC at (818) 677-3053 or email a foreign student advisor for questions or clarifications.