Center for International Education and Programs at Elgin Community College | 1700 Spartan Drive, B105 | Elgin, IL 60123
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Phone: +1.847.214.7809 | Fax: +1.847.931.4897
Economic Hardship Employment
Off-campus employment for F-1 students experiencing severe, unforeseen economic hardship
What is Economic Hardship Employment?
Economic Hardship Employment allows current F-1 students who experience an unforeseen financial hardship while
studying in the United States (U.S.) to obtain off-campus employment authorization from the US Citizenship and
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 bear the cost of 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
• 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 his or her 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 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.
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; authorization
becomes invalid if a student transfers schools.
Economic Hardship Employment requires a student to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card
from USCIS and receive the EAD 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 in
order to apply for Economic Hardship Employment.
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 the proper authorization is a serious violation of F-1
status. Failure to comply with regulations means students may not be eligible for benefits normally granted
to F-1 students and may jeopardize a student’s stay in the US.