Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

F-1 Severe Economic Hardship Work Permit

What is Severe Economic Hardship?

If other employment opportunities are not available or are otherwise insufficient, an eligible F-1 student may request off-campus employment work authorization based upon severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond the student’s control. These circumstances may 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 condition of the student’s source of support, medical bills, or other substantial and unexpected expenses.


In order to qualify for Severe Economic Hardship employment authorization, a student must meet the following criteria:

  • Student has been in active F-1 status for one full academic year
  • The student is in good standing as a student and is carrying a full course of study
  • The student has demonstrated that acceptance of employment will not interfere with the student’s carrying a full course of study
  • The student has demonstrated that the employment is necessary to avoid severe economic hardship due to unforeseen circumstances beyond the student’s control

*You do not need a job offer to apply for a Severe Economic Hardship employment authorization


Applying for Severe Economic Hardship is a multi-step process:

  1. Student makes an appointment to meet with an International Advisor to discuss Economic Hardship, whether this is the best option for them based on their circumstances, and to confirm they meet the basic eligibility requirements.  If student meets eligibility requirements and wishes to proceed, Advisor will go over process with student and discuss paperwork needed.  Student will need to prepare list of items from the Economic Hardship Student Checklist.
  2. Once student has prepared items, they must arrange for a second appointment with their international advisor to verify they have a complete application/packet and request to be recommended for Economic Hardship.

Processing Times

USCIS can easily take up to 90 days or more to process this type of application. Approval is not guaranteed.  Employment may not begin until a student has received a written approval from USCIS.

Items to Note

If approved, the student will receive a Severe Economic Hardship Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card from USCIS granting permission to work off campus. Typically, permission is granted for up to one year. Note the following:

  • a student may work a maximum of 20 hours per week during the school year and full-time (over 20 hours per week) during vacation periods
  • Severe Economic Hardship work permission is not limited to employment in your field of study (a student may accept any type of lawful employment once they have received their EAD)
  • a student may not begin employment until they have received an EAD or before the start date indicated on the EAD
  • a student must end employment by the EAD expiration date or by the date studies conclude, whichever is earlier
  • a student must remain full-time student while on Severe Economic Hardship (unless otherwise approved)
  • if a student transfers to another institution, their EAD becomes invalid as of the date of transfer

For further information, please see your international advisor: International Student Advising.

This page is maintained by the OISS SEVIS Coordinator.