Guidance for F-1 Students Authorized to Work Based on Severe Economic Hardship

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released updated policy guidance related to employment authorization for F-1 nonimmigrant students who qualify for special student relief (SSR) based on severe economic hardship. More specifically, the guidance serves to clarify the maximum length of time the USCIS may grant off-campus SSR employment authorization.


The USCIS has the authority to suspend certain regulatory requirements for F-1 students who are experiencing severe economic hardship due to emergent circumstances. Emergent circumstances, like natural disasters or military conflicts, affect nonimmigrant students from a specific region and who may suffer economic hardship. The USCIS designates SSR by posting a formal notice in the Federal Register. This notice includes the start and end dates of SSR designation, which is typically for an 18-month period. The benefits of SSR may include the option to take a reduced course load or obtain off-campus work authorization.

Duration of SSR Employment Authorization

The USCIS typically grants off-campus SSR employment authorization for up to one year. In the updated guidance, however, the USCIS notes that it may grant off-campus SSR employment authorization for the full duration of the Federal Register validity period, as long as the employment authorization does not extend past the student’s academic program end date.


As discussed in the MurthyDotCom NewsBrief, Students: Types of Employment Authorization (17.Feb.2021), F-1 students typically have limited options to work off-campus. Under certain especially difficult situations, however, the USCIS has the ability to reduce economic hardships for qualifying F-1 students. This latest guidance should make it easier to provide more relief during emergent circumstances to affected eligible students.


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