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International Students and Scholars

Off-Campus Employment Regulations for Economic Hardship for F-1 Students

Citizenship and Immigration Services (C.I.S.) regulations governing off-campus employment based on economic hardship took effect in July, 1992. These regulations apply to all students in F-1 status.

In order to be eligible, the student must:

  • have been in valid F-1 academic status for at least one academic year (9 months);
  • be in good academic standing;
  • provide evidence of economic hardship based on unforeseen circumstances beyond the student's control; and
  • demonstrate that on-campus employment is neither available or sufficient.


The regulations require that students make a good faith effort to locate employment on campus before applying for employment authorization based on economic hardship.

C.I.S. offers examples of unforeseen circumstances which may cause economic hardship, including the 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 rates, inordinate increases in tuition and/or living costs, unexpected changes in the financial condition of a students sponsor, medical bills, or other substantial and unexpected expenses.

Employment is limited to no more than 20 hours per week when school is in session, full-time during holidays or vacation periods. Employment authorization is automatically terminated when a student fails to maintain status. Students may work for an employer at any job, anywhere in the United States. A job offer is not required in advance of obtaining employment authorization.

Students seeking employment authorization based on economic hardship will need to apply by mail to the C.I.S. Nebraska Service Center to obtain an employment authorization document (EAD), which is valid in one-year intervals. There is a $120 fee for the EAD.

The following items must be submitted to International Student Services in order to process an application for off-campus employment based on economic hardship:

  • a completed form I-538, items 1-6, and student's signature;
  • current I-20; and
  • written evidence of unforeseen circumstances causing economic hardship including statement of assets, income, and expenses.


Once the application for off-campus employment based on economic hardship is complete, International Student Services will certify on Form I-538 that on-campus employment is not available or sufficient to meet the student's severe economic hardship.

Items submitted to the Nebraska Service Center by ISS include the written evidence of unforeseen circumstances and supporting recommendation from ISS, Form I-765 and signature card, photocopies of Form I-20 and I-94, Form I-538, 2 photographs, fee and photocopy of identity pages from your passport.

It can take three to four months for the EAD to be processed by the Nebraska Service Center. Therefore, students are urged to allow sufficient processing time for this procedure by submitting their paperwork early. In person EAD processing at the district C.I.S. in Denver or any other C.I.S. district office is not available.

Employment may not commence until the student obtains their EAD!

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