Group of students representing different countries

Severe Economic Hardship

  • Is designed for off-campus employment but can be done on-campus.
  • Granted by USCIS in increments of one year at a time or until the program end-date, whichever is shorter.
  • Authorization ends when a student transfers his or her SEVIS record to another institution.
  • Whether a student is working on or off-campus, students are not allowed to work more than 20 hours per week while classes are in session. (During summer and winter break periods, students may work full-time).
  • Can be in any job - does not have to be related to course of study.
  • Must apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS with the assistance of the Designated School Official (DSO).
  • Student cannot begin employment until he or she receives the EAD from USCIS.


A student is eligible for severe economic hardship if:

  • Have been in F-1 status for one full academic year and currently in good standing as a student.
  • Must prove that employment is necessary due to severe economic hardship caused by circumstances unforeseen, unexpected, and beyond his or her control that arose after obtaining F-1 status. (Retirement of your sponsor is not a valid reason to apply).


Complete the forms in the Severe Economic Hardship packet in full and then make an appointment to see an international student advisor at ISC during appointment times. Bring completed forms and the items listed below with you to your appointment:

  1. Completed I-765, follow instructions on completing form
  2. Current Form I-20
  3. Two (2)-full frontal view photos against a white background
  4. I-94 card
  5. Valid passport
  6. Application fee: $340.00 (subject to change without notice); check or money order payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security”
  7. Letter in English from your sponsor explaining why promised funds are no longer available (if applicable)
  8. Letter from student describing the unforeseen hardship situation and, if possible, should attach supporting documentation; for example, a copy of the sponsor’s death certificate or proof of a currency devaluation in the student’s country. This letter should also mention why other employment opportunities are unavailable or insufficient.
  9. A completed budget form (included in this packet) comparing income (sponsorship money, on-campus job) versus expenditures (tuition, fees, rent, etc.)
  10. Bring all past EAD/work permit cards (if applicable).

General Instructions

ISC will mail the application to USCIS. ISC will mail your forms using the return address of the college to facilitate the return of the EAD card to you. Always leave your current address and phone number on file at ISC. Any mailing other than regular mail (i.e. registered, certified, etc.) must be paid in advance by the student.

The USCIS estimates a minimum of 100 days for processing and may take longer. ISC will contact you when your receipt or EAD card is received. Instructions for filling out FORM I-765 Application for Employment Authorization:

You must complete all items, read, sign and date the certification section.

Item Important Information I am applying for: Check “permission to accept employment”, or renewal,” if you are extending a previously approved program.

#3 “Local Address” If you were to move when your card arrives, the Service Center will not forward your mail. Instead, your card would be returned. Please contact the International Student Coordinator.

# 9 “Social Security Number” The number is appearing on your social security card. Do NOT use your I-94 or your Banner ID.

# 10 “Alien Registration Number (I-94 number)” Use the eleven-digit identification number on your I-94 card (in upper left corner of the card.)

# 11 “Previous employment authorization from USCIS” Check “yes” only if you submitted an application directly to USCIS (for example, for optional practical training, internship with an international organization, or severe economic hardship). Do not include on-campus employment or curricular practical training that was authorized by a university. Consult the ISSS staff for appropriate language if you have ever applied for employment authorization from USCIS.

#’s 12-15 “Last entry and current status” Obtain this information from your current I-94.

Contact Us

portrait of female
Patricia J. Higgins, PDSO

International Admissions Specialist
Tennessee Consortium for International Studies
Fax: 865-539-7660
Goins Administration Building, Room 106
Hardin Valley Campus