Completing the Severe Economic Hardship Application

Step 1. Processing with OIA

Letter of explanation. Draft a one-page letter to USCIS explaining the nature of your severe economic hardship and the unforeseen circumstances that have caused it. According to government regulations, "these circumstances may include loss of financial aid or on-campus employment without fault on [your] part, 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 your source of support, medical bills, or other substantial and unexpected expenses." You must be able to document the circumstances. For example, if the person financing your program of study cannot make the promised amount of support available to you, you require documentation why this is so. In your letter, indicate the extent of your need in general terms. For example, if you receive substantial support from the University of Chicago and need to generate some income to help cover living expenses, state that in your letter. You should also state what hardship would ensue to you if your application for this employment authorization is denied. Address the draft to the current Director of the Nebraska Service Center, at the mailing address found at the bottom of this page.

When your letter and support documents are ready, make an appointment with your adviser at the Office of International Affairs (OIA) for review. Your adviser will determine whether your situation renders you eligible for this kind of employment authorization. He/she will also review your documents to see whether you have presented your case convincingly. (Please be patient; the process may take more than one visit to OIA, because we want to make sure you succeed.)

Once you have received approval from your OIA adviser, please continue by completing and submitting the following forms to your adviser.

  1. Request for Work Authorization Form
    • Mark that you are applying for Economic Hardship
  2. Form I-765, "Application for Employment Authorization". Do not submit this form electronically. Print a hard copy to give to our office for our review. You will receive this application back with your new I-20 for mailing. Please carefully read and follow the directions on form I-765, and also note the following:
    • Make sure to mark one of the boxes where it asks, "I am applying for..."
    •  #1. Print neatly, your entire name as it appears on your passport and I-20 and spell out your middle name.
    • #3. Enter your address in the Chicago area. We recommend that you include the last 4 digits to the end of your zip code to help with mail delivery of the EAD card.  Check the U.S. Postal Service website to look up your full zip code.  If, for some reason, your United States address during the period of application will not be in Illinois, ask OIA how to proceed. If you decide to use a friend's address, where your name is not on the mailbox, you should write "c/o" (for "in care of") and your friend's name all on the same line with the street address.
    • #10. Enter the eleven-digit serial number from your I-94 Departure Record card or I-94 Electronic Entry Record.
    • #15. Enter "F-1 Student."
    • #16. Enter (c)(3)(iii). Above the three sets of parentheses, write "F-1 Economic Hardship."
    • Make sure all questions on the form have an answer. If a question is not applicable to you, write n/a (for "not applicable").

We require one week to process requests.  When your new I-20 showing a recommendation for Economic Hardship work authorization on the top of page 3 and reviewed Form I-765 are ready for pick-up, you will receive an email from our office.

Step 2. Documentation to Assemble

Gather the following items for your application once you receive your new Form I-20 with the Economic Hardship recommendation from our office. (Please note that we recommend color copies of your I-94 record and passport.)

  1. Letter of explanation with support documentation
  2. Form I-765, "Application for Employment Authorization," with fee and photographs stapled to it (see items #2 and #3 below).
  3. Two photos to the standards of the Department of State specifications. These pictures are passport style photos in color. On campus, satisfactory photos are available, for a charge, at the Chicago Card Office located in Regenstein Library. On the back of each photo, print your name lightly with a pencil. Put the photos into a small plastic bag or envelope and staple it to the top of Form I-765.
  4. A check for the filing fee (see the USCIS website for the current fee) payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security." You may use a personal check or a money order. Staple your completed and signed check to the front of the I-765.
  5. A photocopy of your Form I-20 (the one with the Economic Hardship recommendation on it), all pages. Do NOT send the original.
  6. A photocopy of your I-94 Departure Record card (front and back) or Electronic I-94 record (color copies preferred).
  7. Photocopies, front and back, of ALL I-20 forms and any previous EAD(s) issued to you.
  8. Photocopies of the identity pages of your passport. This includes the page that has your photograph and biographic information.
  9. Optional document: Form G-1145, "E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance," if you want to be notified by email and/or text message when your application is received.

Step 3. Mailing Your Application

Applications from Illinois go to a USCIS Lockbox facility in Phoenix, Arizona.  The address to use is:

PO Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036

Use the U.S. Postal Service's certified mail, return receipt requested. 

If you want to use a non-Illinois address, your application may go to another location.  Contact your OIA adviser before proceeding.

Before you mail, make photocopies of your entire application plus supporting documents, and keep them with your mailing receipt.

Step 4. Tracking Your Application

If you filed Form G-1145 (see above), you should receive an initial email or text from the USCIS Lockbox in Arizona confirming that your application was received, and providing you with a receipt number.

Approximately 4-6 weeks after mailing your application, USCIS will send you by mail an official notice of receipt on Form I-797.  That notice will also give you your receipt number.  You can check for updates and sign up to receive email notifications when updates are made to your case online at the USCIS Case Status website.