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Off Campus - Basic Guidelines

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The SEVIS Operating Instruction (SOI) contains guidelines for Designated School Officials (DSO) on the subject of off-campus employment for F 1 students. 

1.1. What is off-campus employment for F 1 students? 
1.2. When is off-campus employment available? 
1.3. What are emergent circumstances? 
1.4. What are the guidelines for off-campus employment of F 1 students based on severe economic hardship? 
1.5. What are the guidelines for off-campus employment for F 1 students based on emergent circumstances? 
1.6. What do I need to consider before I recommend off-campus employment for an F–1 student? 
1.7. How does off-campus work authorization differ from on-campus employment at an off-campus location? 
1.8. What constitutes severe economic hardship? 
1.9. Are border commuter students eligible for off-campus employment?

1.1. What is off-campus employment for F 1 students?

Off-campus employment for F-1 students is defined at 8 CFR 214.2 (f)(9)(ii)(A). Generally, it is employment that is for economic need and is not required to be related to the student’s academic course of study.

1.2. When is off-campus employment available?

F 1 students are allowed to enter the United States for academic studies. They are required to show that they will be able to afford the costs of school and living expenses prior to entry and should not plan on being allowed to work off-campus. Off-campus employment is authorized only in cases of severe economic hardship occurring subsequent to a student’s enrollment in an academic program or in emergent circumstances as defined by DHS.

1.3. What are emergent circumstances?

Emergent circumstances are also referred to as Special Student Relief. When there is a world event that impacts a group of nonimmigrants, the Secretary of DHS may publish a special notice in the Federal Register and grant special relief. The notice will give details on who is included in the group and the eligibility requirements. The Secretary can waive any restrictions on F 1 student employment.

1.4. What are the guidelines for off-campus employment of F 1 students based on severe economic hardship?

Off-campus employment is a case-by-case exception made for students who can show that new, unexpected circumstances beyond the student’s control have created severe economic hardship. These may include:

  • Loss of financial aid or on-campus employment – if it is not the student’s fault;
  • Large increases in tuition or living costs
  • Substantial decrease in the relative value of currency the student depends upon to pay expenses;
  • Unexpected changes in the financial conditions for his or her sources of financial support;
  • Unexpectedly large medical bills not covered by insurance; or
  • Other substantial, unexpected expenses.

Students must have been enrolled for at least one academic year and be in good academic standing before they can be authorized to work off-campus.

They must be unable to get on-campus employment or the pay from available on-campus employment must be insufficient to meet the student’s financial needs.

You must recommend approval of each request and provide the F 1 student with a Form I-20 endorsed to that effect.

The F 1 student must file a Form I-765 and pay a fee to USCIS. This should be done within 30 days of the day you endorse the Form I-20. If the application is approved, the student will receive an EAD card and can begin working.

Approval for off-campus employment is good for one year. If the F 1 student needs to continue working off-campus, he or she must reapply.

1.5. What are the guidelines for off-campus employment for F 1 students based on emergent circumstances?

The guidelines for off-campus employment based on emergent circumstances will be in the Federal Register notice that authorized it.

For a listing of notices and memorandums for groups currently allowed relief due to emergent circumstances, see the USCIS website.

1.6. What do I need to consider before I recommend off-campus employment for an F–1 student?

First, check to see if on-campus employment is available. You should not recommend off-campus employment if on-campus employment is available, unless the pay is not sufficient to meet the student’s financial needs.

Ensure the student has read and understands the guidelines for off-campus employment.

The student must:

  • Have been in F–1 status for one full academic year;
  • Be in good academic standing;
  • Be enrolled in a full course of study;
  • Show that working will not adversely impact his or her ability to attend school full-time and maintain their academic standing; and
  • Show severe economic hardship due to unforeseen circumstances beyond the student's control.

If the student’s situation meets all these criteria, you can recommend off-campus employment.

1.7. How does off-campus work authorization differ from on-campus employment at an off-campus location?

Off-campus work authorization requires case-by-case approval from DHS. Approval is not based on the student’s choice of employer.

On-campus employment at an off-campus location is available to all F 1 students except border commuter students. DHS approval is not required. However, the employment must be for an employer educationally affiliated with your school. For more details please see the section about on-campus employment.

1.8. What constitutes severe economic hardship?

See the question on What are the guidelines for off-campus employment#4?

1.9. Are border commuter students eligible for off-campus employment?

No. Border commuter students are limited to practical training – CPT and post-completion OPT.[8 CFR 214.2(f)(18)]


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