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USCIS Announces a Change in F-1 Student Employment Authorization Period Under Special Student Relief (SSR)

Effective February 22, 2023, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a new policy that will allow F-1 students who are experiencing severe economic hardship due to emergent circumstances in their home country to receive employment authorization for a period of up to 18 months. This policy, known as Special Student Relief (SSR), will allow students to work off-campus and reduce their course load without losing their F-1 status.

To be eligible for SSR, students must meet the following criteria:

  • They must be enrolled in a full-time course of study at an accredited U.S. institution;
  • They must have been in F-1 status on or before the date the SSR notice was issued;
  • They must be experiencing severe economic hardship due to emergent circumstances in their home country; and
  • They must have a plan to resume full-time studies in the U.S.

Students who meet these criteria can apply for SSR by filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. The application must be filed with the USCIS office that has jurisdiction over their case. If approved, SSR will allow students to work off-campus for up to 20 hours per week, and they will also be allowed to reduce their course load by up to 50 percent without losing their F-1 status.

The SSR is designated through publication of a Federal Register Notice, which prescribes the beginning and the suspension of the benefit. Those who are eligible to receive the SSR benefits must check the validity dates of the Federal Register Notice for their country of origin.

What is the F-1 Visa?

The F-1 Visa (Academic Student) allows individuals to enter the United States as a full-time student in an academic program that culminates in a degree, diploma, or certificate from a school authorized by the U.S. government to accept international students.

F-1 students may not work off-campus during the first academic year, but after the first academic year, F-1 students may engage in three types of off-campus employment:

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT);
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT) (pre-completion or post-completion); or
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training Extension (OPT).

Next Steps for Employers

It is recommended that employers seek the guidance of an experienced immigration attorney for additional guidance on any student workers who may be covered under this special relief.

HR Works, headquartered in Upstate New York, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States for over thirty years. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.