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Special Student Relief

Regulations allow the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to suspend or alter rules regarding duration of status, full course of study, and employment eligibility, for specific groups of F-1 students from parts of the world that are experiencing emergent circumstances. This collection of benefits is known as "special student relief" (SSR).

The benefits can be understood as a "package" consisting of on- or off-campus work authorization and authorization to reduce one's course load. The reduced course load benefit is only available to students who acquire work authorization through the notice, and is not available separately. The regulatory provisions are generic, and are activated only when DHS makes a finding of emergent circumstances, and publishes a notice in the Federal Register to define the specifics of what is to be suspended, and for whom, and the procedures for how to apply for any benefits that result from the suspension. SSR benefits do not begin for an individual student until the procedures described in the notices have been properly completed and granted.

DHS issues a Federal Register (FR) notice when the secretary declares that an event constitutes emergent circumstances. You may be eligible for SSR if you:
  • Are the citizen of a country specified in an FR notice.
  • Have lawfully resided in the United States for the dates indicated in the FR notice.
  • Have reported on time to your designated school official (DSO) and been enrolled in an SEVP-certified school since the event.
  • Are currently maintaining F-1 status.
  • Are experiencing severe economic hardship.

Application Process for Employment Options
For On-Campus Employment Increase
Step One: Meet with an ISSS advisor to confirm your eligibility and review the conditions and procedures for applying.

Step Two: If you are eligible to apply for SSR, submit a letter to MU explaining how employment is necessary to avoid severe economic hardship that is a direct result of the current crisis in your country.  You can submit this letter by completing a Document Upload request on Tab 4 of the ISSS Portal.

Step Three: The ISSS advisor will issue a new SEVIS I-20 with a notation for SSR in the Remarks according to the Federal Registrar Notice.

For Off-Campus EAD
Step One: Meet with an ISSS advisor to confirm your eligibility and review the conditions and procedures for applying.

Step Two: If you are eligible to apply for SSR, submit an Off Campus Employment request on Tab 4 of the ISSS Portal.  An ISSS Advisor will create a new SEVIS I-20 with a recommendation for SSR in the Remarks and on Page 2 of the I-20.

Step Three: After the advisor approves your request for Off Campus Employment, gather the following documents for your application:
  • Completed form I-765 (PDF) filled for category (C)(3)(iii)
  • Copy of passport ID page
  • Copy of F-1 visa
  • Current I-94 record indicating F-1 status
  • Copy of I-20 with the Off Campus Employment Endorsement on page 2
  • Copies of all previous I-20s
  • Copies of previous employment authorization documents (if applicable)
  • Form G-1145 (Not required, but recommended)
  • A copy of your transcript
  • Two passport-style photos
  • Required fee payment in form of check, cashier's check, or money order, payable to US Department of Homeland Security (verify fee in case of increases on the I-765 instructions)
  • A letter written by you addressed to USCIS in which you describe in detail the circumstances that support your request for SSR employment authorization
Once you have prepared all the items listed above, make a complete copy of the application for your records.

Step Four:  Mail your application and supporting documents to USCIS Chicago Lockbox:
For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Deliveries:  
Attn: I-765 C03
P.O. Box 805373
Chicago, IL 60680-5374
For Express mail & courier deliveries:
Attn: I-765 C03 (Box 805373)
131 South Dearborn - 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517
Within a few weeks of sending your application, USCIS will mail you a receipt. The receipt and final decision will be sent to the address you wrote on USCIS Form I-765. Please note that USCIS processing usually takes 30 to 60 days and may take up to 90 days. You may not begin employment before you receive your EAD; working prior to that time constitutes illegal employment that renders you illegally present in the US.

Duration of Status and Full Course of Study
Students who have been granted SSR on-campus employment authorization or SSR off-campus employment authorization will be considered to be pursuing a full course of study and maintaining duration of status as long as they are registered for the minimum number of credit hours specified in the special student relief suspension notice:
  • No fewer than 6 semester hours of instruction at the undergraduate level
  • No fewer than 3 semester hours of instruction at the graduate level​
Students who have not received SSR employment authorization are not eligible for a reduction in full time course load.

Frequently Asked Questions
If I already have on-campus employment or an EAD based on severe economic difficulty or TPS, do I need to apply for a separate EAD through SSR? 
To obtain SSR benefits, you must still apply to ISSS for SSR approval and a new Form I-20 will be issued to you. However, if you already have a valid EAD you do not need to apply for a separate EAD through SSR.
*Note: The interaction between SSR and concurrent non-student benefits like Temporary Protected Status (TPS) can be quite complicated. Students eligible for both TPS and SSR should thoroughly discuss their options with an experienced immigration lawyer.

Are Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Special Student Relief (SSR) the same thing?
SSR and TPS are different. TPS may be offered to various visa classifications, when applicable, including F-1 students. However, SSR, when applicable, is offered only to eligible F-1 students.

Can I apply for both TPS and SSR?
Yes you can apply for both TPS and SSR. TPS is an added layer of protection.  However, students with TPS must still follow F-1 visa rules.  TPS does not grant reduced course load options. TPS does not grant permission to work more hours in an on-campus job.  Students who are on TPS and want the benefits of SSR must also apply for SSR through ISSS.
*Note: Because TPS is complicated, ISSS recommends that students obtain legal counsel to go over their personal situation to select the option that will work best for them.

Can F-2 dependents apply for work authorization under SSR?
No, F-2’s are not authorized to work in the US and SSR does not grant employment benefits to them.

Does SSR approval waive the full-time enrollment requirements for scholarships and Graduate Assistantships?
No, SSR does not waive any requirement pertaining to general university requirement, including scholarships, athletics, and graduate assistants.