Special Student Relief

Special Student Relief (SSR) is the suspension of certain regulatory requirements by the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for an F‑1 student from parts of the world that are experiencing emergent circumstances. Regulatory requirements that may be suspended or altered for an F-1 student include duration of status, a full course of study, and off-campus employment eligibility. SSR applies when emergent circumstances occur that affect F-1 students from a particular region and create significant financial hardships, such as but not limited to:

  • Natural disasters
  • Wars and military conflicts
  • National or international financial crises

Current Countries Eligible for SSR

Visit and scroll to the bottom of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) page to the "Special Student Relief" section to review the full list of eligible countries for SSR. 


Student Criteria to be Eligible for SSR

To be eligible, an F-1 student must:

  • Be 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;
  • Be currently maintaining F-1 status;
  • Be experiencing severe economic hardship.

A DSO must certify in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) that the student meets all the above requirements to qualify for SSR.


Steps to Apply

The following are steps to be taken by F1 students to get approved for SSR:

  1. Schedule an appointment to meet with a DSO from ISS to discuss their eligibility for SSR.
  2. Submit the Special Student Relief (SSR) Request e-form.
  3. Students can apply for one of the following SSR benefits:
    - Reduced course load (RCL) with on-campus employment hours per week increase beyond the 20-hour limit.
    - No reduced course load (RCL) with on-campus employment hours per week increase beyond the 20-hour limit.
    - Reduced course load (RCL) with off-campus employment authorization to work off-campus.
    - No reduced course load (RCL) with only off-campus employment authorization to work off-campus.

Additional step for students who are applying for SSR reduced course load (RCL):

  1. Submit the SSR Reduced Course Load e-form

Additional steps for students who are applying for SSR Off-Campus Employment Authorization:

SSR off-campus employment authorization requires a petition filed with the United States of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In addition to the steps above, students are also required to:

  1. Prepare the supporting documentation/explanation statement (with appropriate evidence e.g. bank statements, news articles, etc.). Students must write a statement to demonstrate the following to the DSO:
    (a) That the employment under the SSR they are applying is necessary to avoid severe economic hardship and;
    (b) The hardship is a direct result of the current humanitarian crisis in their country of citizenship.

  2. Submit the Economic Hardship e-form.

  3. Wait for DSO from the ISS to review the e-forms, supporting documentation, and statements with attached evidence. DSO from the ISS will make recommendations for SSR in SEVIS and issue students the new I-20 with the recommendation note.

  4. Collect the documentation and ensure that the application package has the following:
    (a) A signed and dated copy of the student's Form I-20 with the appropriate DSO's recommendation;
    (b) Letter of explanation from student to explain circumstances for which student is experiencing unforeseen economic hardship;
    (c) Documents supporting the letter as evidence of the reason for which student is experiencing hardship;
    (d) A completed Form I-765 (if they do not currently have a valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card);
    (e) The required fee or properly documented fee waiver request, Form I-912;
    (f) Two passport-sized photos.;
    (g) Passport biographical page;
    (h) Visa (or approval notice for change of status students);
    (i) Most recent I-94;
    (j) Current transcrips with full-time enrollment/GPA.

  5. Send the application in an envelope that is clearly marked on the front of the envelope, bottom right-hand side, with the phrase "SPECIAL STUDENT RELIEF." Failure to include this notation may result in significant processing delays.


Additional Notes

  • Students eligible for SSR can work on campus for more than 20 hours.
  • Students eligible for SSR may be approved for a reduced course load.
  • Students have to be enrolled for a minimum of 6 credit hours for undergraduate students and 3 credit hours for graduate students.
  • Do not file a SSR off-campus employment authorization petition with USCIS before you have been approved by ISS and issued a new I-20 specifically for economic hardship. Students will be emailed a copy of the new I-20 after ISS has approved the e-form requests above.