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F-1 Special Student Relief Fact Sheet

What is Special Student Relief?

Special Student Relief (SSR) is the suspension by means of a notice in the Federal Register of certain regulatory requirements for F-1 students due to emergent circumstances as determined by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). SSR suspends restrictions related to on- and off-campus employment and alters full course of study requirements for eligible F-1 students.

This Fact Sheet provides general information only. Refer to the applicable SSR notice in the Federal Register for specific details regarding eligibility for SSR. For a list of countries that are currently designated for SSR, visit the Student and Exchange Visitor Program’s (SEVP) What’s New page.

Frequently Asked Questions

F-1 students experiencing economic hardship who come from a country for which certain regulatory requirements for F-1 students are suspended. In general, a notice applies to F-1 students who meet all of the following conditions:

  • Are citizens of the designated country regardless of country of birth (or last habitually resided in the designated country if they have no nationality).
  • Were lawfully present in the United States in F-1 nonimmigrant status on the date specified in the applicable SSR notice.
  • Are enrolled in an academic institution that is certified by SEVP to enroll F-1 nonimmigrant students.
  • Are currently maintaining F-1 nonimmigrant status.
  • Are experiencing severe economic hardship as a direct result of the emergent circumstances in their country.

F-1 students experiencing economic hardship as a direct result of emergent circumstances in a country for which the Secretary has suspended certain regulatory requirements may request employment authorization, work an increased number of hours while school is in session and reduce their course load while continuing to maintain F-1 nonimmigrant student status.

Yes. All eligible F-1 students, regardless of educational level, may be entitled to SSR.

No. F-2 dependents are not authorized to work in the United States and, therefore, may not accept employment under an SSR notice.

No. SSR only applies to eligible F-1 students.

No. SSR only applies to F-1 students who were lawfully present in the United States in F-1 nonimmigrant status on the date specified in the notice.

Yes. F-1 students may continue to be eligible for SSR if their designated school official (DSO) has properly notated the student’s eligibility in their Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record. This notation will then appear on the F-1 student’s Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.” The rules for visa issuance remain applicable to a nonimmigrant applying for a new F-1 visa to continue an educational program in the United States.

Yes. F-1 students should refer to the applicable SSR notice in the Federal Register for details regarding their eligibility to apply for and maintain both DED and SSR concurrently.

The Secretary may designate a foreign country for TPS due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country's nationals from safely returning, or in certain circumstances, when the country is unable to adequately handle the return of its nationals. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may grant TPS to eligible nationals of certain countries (or parts of countries) who are already in the United States. Eligible individuals without nationality who last resided in the designated country may also be granted TPS (see Temporary Protected Status | USCIS).

Yes. F-1 students should refer to the applicable SSR notice in the Federal Register for details regarding their ability to apply for and maintain both DED and SSR concurrently.

The President has discretion to authorize DED as part of their constitutional power to conduct foreign relations. Although DED is not a specific immigration status, individuals covered by it are not subject to removal from the United States for a designated period of time (see Deferred Enforced Departure | USCIS).

Eligible F-1 students must provide evidence to their DSO that they were lawfully present in the United States on the date specified in the applicable notice and request that the DSO update their SEVIS record and issue a new Form I-20 certifying their eligibility.

Note: To be authorized for off-campus employment, the student must obtain a recommendation from their DSO and apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for an employment authorization document (EAD).

The DSO must update the student’s SEVIS record and issue a new Form I-20. See the table below for details on what needs to be included in the Remarks section of the Form I-20.

F-1 student scenario Form I-20 must include the following text in the Remarks section:
Engaging in on-campus employment Approved for more than 20 hours per week of on-campus employment and reduced course load under the Special Student Relief authorization from [DSO must insert the beginning date of the notice or the beginning date of the student’s employment, whichever date is later] until [DSO must insert the student's program end date or the end date of the notice, whichever date comes first].
Currently holding a valid off-campus employment authorization for severe economic hardship Approved for more than 20 hours per week of [DSO must insert “on-campus” or “off-campus,” depending on the type of employment authorization the student already has] employment authorization and reduced course load under the Special Student Relief authorization from [DSO must insert the beginning date of the notice or the beginning date of the student’s employment, whichever date is later] until [DSO must insert the student's program end date, the current EAD expiration date (if the student is currently authorized for off-campus employment) or the end date of the notice, whichever date comes first].
Applying for off-campus employment authorization under an SSR notice

Note: The DSO must also submit an off-campus employment recommendation in SEVIS.Please refer to Study in the States for instructions on how to recommend off-campus employment for emergent circumstances.

Recommended for off-campus employment authorization in excess of 20 hours per week and reduced course load under the Special Student Relief authorization from the date of the USCIS authorization noted on the Form I-766 until [DSO must insert the program end date or the end date of the notice, whichever date comes first].
Currently holding a valid TPS or DED-related Employment Authorization Document. Approved for reduced course load under the Special Student Relief authorization from [DSO must insert the beginning date of the notice or the beginning date of the student’s employment, whichever date is later] until [DSO must insert the student's program end date or the end date of the notice, whichever date comes first].

Yes. F-1 students who receive employment authorization under SSR are considered to be engaged in a full course of study for the duration of their employment authorization, as long as they satisfy the minimum course load requirement stated in the notice. 

Note: SSR does not prevent school officials of an academic institution from requiring an F-1 student to meet the institution’s minimum course load requirement for continued enrollment. 

No. F-1 students eligible for a reduced course load under an SSR notice must notify their DSO and obtain approval prior to reducing their course load. Failure to do so may result in a violation of their nonimmigrant status.

The minimum number of required credit hours for F-1 students at different education levels is outlined in the following table.

F-1 Student Educational Level Minimum Required Credit Hours
Undergraduate level

A minimum of six semester or quarter hours of instruction per academic term. Students enrolled in a term of different duration must register for no less than the number of credit hours of instruction per academic term specified in the notice.

May count up to the equivalent of one class or three credits per session, term, semester, trimester or quarter of online or distance education toward satisfying this minimum course load requirement.

Graduate level A minimum of three semester or quarter hours of instruction per academic term.

May count up to the equivalent of one class or three credits per session, term, semester, trimester or quarter of online or distance education toward satisfying this minimum course load requirement.

Elementary, middle and high school The minimum number of hours of class attendance per week prescribed by the academic institution for normal progress toward graduation.
English language training or similar post-secondary programs that measure course completion in clock hours or a combination of clock and credit hours The minimum number of clock or credit hours needed to constitute at least one-half of the hours normally required under a full course of study (for example, an F-1 student enrolled in a program of study that is normally 22 clock hours per week must be enrolled in a minimum of 11 clock hours per week while carrying a reduced course load to maintain their nonimmigrant status).

May not count any online or distance education courses toward satisfying this minimum course load requirement if enrolled in an English language training program.

DHS considers students who are compliant with ICE Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) guidance for nonimmigrant students to be in compliance with DHS regulations while such COVID-19 guidance remains in effect. See ICE Guidance and Frequently Asked Questions on COVID-19.

Yes. Upon transferring to the new SEVP-certified academic institution, students should obtain a new Form I-20 that notates their eligibility for SSR in the Remarks section of the form.

Yes. Because the suspension of regulatory requirements under an SSR notice applies throughout an academic term during which the suspension is in effect, DHS considers an F-1 student who engages in a reduced course load after an SSR notice is effective to be engaging in a full course of study through the end of any academic term that encompasses the end date of the notice and for which the student is matriculated, provided the student satisfies the minimum course load requirements in the notice.

SSR employment authorization expires when the SSR notice expires or at the time of the student’s program end date, whichever occurs first. However, because the suspension of regulatory requirements under the SSR notice applies throughout an academic term during which the suspension is in effect, DHS considers a qualifying F-1 student who engages in employment after the notice is effective to be eligible for employment authorization through the end of any academic term that encompasses the end date of the notice and for which the student is matriculated, provided the student satisfies the minimum course load requirements in the notice.

Students may submit a Form I-765, “Application for Employment Authorization,” to USCIS to request renewal of their employment authorization for severe economic hardship if continued employment is necessary.

Yes. Because the suspension of regulatory requirements under an SSR notice applies throughout an academic term during which the suspension is in effect, DHS considers a qualifying F-1 student who engages in employment after an SSR notice is effective to be eligible for employment authorization through the end of any academic term that encompasses the end date of the notice and for which the student is matriculated, provided the student satisfies the minimum course load requirements in the notice.

No. F-1 students who receive employment authorization under an SSR notice and comply with the requirements of that authorization are considered to be engaged in a full course of study for the duration of the authorization, provided they remain registered for the required minimum of semester, quarter or clock hours of instruction per academic term.

Yes. Certain noncitizens whose F-1 status has lapsed may apply for reinstatement. Please refer to the applicable SSR notice in the Federal Register for specific details regarding eligibility.

Updated: 01/11/2023