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Special Student Relief (SSR) is available to certain F-1 students experiencing severe economic hardship due to emergent conditions - such as civil unrest, economic crisis, natural disasters, or other circumstances - in their country of citizenship (or in certain cases, residence). If granted, SSR removes certain types of restrictions on F-1 employment, and may allow authorized students to reduce their course load below full-time.

SSR benefits are only available to those F-1 students from countries or territories that have been designated by the Secretary of Homeland Security for Special Student Relief. Each SSR program has specific start and end dates, as published in the US government's Federal Register. While each SSR program differs in its specific details, in general they conform to the following outline:

  • SSR benefits are available to F-1 students who are physically present in the US on the effective start date of the SSR program for their country of citizenship (or, in certain cases, residence), as indicated in the specific SSR announcement published in the Federal Register for their country
  • Students must be maintaining valid F-1 student status at the time SSR benefits become effective for that country
  • Students must be experiencing economic hardship due to emergent conditions in their country
  • SSR benefits end whenever the student completes or ends their studies, or the SSR program for the student's country ends, whichever comes first

If a student is approved for Special Student Relief, benefits include:

  • A removal on the F-1 on-campus employment hourly limitations of 20 hours per week, allowing on-campus work in excess of 20 hours per week
  • A removal on the one academic year waiting period for F-1 students seeking to apply for off-campus severe economic hardship employment authorization
  • In addition, if either expanded on-campus employment or off-campus severe economic hardship authorization is approved, the student may also seek a reduced course load (down to 6 credits per term for undergraduate students or 3 credits per term for graduate students)
    • F-1 students who have already been approved by USCIS for off-campus employment under severe economic hardship, or who have been given employment authorization under a grant of Temporary Protected Status, may also take advantage of this reduced course load benefit without applying for additional employment authorization benefits - talk to an International Center advisor if this applies to you

Current SSR Programs

At present, there are active SSR programs for the following. Click on the country / region name to access the official Federal Register announcement for Special Student Relief.

SSR Programs Most Recent Effective Start Date* End Date
Afghanistan (citizens); extended on 9/25/23 May 22, 2022; Sept. 25, 2023 November 23, 2023; May 25, 2025
Burma / Myanmar (citizens) May 25, 2021 May 25, 2024
Cameroon (citizens) June 7, 2022 December 7, 2023
Ethiopia (citizens) December 12, 2022 June 12, 2024
Haiti (citizens) January 26, 2023 August 3, 2024
Hong Kong (residents) January 26, 2023 February 5, 2025
Somalia March 18, 2023 September 17, 2024
Syria (citizens) April 22, 2021 April 1, 2024
Venezuela (citizens) April 22, 2021 September 9, 2022
Yemen (citizens) January 3, 2023 September 3, 2024
South Sudan (citizens) March 3, 2022 November 3, 2023
Sudan (citizens) October 20, 2023 April 19, 2025
Ukraine (citizens), extension 8/21/2023 April 19, 2022; extended on August 21, 2023 October 19, 2023; extended to April 19, 2025
Sudan (citizens) April 19, 2022 October 19, 2023

*In general, to qualify for SSR the F-1 student must have been physically present in the US in valid F-1 student status on the effective start date indicated for that program.

How to Request Special Student Relief

Any F-1 student who believes that they may qualify for Special Student Relief benefits should contact their International Center advisor for more information. In general, the advisor will need to verify that you are in valid F-1 student status, that you were physically present in the US on the effective start date of the specific SSR program available to you, and collect documentation - including an explanatory letter or statement, budget documents, and other supporting material - that establishes that you are experiencing severe economic hardship due to emergent conditions in your home country or region. The advisor will then talk to you about whether you would qualify for on- or off-campus employment authorization as allowed under SSR, and if you do, whether a reduced course load will be financially beneficial to your specific situation. Because each individual case may be different, consulting with an International Center advisor is the first step.

SSR benefits, if approved, end once you complete or terminate your studies as an F-1 student, or once the SSR program expires, whichever comes first.