Employment Authorization for Nepali F-1 Students Experiencing Severe Economic Hardship Due to April 2015 Earthquake
Contributor: Van T. Doan
On April 25, 2015, The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal experienced a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake. In the aftermath, many citizens of Nepal, including students who are in the United States on an F-1 nonimmigrant student visa, are suffering significant economic hardship. The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has taken steps to offer relief to these students, allowing them to request employment authorization, work additional hours while school is in session, and reduce their academic course load without sacrificing their F-1 student status. The notice detailing this relief will remain in effect until December 24, 2016.
Who is Eligible for Relief?
In order to be eligible for relief under the notice published on November 9, 2015, an individual must:
be a citizen of Nepal;
- have been lawfully present in the United States in F-1 nonimmigrant status on April 25, 2015
under section 101(a)(15)(F)(i) of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA);
- be enrolled in a school that is SEVP-certified for enrollment for F-1 students;
- currently maintain F-1 status; and
- be experiencing severe economic hardship directly resulting from the damage caused by the April 25, 2015 earthquake.
This relief is not available to those students who received their F-1 visas after the publication of the notice. However, the notice does apply to F-1 students who left the United States following publication of the notice in the Federal Register and who need to obtain a new F-1 visa prior to returning to the U.S. to continue their educational programs.
How Does the Notice Affect Employment Authorization?
For F-1 students who receive on-campus employment authorization, they will be authorized to work more than 20 hours per week while school is in session, and may carry a reduced course load, while still maintaining their F-1 authorization. Note that the reduced course load requirement applies to what is necessary to maintain the F-1; the school may or may not agree to the reduced course load.
Regarding F-1 students and off-campus employment, the requirement that a student must have been in F-1 status for a full academic year to be eligible for off-campus employment is suspended by the notice. Likewise, the student is relieved of the burden of demonstrating that the off-campus employment will not interfere with him or her carrying a full course of study. Also, as with on-campus employment, the limit of working 20 hours per week while school is in session is lifted.
More Information for Nepali F-1 Students
Many Nepali students have been dependent on financial support from family or friends in Nepal which is no longer available due to the earthquake and its aftereffects. Many students who might have returned to Nepal are now unable to do so for the same reasons. This notice from DHS may provide access to much needed relief.
If you are a Nepali F-1 student who has been affected economically by the April 25, 2015 earthquake in Nepal, we invite you to contact Howard County, MD immigration lawyer Van T. Doan to learn more about the relief available to you.