Special Student Relief

The U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security has the ability to suspend certain F-1 requirements if it is determined the country is experiencing severe hardship that is impacting F-1 students in the U.S. These affected students 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 non-immigrant student status.

Permission must be granted either by ISSS and/or USCIS before a student can utilize the SSR provisions. Under this permission, students can request one of the following permissions:

  • ON-CAMPUS work permission over 20 hours per week and a reduction of the minimum credit enrollment (minimum 6 credits for undergraduates; minimum 3 credits for graduate).
  • OFF-CAMPUS work permission over 20 hours per week in any field, and a reduction of minimum credit enrollment (minimum 6 credits for undergraduates; minimum 3 credits for graduate).

The SSR authorization is issued for a period of one year or to the expiration date of the notice (see below) - whichever comes sooner.  Students with SSR permission are required to enroll at least half-time. The SSR authorization ends if a student graduates or transfers to a different school.

PLEASE NOTE: Some programs, scholarships, or on-campus jobs (for example, TA or RA) may require full-time enrollment. Receiving SSR authorization does not waive this requirement, so students will need to communicate with the appropriate office about their situation.

Access the ISSS Application for Special Student Relief

Frequently Asked Questions

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What is the eligibility criteria for SSR?

A student must be:

  • A citizen of an appropriate country who was lawfully present within the United States on an F-1 visa on the designated start date (review the table below for country-specific criteria)
  • Have an I-20 from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities campus
  • Currently maintaining F-1 status
  • Enrolled at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
  • Able to document that they are experiencing severe economic hardship as a direct result of the current crisis in their country of citizenship.
Country-specific Eligibility Criteria for Special Student Relief
Country of Citizenship (regardless of country of birth) Have been lawfully present in the United States in F-1 status on this date Be experiencing severe economic hardship as a direct result of... SSR Designation expires on this date
Burma (Myanmar) May 25, 2021 the current crisis in Burma November 25, 2022
Haiti August 3, 2021 the current crisis in Haiti February 3, 2023
Hong Kong November 26, 2021 the emergent circumstances in Hong Kong  
Somalia September 18, 2021 the current crisis in Somalia March 17, 2023
Syria April 22, 2021 the ongoing civil unrest in Syria since March 2011 September 30, 2022
Venezuela April 22, 2021 the current humanitarian crisis in Venezuela September 9, 2022
Yemen September 4, 2021 the current crisis in Yemen March 3, 2023

What is the difference between on-campus vs. off-campus work?

Students applying for SSR must decide whether they wish to work on or off campus. There are differences in the application process and timing of approval.

Full-time, On-campus Work Permission

If ISSS determines you meet the eligibility criteria, we will authorize full-time on-campus work permission and a reduction of your course load on a new I-20. We will send an approval letter and a new I-20 to you.

  • You can immediately reduce your credits until the end date on the approval letter. Undergraduate students must enroll in a minimum of 6 credits, and graduate students must enroll in a minimum of 3 credits.
  • Undergraduate students should request a 13-credit exemption from One Stop. This request must be processed and approved by One Stop. ISSS cannot adjust your tuition.
  • You will need to show your UMN work supervisor ISSS's approval letter to increase your on-campus work hours above 20. 
  • The permission is only for working on the UMN-Twin Cities campus.

Full-time, Off-campus Work Recommendation

If ISSS determines you meet the eligibility criteria, we will recommend off-campus work permission and a reduction of your course load on a new I-20. We will send a recommendation letter and a new I-20 to you.

  • After getting ISSS's recommendation, you must submit your application to USCIS. You are responsible for doing this and paying the fee.
  • USCIS can take several months to review your application. 
  • A recommendation by ISSS is not an approval, and it does not guarantee USCIS approval. Students cannot begin off-campus employment or reduce their credit hours until they receive approval from USCIS in form of an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). 
  • Undergraduate students should request a 13-credit exemption from One Stop. This request must be processed and approved by One Stop. ISSS cannot adjust your tuition.

Is Special Student Relief the same as Temporary Protected Status?

It is possible that countries that have been designated for Special Student Relief will also have been designated for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). TPS is similar, but not the same, as Special Student Relief.

ISSS cannot assist students with applying for TPS.

Last updated: December 3, 2021