Special F-1 Status Topics :

Special Student Relief and TPS for certain countries 2021

Special Student Relief (SSR)

Special Student Relief and Temporary Protected Status are officially authorized for the following countries in 2021 (as of November 24th 2021): Hong Kong, Myanmar, Venezuela, Somalia, Yemen, Haiti and Syria

Only students already in F-1 status on a particular date are eligible. New students entering the U.S. may not be eligible. The USCIS Website has more information on the separate countries’ benefits.

DHS has not provided Special Student Relief for students impacted by COVID-19. SSR employment benefits do not extend to student on Optional Practical Training.

Regulations allow DHS to suspend or alter rules regarding duration of status, full course of study, and employment eligibility, for specific groups of students from parts of the world that are experiencing emergent circumstances. This collection of benefits is known as “special student relief” or SSR.

The benefits can be understood as a “package” consisting of on- or off-campus work authorization and authorization to reduce one’s course load. The reduced course load benefit is only available to students who acquire work authorization through the notice, and is not available separately.

Please note that each countries SSR eligibility has a certain date when you must have already been in F-1 status and you must still remain in F-1 status. Dates that you are eligible to apply differ by country, so please consult with your international advisor if you want to discuss eligibility and options.

SSR employment benefits under active SSR notices:

  • On-campus employment over 20 hours – Students who have on-campus jobs may request to work over the standard 19.5 hour per week limitation, with review and approval by their International Advisor
  • Off-campus employment authorization for severe unforeseen economic hardship – Can be requested with form I-765 to USCIS and requires a notation by International Advisor before you submit your application.
  • TPS employment authorization. Employment authorization granted by an EAD issued under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) can be brought within the scope of an SSR notice, but only if your international advisor updates your SEVIS record with the required SSR notation.

In all cases, your International Advisor acting as a Designated School Official must first assess your eligibility for Special Student Relief under the SSR notice covering your country specifically. Once confirmed eligible, your advisor can discuss the options mentioned here and assist with making the SSR recommendation in SEVIS and updating your I-20 accordingly.

If you are interested in Special Student Relief, which may include extending on-campus work hours and also applying for off-campus employment, as well as a special reduced course load option while working, please contact your international advisor.

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Nationals in the U.S. from particular approved countries (not necessarily in F-1 status):

U.S. Congress developed a limited support for foreign nationals called Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to address the needs of people whose countries are undergoing emergency situations such as natural disaster, famine and civil war.

TPS can be granted if the Secretary of Homeland Security makes a specific finding that:

  • There is an ongoing armed conflict within the state and, due to that conflict, return of nationals to that state would pose a serious threat to their personal safety;
  • The state has suffered an environmental disaster resulting in a substantial, temporary disruption of living conditions, the state is temporarily unable to handle adequately the return of its nationals, and the state has requested TPS designation; or
  • There exist other extraordinary and temporary conditions in the state that prevent nationals from returning in safety, unless permitting nationals of that state to remain temporarily is contrary to the national interest of the United States.

After a country is designated for TPS by DHS, USCIS must issue a Federal Register notice to implement it, and an eligible individual must apply for TPS pursuant to the instructions in the notice. If USCIS grants TPS to the applicant, he or she may remain in the United States for the duration of the TPS grant. If DHS extends the TPS designation in the future, the individual must apply for an extension of his or her TPS.

Important Note:

Individuals seeking advice on TPS eligibility, whether they should apply for TPS if they do qualify, extensions of TPS, travel and employment while on TPS, TPS and the maintenance of nonimmigrant status, and transitions out of TPS, should be referred to experienced immigration counsel. The points in this section are for informational purposes only, and are not meant to be legal advice.

TPS is a temporary status. If a country’s designation expires without the Secretary of DHS renewing the designation, the foreign national’s TPS expires. Deciding to apply for TPS and discontinuing current F-1 or other status is a personal decision that may have future consequences if and when the TPS approval ends.

If you are considering applying for Temporary Protected Status, please know that this application is only carried out with USCIS and we are not able to give detailed advising and it is recommended you consult an immigration attorney specializing in the TPS process.

Sources and resources:

F-1 Status During COVID-19

F-1 Status policies for 2021 – 2022:  The official update has come out from DHS/ICE and they have stated that F-1 visa holders will be allowed to follow the same guidelines as the last year.  This means you can study 100% online or even study from outside the U.S.  It also means that any new initial status students arriving in the U.S. are required to be entering to take at least a hybrid program/class.  Since most courses are still be taught online or hybrid for Fall Quarter, you are able to continue to study in this manner or also 100% online. Please check your BC email regularly for any updates since things change quickly and there will likely be updates about Winter Quarter and next year very soon.

Travelling into the U.S. for Summer or Fall 2021?!  f you are planning to travel into the U.S. for Summer or Fall Quarters then you must comply with the requirements of the F-1 Guidance that is being continued (see next topic).  Please be aware that only students who were already studying (and continued studying) before March 9th, 2020, will be able to enter back into the U.S. and take 100% Online Classes. Students who began their program of study any time after March 9th, including newly accepted students, must have some hybrid or on-ground courses as part of their first quarter program. New students or students returning from a break in studies should review the course offerings (see below for more information about hybrid and on-campus offerings for Fall 2021) and work with your advisor to take HD103 International Student First Year Experience (for new students) or at least one other course that is hybrid or on-campus (for continuing students).

Last Updated November 24, 2021