USCIS Notice Benefits Nepalese F-1 Students With Severe Economic Need

A USCIS Notice advises that certain regulations have been suspended for Nepalese F-1 students in the United States who have experienced severe economic need arising out of the devastating earthquake which stuck Nepal on April 25, 2015.  Eligible Nepalese F-1 students can engage in employment authorization and register for a reduced course load per semester.

The Notice, published on November 9, 2015, provides that a student is eligible under the Notice if he or she is a citizen of Nepal, was lawfully present in the United States in F-1 status on April 25, 2015 and was enrolled in a SEVIS certified school and maintaining F-1 status, and is experiencing severe economic need arising out of the direct effects of the earthquake.  Eligibility means that the student can register for a reduced case load per semester and engage in employment on or off campus and still be engaged in a full course of study for the purpose of maintaining F-1 status.  USCIS estimates that there are more than 9,300 Nepalese students to whom this Notice can apply.  The benefits provided under the Notice end on December 24, 2016.

Eligible Nepalese F-1 undergraduate students must register for 6 semester hours per semester and eligible Nepalese graduate students must register for 3 hours per semester.  The Notice also provides that both undergraduate and graduate students can count the equivalent of 1 course or 3 credit hours of online or distance learning to satisfy the reduced required per semester course load.

Eligible Nepalese F-1 students can engage in on-campus employment for more than 20 hours per week.  Eligible Nepalese F-1 students can engage in off-campus employment without having been in F-1 status for 1 full academic year, nor demonstrating that accepting employment will not interfere with carrying a full course of study, nor with a limitation of working more than 20 hours per week off campus while school is in session.

The school’s DSO makes the determination whether a Nepalese F-1 student has demonstrated severe economic need to enter authorization for these benefits in the Nepalese student’s SEVIS record.  The Notice does not provide employment authorization for the spouses of covered F-1 Nepalese students.