Homeland Security Extends Special Student Relief for Ukrainians Into 2025

The move grants benefits for Ukrainians studying in the U.S. for another year and a half.
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Published on August 25, 2023
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  • The Department of Homeland Security first offered Special Student Relief for Ukrainian students in April 2022.
  • That status, however, was set to expire in October.
  • Homeland Security extended the benefits of SSR to last until mid-2025.
  • Special Student Relief allows international students to work more hours and take fewer classes while on a student visa.

Ukrainian college students studying in the U.S. will be able to enjoy the benefits of Special Student Relief (SSR) until at least April 2025.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) extended the timeline for Ukrainian students as the war between Ukraine and Russia continues in Eastern Europe. SSR benefits were scheduled to expire after October 19, 2023, but will now last until at least April 19, 2025, according to a DHS filing in the Federal Register.

DHS first granted SSR to Ukrainians in the U.S. in April 2022, two months after Russia invaded Ukraine.

SSR is a benefit the U.S. government offers to international students studying in the U.S. who come from countries experiencing war or unrest. According to the University of Washington, SSR currently applies to students from a dozen countries, including Ukraine.

Students must apply for SSR individually. According to the University of Minnesota's guidance for international students, it costs $410 to apply for SSR with off-campus work permissions.

Students with SSR can take fewer classes and work more off-campus hours than students with a traditional F-1 student visa.

Most international students must be enrolled in at least 12 credits per semester to maintain their visas. Students with SSR need only take a minimum of six credits per semester, while graduate students only need to take three credits per semester.

Additionally, students with an F-1 visa aren’t allowed to work more than 20 hours per week in an off-campus job. SSR students, meanwhile, can work more than 20 hours per week.

Jill Welch, senior policy advisor at The Presidents' Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, previously told BestColleges that these exceptions are in place to make it easier for international students to afford to remain in college. Many international students rely on family support back home, but conflicts may force a student’s family to cut off financial support.

Allowing these students to work more hours and take on a lighter course load means it may take them longer to earn their degree, but they are less likely to have to drop out and return to their home country.

For a Ukrainian student to qualify for SSR, they must:

  • Be a citizen of Ukraine, regardless of country of birth.
  • Already have been present in the U.S. on an F-1 student visa before August 21, 2023.
  • Be enrolled in an institution that accepts F-1 visa students.
  • Be experiencing severe economic hardship due to the war in Ukraine.