UT-Austin International Student and Scholar Services’ recommendation to file employment document by hand frustrates students

Rebecca Saborio

When UT alumnus Prakshi Malik applied to obtain an immigrant work authorization last semester, she did not hear back about her status for nearly three months, which prevented her from employment that put her in a financially tough spot as rent and car insurance bills accrued. 

“I was doing all these Google searches and tried to speak to lawyers because the international office never responded to any of my questions,” Malik said. “I would like a tonal shift in how they assist us. To deal with us as people who have a lot at stake.”

The I-765 Form gives immigrants authorization to work in the United States for up to one year. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services added a new online portal for the form, but International Student and Scholar Services advises against using the portal, said Margaret Luévano, director of International Student and Scholar Services. Luévano said the online application will not be reviewed faster than the mailed form. 

“There are still many unknowns,” Luévano said. “Until the online portal has demonstrated success and it is determined that students will not face unexpected challenges with the online process, we recommend filing by mail, as this method is already an established and reliable processing option.”

Malik said she believes a working online portal would have made the process clearer because she could not get her questions answered through International Student and Scholar Services. 

Luévano said advisors are working to quickly respond to emails and process applications. 

“It’s our goal to provide our students and scholars with services, support, information and programs to ensure they get the most out of their experience on campus,” Luévano said.

Graduate student Khristián Méndez Aguirre said he knows fellow international students who have had a difficult time finding help to fill out the I-765 form. 

“I don’t get why I have had to pay (over $100 per semester in International Student and Scholar Services support services fee) … for a service that is so slow,” Aguirre said. “And there’s not really advice given. It’s very often, ‘Here’s what the website says.’”

Aguirre said he believes International Student and Scholar Services wants the best for students, but many international students distrust the office because it seems like they are evading their questions. 

“It feels weird … (to know) that there is so much distrust in the office from international students,” Aguirre said.