June 26, 2019
Anirudh Kuhar*, a recent MBA graduate from India, has been waiting for his American work permit for 106 days. He knows because he’s been counting. March 7 — the day he mailed in the forms for his Optional Practical Training (OPT). March 13 — the day the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) office received his application. June 10 — the day by which he expected to have been approved to start his new job in Houston.
It’s now June 25, but Kuhar’s OPT application status hasn’t changed from “received” and his Employee Authorization Document (EAD) card never arrived in the mail. The OPT is an extension of the default F-1 U.S. student visa and allows international students to work during the summer between semesters or for a year after graduation. STEM students are allowed to apply for an extension of up to 24 additional months. Without his OPT, it’s illegal for Kuhar to work in America.
At first, Kuhar was excited about the delay. It was a welcome, albeit forced, respite for the 28-year-old before diving into a full-time consulting job at Ernst & Young. But it soon grew boring. He hangs around his uncle’s house in New Jersey, reads, and watches Hindi movies with his parents visiting from India. His sleep schedule has fallen into an irregular pattern. The more time that passes, the antsier Kuhar grows.