Travel During Optional Practical Training
(After Completion of Studies)
While your OPT application is PENDING at the USCIS
- If you travel outside the U.S. and your request for OPT is still pending at the Service Center, you may re-enter the U.S. to search for employment. To avoid problems at the border, be sure to return to the U.S. before your I-20 expires.
- If you leave the U.S. and re-enter on a tourist visa, you will not be in F-1 student status or eligible for F-1 benefits. Therefore, if you re-enter the U.S. in B-2 status, your OPT application and EAD card will not be valid for work authorization.
After your OPT application has been APPROVED
- If your OPT has been approved and you depart the U.S. before you get a job, your OPT ends and you cannot re-enter the U.S.
- If your OPT has been approved and you have a job or a job offer, you may travel and re-enter the U.S. to continue working at the same job.
- Documents needed to re-enter the U.S.:
- A letter from your employer on official letterhead verifying that you are employed under OPT or a letter from an employer offering you a job.
- Your SEVIS I-20 for OPT with signature on page 3. The signature must not be more than six months old when you re-enter the U.S.
- Your valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD card)
- Your valid passport
- A valid F-1 visa stamp (except for re-entry from Canada, Mexico and contiguous territories after short trips of < 30 days). PLEASE NOTE: Citizens of Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria may not re-enter the U.S. with an expired F-1 visa. Also, individuals who have a U.S. visa application pending at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate will not be able to re-enter the U.S. Last, individuals whose U.S. visa application was denied will not be able to re-enter the U.S.
- During your OPT year, you need to have your I-20 signed every six months for travel outside the U.S.
- While on OPT, you are still considered to be in F-1 student status and can apply for an F-1 visa stamp. However, while on OPT, the risk of denial of your application may be higher than when you were a student. This is because the Consular Officer may think that your OPT is an avenue for you to immigrate to the U.S. You must prove non-immigrant intent to qualify for an F-1 visa. If the Consular official is not convinced of your intention to return home, your F-1 visa application may be denied.
- Documents needed to show at the U.S. Consulate for a new F-1 visa stamp while on OPT:
- An official letter offering employment and showing salary, location, job duties and beginning date. The letter should indicate that you will be working only during your OPT period and that you will stop working on your OPT ending date.
- Your valid passport
- Your SEVIS I-20 with unexpired DSO signature on page 3
- Financial documents
- Your EAD card
- You should also be prepared to discuss how this job experience will help you find a job in your home country.