Office of Global Citizenship
Traveling While on OPT
- Now that I’ve turned in my OPT application, can I travel outside the U.S. while I wait for the EAD Card to come?
If you have an Optional Practical Training application pending with USCIS and you have not yet graduated, you can travel as you usually would as an F-1 student. You must be returning as a student to complete academic requirements before the official graduation date. For example, if you applied for OPT in March and have a graduation date in May, you may still travel as a student until the official graduation date. Please note that re-entry immediately before the official graduation date carries an increased risk of denial of entry. For information about the documents to bring with you to re-enter the U.S., please review our page on Travel Documents.
- What if I have to travel out of the country after graduation while my OPT application is pending?
The Office of Global Citizenship does not recommend international travel after graduation while your OPT application is pending. Traveling during this period can jeopardize the approval of your application.
- If I travel outside of the U.S. after my OPT is approved, what documents do I need to re-enter the U.S.?
- Original I-20 with OPT recommendation. The travel signature/endorsement is valid for 6 months from the date of signature while you are on OPT. This is different from when you were a student and the signature was only required within a year of re-entry.
- Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) from USCIS
- Valid passport
- Valid F-1 visa. Do not use other types of US visas (i.e. tourist visa or visa waiver) if you plan to use OPT upon your return to the U.S.
- I-94 Offer of Employment letter from your employer that includes the dates of your employment, a description of your duties, your salary, location where you will be working, and number of hours of work per week.
- You should also be prepared to discuss how this job experience relates to your major field of study. If your employer is sponsoring you for a work visa, this information should not be included in your letter for travel while on OPT. Mention of plans to change visa status could be interpreted as a misrepresentation of your intentions in the U.S. by a Port of Entry Officer. A volunteer position letter is acceptable.
- The F-1 Visa stamp in my passport has expired, but I need to travel outside the U.S. while on OPT. Do I need to get a new visa stamp at an embassy?
If you are going to Canada or Mexico or other contiguous territories (except for Cuba), and staying for less than 30 days, you can re-enter the U.S. on your expired F-1 visa stamp, with a valid passport, your EAD card and an I-20 that has been recently signed by the PDSO/DSO. This process is called Automatic Visa Revalidation (AVR). Tell the immigration official at the port of exit (border) that you intend to stay outside the U.S. for less than 30 days and that your U.S. visa is expired. Make sure to have all your documents before you travel and present those documents to reenter the U.S. If you are traveling elsewhere and your F-1 visa is expired, you will need to go to a U.S. embassy or consulate to apply for a new F-1 visa. Please review U.S. consulate information for the country where you will be applying so you know which documents you need. In addition to the documents listed on the Visa Information page, you will also need to bring your EAD card and employment letter with you to the visa appointment.
- In what ways is my application to the embassy for a new visa stamp affected by being on post-completion OPT?
Many students successfully travel and renew their F-1 visas while on OPT. However, it is important to note that the risk of denial for an F-1 visa renewal when you are on OPT is slightly higher than while you are in your student program. The fact that the focus of your stay in the U.S. while on OPT is working rather than going to school could be seen as an avenue for adjustment of status to permanent residency. As the F-1 student visa requires that the applicant must intend to return to the home country at the end of the program, the visa application could be denied if the embassy official is not convinced of your intention to return home. During your visa appointment it is important to demonstrate that your intent still matches the purpose of the non-immigrant F-1 student visa category. Be prepared to answer if asked how your stay in the United States is temporary and be prepared to demonstrate that you do not intend to immigrate to the United States. You can do this by showing strong ties to your home country, such as family, property, or employment waiting for your return. Evidence can often be subjective, so use your best judgment to decide what documents you want to take with you to your visa appointment.
- Can I travel while on OPT if I have applied for an H1B visa?
Please consult an immigration attorney for guidance regarding international travel if you plan to pursue the H-1B process, have an H-1B petition pending with USCIS, or have an I-797 H-1B approval notice.
- How do I get a travel signature while on OPT?
For international travel, the travel signature on page two of your I-20 should be less than 6 months old by the date of your return. Please contact the Office of Global Citizenship to request a new signature if needed. In order to sign your I-20 for travel, we will need to have an employment report on file. See Reporting Requirements While on OPT.