Traveling on OPT

Travel during Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Post-Completion OPT is Pending

  • Passport (valid for six months after you plan to re-enter the U.S)
  • Valid F-1 visa stamp in your passport (this requirement does not apply to Canadian citizens)
  • I-20 (with a travel signature no older than six months )
  • I-765 receipt notice (Form I-797)(Not always required and if you have not received and travel this will not usually create an issue)

Post-Completion OPT is Approved

  • Passport (valid for six months after you plan to re-enter the U.S.)
  • Valid F-1 visa stamp in your passport (this requirement does not apply to Canadian citizens)
  • I-20 (with a valid travel signature no older than six months)
  • EAD card
  • Evidence that you already have a job in the U.S. or that you have a job offer.
  • If you need to apply for a new F-1 visa when your post-completion OPT application is pending, you should also be sure to have your I-765 receipt notice (Form I-797) in addition to the usual documents required for a visa application.

 

Important Travel Notes

If you need to apply for a new F-1 visa, then it is recommended that you not travel until you are approved for OPT. You should be sure to have your EAD card and evidence that you already have a job in the U.S. or that you have a job offer in addition to the usual documents required for a visa application. Regulations state that during post-completion OPT, the travel signature should be no older than six months if you are traveling out of the U.S.. Source: 8CFR214.2(f)(13)(ii)

Students who have an EAD card for post-completion OPT and evidence of either a job or a job offer are allowed to leave and re-enter the U.S. during their OPT period. Of course, re-entry to the U.S. is never guaranteed.

Students whose EAD card has not yet been issued (OPT application has not yet been approved by USCIS) are allowed to re-enter the U.S. to resume the search for employment. While your OPT application is pending, you are not required to have a job or a job offer for re-entry to the U.S.

If a student who has an EAD card but does not have a job or a job offer leaves the US during the post-completion OPT period, OPT ends. Border officials might not allow someone in this situation to re-enter the U.S. Thus, students who do not have a U.S. job or a U.S. job offer but who plan to leave and re-enter the U.S. after their EAD card has been issued (their OPT has been approved by USCIS) are taking a risk.

For more information, see U.S. Department of Homeland Security FAQ for Travel.