Read important tips about international travel during Optional Practical Training (including the 24-Month OPT STEM Extension).
If you travel outside the U.S. while your application for Post-Completion OPT is pending at the USCIS Service Center, it is best to re-enter the U.S. to search for employment BEFORE your I-20 expires (Refer to the Program End Date on your I-20). Please consider the following:
Since there is no way to predict when your OPT will be approved or if the USCIS will find a problem with your application, we recommend that you think carefully before you plan to travel while your OPT application is pending.
We recommend that you think carefully before planning to travel outside the U.S. while your OPT STEM Extension application is pending. If there are any problems with your OPT application, and you are outside the U.S., it may be difficult for you to respond. If you are outside the U.S. and your OPT application is rejected or denied, it may not be possible for you to return to the U.S.
We do not recommend traveling outside the U.S. after your EAD Card has expired and while your OPT STEM Extension application is pending.
NO!!! If you leave the U.S. and re-enter on a tourist visa (B-1/2), you will not be in F-1 student status or eligible for F-1 benefits. Therefore, your OPT application and EAD card will no longer be valid, and you will not be eligible to work.
It only means that your EAD card is not a U.S. visa stamp.
NO. When you have an EAD card, the validity of your I-20 is automatically extended until the end date of your OPT. Therefore, with proof of employment and your EAD card, you can travel even if the Program End Date on your I-20 has passed.
YES! During OPT, you need to have your I-20 signed every six months for travel outside the U.S. For more information on how to get your I-20 signed, please read the “Maintaining F-1 Status While on Post-Completion OPT” or “Maintaining F-1 Status While on the 24-Month OPT STEM Extension” pages.
If you are visiting Canada, Mexico or some Caribbean Islands and staying less than 30 days (and you are not a citizen of Iran, North Korea, Sudan or Syria): NO. You do not need a new F-1 visa stamp. You may re-enter the U.S. with your expired F-1 visa stamp, letter from your employer verifying your employment, valid passport, valid EAD card and valid I-20 (which must have a DSO signature on page 2 signed within the past 6 months).
If you will travel elsewhere: YES. You will need a new F-1 visa stamp. You should go to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate and apply for a new F-1 visa stamp so that you can re-enter the U.S. to resume your OPT.
In preparation for a submitting a visa application, we recommend that you review these tips on applying for a visa.
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 you are on OPT, the risk of denial of your application may be higher than when you were a student. This is because you must prove non-immigrant intent to qualify for an F-1 visa and the Consular Officer may think that your OPT is an avenue for you to immigrate to the U.S. If the Consular Officer is not convinced of your intent to return home after your OPT ends, your F-1 visa application may be denied.
Note: You should also be prepared to discuss how this job experience will help you find a job in your home country.
We also recommend that you review the “Applying for a U.S. Visa” page on our website here.
Time spent outside the U.S. while on OPT still counts as unemployment if you do not have a job. If you have a job, time spent outside the U.S. does not count as unemployment.
We do not recommend traveling outside the U.S. and seeking readmission to the U.S. as an F-1 student during the Cap Gap Extension.
Page Updated 5/18