Find out what students need for international travel & re-entry to the United States during OPT (including OPT STEM Extension).
The following documents are needed for travel while on OPT:
Before you travel, be sure that you have reported your employment information and U.S. Address to ISS. To report your employment and U.S. Address, follow instructions in the Maintaining F-1 Status While on Post-Completion OPT or Maintaining F-1 Status While on the OPT STEM Extension pages.
If you have F-2 dependents, they should also carry a copy of your EAD, I-20 and employment letter.
If you have not yet found employment, we advise you not to travel as you may have difficulty re-entering the U.S.
If you will return to the U.S. after the end of your final semester, then we do not recommend international travel until your OPT is approved and you have your EAD.
We do not recommend international travel with a pending OPT for many reasons:
If you still decide to travel despite these risks, we recommend the following items to request re-entry to the U.S. in F-1 status:
If you are currently enrolled and will return to the U.S. before the end of the semester, your re-entry will be based on your return as a current student.
Do NOT re-enter the U.S. using a tourist visa or ESTA. 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 is important to understand how the Public Charge rule (i.e. utilizing U.S. taxpayer funded benefits) can impact your re-entry to the U.S.
If your Post-Completion EAD has expired, we do not recommend international travel while your OPT STEM extension is pending.
Due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic ISS processing times for this request are longer than usual. Please refer to our COVID-19 FAQ page and check the ISS Services section for details.
If you plan to travel outside the U.S. and the signature on page 2 of your OPT I-20 will be more than six months old at the time of re-entry, you need a new travel endorsement signature on your I-20. To request an updated I-20, log in to UB Global using your UBIT name and password, and click "Students Currently Approved for OPT", then "OPT Travel Endorsement Request".
Please submit your request at least 10 business days before you plan to leave the U.S.
A valid visa is necessary if your current visa stamp is expired, you are attempting to re-enter the U.S. and you do not qualify for automatic revalidation. Since OPT is an F-1 benefit, an F-1 visa is necessary if you are returning to resume OPT employment. To apply for a new F-1 visa, you should go to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, preferably in your home country.
While you are on OPT, the risk of denial of your F-1 visa 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, or they are concerned about your financial situation, or any aspect of your interview or documentation, your F-1 visa application may be denied.
If your Post-Completion OPT or STEM OPT application is still pending, you cannot apply for a new F-1 visa until your application is approved and your have your EAD.
You should be prepared to discuss how this job experience will help you find a job in your home country.
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, and will remain employed during your time spent outside the U.S., then this does not count as unemployment.
We recommend consulting with the attorney who filed your H-1B application before making any travel plans during your Cap Gap Extension. It is important to discuss with your attorney how travel could impact your H-1B application. ISS cannot advise on H-1B related topics.
Due to risk and potential complexities, we generally 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. We are aware of USCIS guidance explaining a very specific situation where travel during the Cap Gap extension is possible; however, we recommend exercising caution and consulting with your attorney before making any plans.
A letter from ISS is not needed; instead an invitation letter written by you is best.
For a list of additional documents required for a B-2 visa application, please check the Consulate website where they will apply. Generally, it is recommended to provide your visitors with copies of your immigration documents (I-20, I-94, F-1 Visa Stamp) and a copy of your enrollment verification or transcript from the Registrar office. It is also important that they show sufficient funds to cover any expenses during their trip to the U.S.