Find out what students need for international travel & re-entry to the United States during OPT.
Travel during the ongoing COVID pandemic can be risky. Travel restrictions/bans, quarantines, and COVID vaccine requirements are possible. The U.S. Embassies and Consulates in some countries have also not yet resumed routine visa processing. If you choose to travel internationally, be prepared and plan ahead for possible delays and disruptions. Regularly review our travel alerts information, as well as the other travel resources mentioned below.
If you decide to travel, be sure that you have the required documents for travel outside the U.S. and check page 2 of your I-20 for a valid travel endorsement signature (the signature is valid for one year for enrolled students).
Non-immigrant air travelers to the United States must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination status prior to boarding an airplane to the U.S., with only limited exceptions. Review the CDC Air Travel to the US Requirements for additional details.
Please consider carefully your desire to travel internationally.
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, you have your EAD and a job offer.
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. Please consider the following when deciding to travel with a pending OPT application:
If you still decide to travel despite these risks, we recommend carrying the following documents:
If your Post-Completion EAD has expired, we do not recommend international travel while your OPT STEM extension is pending.
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 and click "Optional Practical Training", then "OPT Travel Endorsement Request".
Please submit your request at least 10 business days before you plan to leave the U.S. Check our e-form processing page for current processing times.
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 a 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.
The process to apply for a visa while on OPT is very similar to when you were an enrolled student. In addition to the documents explained here, be sure to have available proof of your employment. Since F-1 is a non-immigrant status, you may be expected to document or discuss your plans to return to your home country after your OPT is complete. While you are on OPT, the risk of denial of your F-1 visa application may be higher than when you were a student. 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, we do not recommend applying for a new F-1 visa until your OPT application is approved and your have your EAD.
If you're not sure who to put as your contact? UB students can use ISS's information:
ISS cannot answer this question for you. We recommend you use your best estimate on the time you need to complete your program. You can contact your academic department for an estimate if you are not sure.
Your answer to this question does not determine the length of your visa.
ISS cannot provide detailed guidance on completing your DS-160. If you have questions we recommend contacting your local embassy or consulate for assistance.
You should 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 and these tips on applying for a visa.
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.