This section applies only to F-1 students who have applied for or have been approved for Optional Practical Training (OPT) by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and want to leave and re-enter the U.S. after the completion of their academic program.
Before the completion of your academic program, the usual procedures for travel still apply. After completion of your academic program, the guidance for travel is related to whether your OPT has been approved or is pending. As a general rule, we do not advise travel outside the U.S. while your OPT application is pending. We strongly recommend you consult your international student advisor about your particular travel situation and review reentry guidelines.
Post-Completion OPT is Pending
Travel outside the U.S. is NOT advised while your post-completion OPT is pending, i.e., has not been approved.
Post-Completion OPT is Approved
If your post-completion OPT has been approved (EAD card has been issued by USCIS) and you have a job offer, you may leave and re-enter the U.S. in order to begin or resume employment. If your post-completion OPT has been approved and you leave the U.S. before getting a job or a job offer, your OPT ends. You may not be able to re-enter the U.S. as an F-1 student.
The items needed for reentry to the U.S. after your OPT is approved AND you have a job offer are:
- Passport (valid for six months after you plan to re-enter the U.S.)
- Valid F-1 visa stamp in your passport
- I-20 (with a valid travel signature no older than six months*)
- Your valid EAD (Employment Authorization Document)
- Evidence that you have a job in the U.S. (letter of employment)
The visa stamp requirement does not apply to Canadian citizens.
If you need to apply for a new F-1 visa, you should also be sure to have your EAD card and proof of employment, in addition to the usual documents required for a visa application.
Summary of Guidance
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.
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 have their EAD card only, but do not have letter of employment, are traveling at their own risk.