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California State University, Fullerton

Traveling on OPT

Traveling Outside the U.S. on Approved OPT

If you have been authorized Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) and wish to travel, you will need the following documents to re-enter the U.S:

  • Valid passport (must be valid 6 months into the future)
  • Valid, unexpired F-1 visa
  • SEVIS I-20 (page 3 must be signed every 6 months)
  • Valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
  • Letter from current or prospective employer (sample letter)

According to the December 15, 2004 Operating Instructions from the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), there are new provisions and interpretations of the regulation 8CFR 214.2(f)(13)(ii) which states that: "An F-1 student who has an unexpired EAD issued for post-completion practical training and who is otherwise admissible may return to the United States to resume employment after a period of temporary absence. The EAD must be used in combination with an I-20 endorsed for reentry by the DSO within the last six months."

This rule applies only to Post-Completion OPT, not pre-completion OPT. The new interpretations also address the issue of departure and reentry while OPT I-765 is pending. The SEVP provided the following answers to these two questions:

Can I reenter [the U.S.] if my request for OPT is pending?
Yes, you may reenter to search for employment.

Can I reenter [the U.S.] if I left while on OPT?
(i) If your OPT has been approved and you depart before you get a job, your OPT ends and you cannot reenter.
(ii) If you have a job, you may travel and reenter to resume work at the same job.

Traveling Outside the U.S. Before Receiving OPT Approval

The following documents are required for re-entry:

  • Valid passport (must be valid 6 months into the future)
  • Valid, unexpired F-1 visa
  • SEVIS I-20 (page 3 must be signed every 6 months)
  • The I-797 receipt notice (Form I-797) — bring both the original and a copy in case the immigration officer wants a copy. Never submit the original copy.

If your visa has already expired, you must apply for a new visa before you return to the U.S. Please note that travel is especially risky if you have to apply for an F-1 visa based on Optional Practical Training as you have to prove that you do NOT intend to stay in the U.S. beyond OPT.

What do the new provisions mean for students who wish to travel?

Students with both an EAD for Post-Completion OPT and a job or a job offer should not experience difficulty reentering the U.S. If either of these two conditions is missing, then students are traveling at their own risk.

Revised — August 2011

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