Travel while your application for Post Completion Optional Practical Training is pending
A student may travel abroad and be readmitted while the request for practical training is pending with USCIS," but "such travel should be undertaken with caution:
The Foreign Affairs Manual, created by the U.S. Department of Statue provides this guidance:
- An F-1 student authorized to accept employment for practical training who leaves the country temporarily may be readmitted for the remainder of the authorized period. The student must be returning solely to perform the authorized training. Additionally, a student may travel abroad and be readmitted while the request for practical training is pending with USCIS, but such travel should be undertaken with caution. USCIS may send a request for evidence to the U.S. address on the application while the applicant is away. Additionally, if USCIS approves the OPT application, the applicant will be expected to have the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) in hand to reenter the United States. Like a request for evidence, USCIS can only send the EAD to a U.S. address.
- Therefore, if you plan to leave the US while your OPT is pending, we recommend that on your OPT application, you have your EAD card sent to an address in the US where someone can receive it on your behalf and mail it to you abroad so that you can have it in hand when returning to the US. One option is to have it mailed to the ISSS Office (1938 Liacouras Walk, Suite 202, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA 19122). When it arrives, we will alert you, and you can purchase a shipping label for us to send it to you.
- A valid F-1 visa, the Form I-20, EAD (if issued), and an accurate electronic SEVIS record are required to reenter the United States for practical training purposes. A letter of employment may also be required. For individuals attempting to travel abroad and be readmitted while an application for the STEM OPT extension is pending, the Form I-20 should be endorsed for reentry by the DSO within the last six months.
- Note that OPT is a benefit of the F-1 Visa. Therefore, if your F-1 visa has expired while you are abroad and waiting for your OPT to be approved, you will need to have your OPT approved and your EAD card in hand before applying for a new F-1 Visa to return to the US.
Your I-20 must signed for travel by a DSO. While on OPT, the travel signature is only valid for 6 months.. If you need a new travel signature on your I-20, please request one here.
Travel after your application for Post Completion Optional Practical Training is approved
An F-1 student who is engaged in post-completion OPT who travels outside the United States temporarily (i.e., less than 5 months) can be readmitted to resume employment for the remainder of the period authorized on his or her EAD card, provided:
- The student presents a Form I-20 signed for travel by the DSO within the preceding 6 months. If you need a new travel signature on your I-20, please request one here.
- The student presents an unexpired EAD, and
- The student is returning to resume employment
- The student presents a valid F-1 visa (unless exempt from the visa requirement)