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  • Traveling While on Optional Practical Training

    This policy concerns eligibility to reenter the United States. It does not mean that not having a job offer at the time the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is approved is a status violation. It is assumed, though, that a student with approved Optional Practical Training (OPT) who does not depart the U.S. must be engaged in a diligent search for employment.

    Reentry policies during post-completion OPT when an EAD card has already been issued:

    • Regulations allow for reentry to the U.S. "to resume employment after a temporary absence." ISS cautions students attempting to reenter the U.S. while on post-completion Optional Practical Training who have not yet secured jobs.
    • Students may be questioned at the port of entry on whether or not they are returning to the U.S. to continue or start a job.
    • The longer a student has had an EAD card but has not been working, the greater the likelihood he or she might encounter difficulties at reentry.
    • In all cases, students who are not employed should be prepared to explain the substantial steps they have been taking to secure employment.
    • SEVP has further clarified that a student need not have already commenced actual employment before leaving the U.S. as long as the student has a job offer to return to.
    • In general, it is best for students to have both an EAD card for post-completion OPT and a job or job offer in order to avoid experiencing difficulty reentering the U.S. If either of these two conditions is missing, then the student is assuming risk.
    • If you are on OPT and plan on traveling, be sure to request a travel signature from ISS. During OPT, travel signatures must be less than six months old at the time of reentry.

    For travel during OPT, follow the checklist below:

    • Complete an online ISS Service Request Form and check "Travel Signature" request on the form.
    • Provide ISS with a legible copy of your EAD card.
    • Submit your original I-20 to ISS for a travel signature. Note that travel signatures will be available after 3 p.m. on the next business day after submission.
    • Obtain a visa if your visa has expired or will expire before your return to the U.S., or if you changed your status within the U.S.
    • See the U.S. State Department's student visa page. If you will need a new visa, it is strongly recommended that you visit International Student Services before traveling, as it may be difficult to obtain a new visa while outside the U.S. on OPT.

    We strongly advise you to carry with you your original employment offer letter or proof of job interviews when you travel.

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