Traveling While on OPT
Re-entry during Post-Completion OPT (Optional Practical Training) when an EAD card (Employment Authorization Document) 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 United States 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, if you are not employed, you should be prepared to explain the substantial steps you have been taking to secure employment.
• SEVP has further clarified that the 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.
• This policy concerns eligibility to reenter the United States. It does not mean that not having a job offer at the time the EAD is approved is a status violation. It is assumed, though, that a student with approved OPT who does not depart the U.S. must be engaged in a diligent search for employment.
• The best general guidance is for you to have both an EAD card for post-completion OPT and a job or job offer in order to avoid experiencing difficulty reentering the United States. If either of these two conditions is missing, then you are 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 check-list below:
-Complete an on-line ISS Service Request Form and check “Travel Signature” request on the form
-Provide ISS with a legible copy of your Employment Authorization card (EAD)
-Submit your original I-20 to ISS for a travel signature. Note that travel signatures dropped off today will be available after 3 p.m. on the next business day.
-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 Obtaining a New VISA. 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 the original letter of employment offer or proof of job interviews when you travel.