After graduation the rules for re-entry for F-1 students are different from the rules when you are a student entering the United States to begin or continue your program of study. Review this information carefully before making any travel plans after graduation.
If your OPT application is still pending with USCIS, ISSS does not recommend that you travel outside the United States. You should wait until you receive your EAD card and have a job offer before traveling. Please remember that USCIS processing time may take three months or more.
Once your OPT application is approved:
After you receive your EAD card, you may travel outside the U.S. with the following required documents:
- Valid passport
- Valid F-1 visa inside your passport allowing re-entry
- I-20 endorsed for OPT (ISSS staff signature on page 2 must be less than 6 months old)
- Your EAD card
- A letter from your employer stating you are re-entering the United States to resume (begin) employment with them
To check on the progress of your EAD card, go online.
If you have questions about travel while on OPT, contact ISSS staff before you leave the United States.
Travel outside the United States and days of unemployment
If a student whose approved period of OPT (as indicated on the EAD card) has begun then travels outside of the United States while unemployed, the time spent outside the United States will count as unemployment against the 90 days for OPT and 150 days for the 24-Month STEM OPT extension period.
If a student travels while employed either during a period of leave authorized by an employer or as part of their employment, the time spent outside the United States will not count as unemployment.
Go online for more information on F-1 regulations regarding days of unemployment.
The best general advice is that an F-1 student on OPT who has received the EAD card and has to travel abroad should make sure there is documentation from his or her employer confirming the employment or their job offer. Otherwise the student assumes a risk that he/she may not be allowed to re-enter the United States.
OPT and applying for a new F-1 visa abroad
If you need to renew your F-1 visa, you must have your I-20 endorsed for OPT, an official transcript from Binghamton University (and proof of your degree if you have graduated), your EAD card (or receipt notice) and proof of a job or job offer as minimum documentation requirements.
Travel abroad when a petition for a different visa has been filed
Students on OPT who have a pending or approved petition for a different non-immigrant or immigrant visa (for example, H-1B) are urged to consult with the individual filing their petition (such as an attorney) for advice on travel. A pending application for H-1B that has not yet been approved will be considered to have been abandoned if the beneficiary travels abroad. A pending application for permanent residency will also be considered to have been abandoned unless the beneficiary has a valid advance parole document. If a petition has been approved, it is essential to consult with the individual who has filed the petition for advice on travel and documentation.