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Travel While OPT Application is Pending

International travel while an OPT application is pending can be risky and is not generally recommended. If you have an OPT application pending and believe you must travel, you are required to have the following to return:

  • Passport (valid for six months after you plan to re-enter the US)​
  • Valid F-1 visa stamp in your passport*
  • I-20 (with a valid travel signature no older than six months)
  • I-797c Receipt Notice showing that USCIS is reviewing your OPT application

It is very difficult to renew your F-1 visa while your OPT is pending so we recommend you wait until your OPT is approved and you have the new EAD in hand before you attempt to apply for a new F-1 visa. If your OPT is approved while you are abroad (and you have the F-1 visa) we recommend you ask a friend to email you a scanned copy of your new EAD (employment authorization document) as additional evidence for entry but it is not required.

Please be aware that if you do choose to travel while your application is pending and have difficulties returning to the US, OIS may be of limited assistance.

Travel After OPT is Approved

If your post-completion OPT has been approved (your EAD has been issued by USCIS) and you have a job or a job offer, you may leave and re-enter the US in order to begin/resume employment. In order to have the best chance of re-entering the US without problems, you should be sure you have the following documents:

  • Passport (valid for six months after you plan to re-enter the U.S.)
  • Valid F-1 visa stamp in your passport*
  • I-20 (with a valid travel signature no older than six months)
  • EAD
  • Evidence that you already have a job in the U.S. or that you have a job offer

If you need to apply for a new F-1 visa, you should be sure to have your EAD and evidence that you already have a job in the US or that you have a job offer in addition to the usual documents required for a visa application.

Travel While OPT STEM Extension Application is Pending

If your post-completion OPT has not expired yet, you can travel as usual on your approved OPT. If your OPT has expired and your STEM application is still under review, we would recommend you do not travel outside the US. If you believe you must travel, you should take:

  • Passport (valid for six months after you plan to re-enter the US)
  • Valid F-1 visa stamp in your passport*
  • I-20 (with a valid travel signature no older than six months)
  • OPT EAD 
  • I-797c Receipt Notice showing that USCIS is reviewing your STEM application
  • Evidence that you already have a job in the US or that you have a job offer
  • (suggested) a copy of your I-983 training plan

Please note it is extremely difficult to renew your F-1 visa while your STEM application is pending, we recommend you only try to renew your F-1 visa after the STEM EAD is issued and you have it in hand along with the other evidence required to apply for a visa application.

Travel After OPT STEM Extension is Approved

Students who wish to travel outside the US during their OPT STEM Extension should take the following with them:

  • Passport (valid for six months after you plan to re-enter the US)
  • Valid F-1 visa stamp in your passport*
  • I-20 (with a valid travel signature no older than six months)
  • EAD issued for the STEM extension
  • Letter of Employment or Offer Letter from employer
  • (suggested) a copy of your I-983 training plan

 

A Note on Visa Renewals

Please be aware that an F-1 visa renewal is not guaranteed and you could find yourself subject to delays, including Administrative Processing.  

If you have any questions or concerns please email ois@jhu.edu or call (667)208-7001.

 

*The visa stamp requirement does not apply to Canadian citizens.