Travel During F-1 OPT

In this section, we’ll cover the things you need to be aware of and the documents you need to carry if you’re planning to travel abroad after you have applied for post-completion OPT, including STEM OPT extension and the Cap-Gap extension.

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Need to know

Need to Know

Post-Completion OPT is an extension of your F-1 status. If you return to the U.S. in another status, such as tourist, it will invalidate your F-1 status and your OPT authorization.

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Since you are currently enrolled and will return to the U.S. before the program end date of your program, your re-entry will be based on your return as a current student. Your OPT application has no impact on your travel, regardless of  whether it’s pending or approved.

We recommend that you avoid international travel before your OPT is approved. If there is a problem with your application USCIS will mail you a Request for Evidence (RFE) to your U.S. address. Even if a friend is checking your mail, you may have difficulty responding to the RFE in time. If you have to travel, you will need the following items when you return to the U.S.:

If your current EAD has expired, don’t travel while your STEM OPT extension is pending, You will not be able to return in F-1 status to resume employment.

If you are returning to the U.S. while your OPT EAD is still valid, you will need the following items.

On May 10, 2016, DHS implemented new rules regarding OPT. One of the changes is the possibility of traveling during a Cap-Gap extension of OPT when certain conditions are met.

Do not leave the US while the H-1B change of status is pending! It will nullify the change of status and make you ineligible for the cap gap extension.

Generally, you may travel abroad and return to the US in F-1 status during a Cap-Gap period if:

Because this is fairly new guidance, we recommend you travel with a printed copy of this USCIS page which addresses F-1 travel during a Cap-Gap extension.

Learn more!

Watch our short overview of travel on OPT from our OPT playlist:

ISSO F-1 Post-Completion OPT, Part 9: Travel Abroad on OPT