According to the Code of Federal Regulations [8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f)(13)(ii)], "An F-1 student who has an unexpired EAD issued for post-completion practical training and who is otherwise admissible may return to the United States to resume employment after a period of temporary absence. The EAD must be used in combination with an I-20 ID endorsed for reentry by the DSO within the last six months." Guidance on OPT travel from Immigration and Customs Enforcement is located here.
Are you eligible to travel and return to the U.S.?
- You must be in valid F-1 status.
- You must have a valid F-1 visa to return to the U.S. If you changed your status to F-1 while inside the U.S., you will need to apply for an F-1 visa in your home country the first time you depart the U.S.
- You must have been outside the U.S. for less than five months. If you are planning to engage in extended business travel overseas, please contact an ISSS advisor for assistance.
- You must have a valid OPT job or have been unemployed for less than the unemployment limit (90 days for post-completion OPT, with an additional 30 days for the STEM extension). It is highly recommended that you do not seek to reenter the U.S. unless you are employed or have a job offer in hand.
In addition to the documents listed under “Travel before Completing Your Program of Study,” you will need the following:
- Your I-20 endorsed (signed) for travel by a Designated School Official ( DSO) - The DSO signature must be less than six months old.
- Offer letter/employment letter (this should be on letterhead with your employer's signature) and other proof of employment, if available (like pay stubs). Information regarding travel on OPT without employment is located on the ICE website here.
- EAD card – It is advisable not to leave the U.S. until your OPT is approved and you receive the EAD card. If you are applying for post-completion OPT, please contact ISSS if you plan to travel during your grace period (after your program of study ends and before post-completion OPT begins). If you are applying for the STEM extension, it is not possible to travel after your post-completion OPT end date with a pending STEM extension application; you must wait until you receive the EAD.
If You Need to Renew Your F-1 Student Visa:
Information about getting the F-1 visa is located here, and visa wait times are listed here.
In addition to preparing the documents listed in the below checklist, please review the ISSS guidance entitled 10 Points to Remember When Applying for a Nonimmigrant Visa.
For students on post-completion OPT or the STEM extension, here is a list of the documents you will need for the F-1 visa renewal:
- I-20- Please make sure that your latest I-20 says “OPT approved” on the third page, has your current employer’s name and address, and has been signed for travel in the last six months.
- Official transcript and copy of your diploma (certifies that you graduated) from Stevens
- Documentation of whatever financial support (for instance, from your parents) you have outside your job and proof of renewable funds for the following years. The annual amount you need is found on the Financial Information & Affidavit of Support. You may subtract the “Tuition and fees” line since you are on OPT.
- Financial Information & Affidavit of Support from each of your financial sponsors. If you are being supported by the government of your home country, you do not need an affidavit.
- Your EAD
- Proof of employment in the form of both an offer letter/employment verification letter (on company letterhead, signed by your supervisor or HR) and pay stubs from your company (if you have a paid position)
- Proof of permanent residence in your home country
- SEVIS fee receipt (if you can’t find your old one, you will need to reprint your SEVIS fee receipt here.
- Passport valid for six months into the future from the date you will return to the U.S.
- Recommended (not required): Letter from ISSS- Two weeks before you travel, please e-mail the associate director of ISSS with your employer’s name and address and your current job title so that ISSS can write a letter for you.