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Traveling Abroad While on OPT

Students in F-1 status on OPT need these documents to re-enter the U.S.:

  • a valid EAD (OPT card)
  • valid passport
  • valid F-1 visa
  • I-20 with a travel signature signed within the last six months
  • employer or job offer letter (not required but recommended)
To re-enter the U.S., you must meet the immigration admission requirements for F-1 status:
  • you have the required documents
  • you have followed all immigration rules
  • you have not been out of the U.S. for more than 5 months
  • you are coming back to resume employment

IMPORTANT: Students who have an OPT STEM Extension application pending, should wait till their request is approved and have received the new Employment Authorization Document (EAD) before traveling abroad.

Travel Advice
  • Expired Visa
    If your F-1 visa is expired, you will need to apply for a new one at a U.S. embassy abroad before you can come back to the U.S. If you are only traveling to Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent Caribbean islands for 30 days or less, you may be able to re-enter the U.S. even with an expired F-1 visa.
  • No Employment Upon Return
    If you have no employment to return to, an officer can legally refuse your entry to the U.S. If you need to travel abroad, we recommend that you carry with you proof that you are looking for employment (e.g., interview offers, registration to attend a career fair, etc.). Additionally, students who have exceeded the 90 days of OPT unemployment are not considered to be maintaining status and might be denied re-entry into the U.S.
  • Change of Status Filed /H-1B Pending /Green-card Application Pending
    If any of these apply, you need to be very careful about traveling abroad because doing so can void some of these applications and/or make you ineligible to return to the U.S. on your OPT. Talk to the attorney or office that is assisting you with these applications before traveling abroad.
  • Expired EAD
    If your OPT period has expired and you are now in the 60-day grace period and you leave the U.S., you will need a different visa (e.g., tourist visa, H-1B work visa if you were approved) to return.

For more information, see U.S. Department of Homeland Security FAQ for Travel

If you have a problem at the U.S. border during regular office hours, call ISSP at (757) 221-3590. Outside of regular office hours, contact the W&M Police at (757) 221-4596, and they will contact an International Student Advisor.