Travel and Re-entry to the U.S. While on OPT

ALERT: Berkeley International Office (BIO) currently recommends minimizing international travel due to the changing nature of U.S. immigration policy. Given the current U.S. immigration climate, you should be prepared for the possibility of increased scrutiny at the U.S. port of entry in the form of additional questioning and/or inspection of your phone or social media. For important information regarding current U.S. immigration policy, Executive Orders, and travel advisories, please see BIO's Immigration Policy Updates & FAQ webpage

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: BIO is closely monitoring the current coronavirus outbreak and Presidential Proclamation suspending entry into the United States for those deemed to pose a risk of transmitting the coronavirus. Effective Sunday, February 2nd at 5 p.m. eastern standard time, the U.S. government will deny the entry into the U.S. of any foreign national (except immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents) who has traveled in China within the last 14 days. For information about immediate family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who may be exempt from this suspension, please review section 2 of the Presidential Proclamation. Restrictions on travel to and from China are rapidly evolving, as well as impacting local consulates and embassies working with U.S. visa applications. Mail delivery in parts of the world is also impacted and may result in delays in the delivery of immigration documents. Should you have urgent, emergency travel needs to or from this region, please contact BIO for advising.

Traveling while on OPT or OPT STEM Extension

In general, an F-1 student on post-completion OPT may travel outside the United States temporarily and be readmitted to resume F-1 status and employment for the remainder of the period authorized on his or her EAD card. The student must not have exceeded the maximum OPT unemployment or OPT STEM Extension unemployment time.

Please also review all general travel and re-entry information on the main Travel and Re-Entry page. 

WARNING: Re-entering the United States in a status other than F-1 (such as a tourist) will invalidate F-1 status and OPT authorization.

DocumentsBefore Completing Academic Program & Before OPT EAD Approval*After Completing Academic Program & Before OPT or STEM EAD Approval*After Completing Program & After  OPT or STEM EAD Approval
Valid passport
Valid F-1 visa stamp (if applicable)
OPT I-20 with a valid travel endorsement signed within 6 months by a BIO Advisor (page 3)
Evidence of continued enrollment (e.g. Enrollment Verification from Cal Central)
Evidence of financial support strongly recommended strongly recommended strongly recommended
OPT receipt: I-797 Notice of Action
Job offer letter from employer OR current employment verification letter strongly recommended
EAD (Employment Authorization Document) See "Travel While OPT or OPT STEM Extension is Pending" below.

Travel While OPT or OPT STEM Extension is Pending 

Travel during the OPT application process is allowed, but not recomended as it poses certain risks. Keep in mind the following:

  • You will need to have someone monitor your mail and let you know if you receive any communications from USCIS.
  • If you receive a Request for Evidence, you will need to respond by a specific deadline, which could be difficult from outside the U.S.
  • For post-completion OPT: If you are denied for OPT while outside the United States after your Program Completion Date, you will not be able to re-enter or reapply. Your F-1 status will end.
  • For OPT STEM Extension: If you are denied for OPT STEM Extension while outside the United States after your OPT EAD end date, you will not be able to re-enter or reapply. Your F-1 status will end.
  • If you are approved for OPT/STEM while outside the United States, you will need to arrange for your EAD card to be sent to you in order to re-enter the United States.
  • If your F-1 visa is expired, you will need to reapply for an F-1 visa with your EAD card and proof of employment.
  •  If you choose to travel while your application is pending, be sure that you are monitoring your mail. Sign up for an account with USCIS Case Status online. Communicate with BIO about your travel plans. 

Getting an F-1 Visa Stamp During OPT/STEM 

If a student's F-1 visa has expired and the student wishes to travel outside the United States, a new F-1 visa must be obtained before re-entering the United States. Students who need to apply for a new visa should consult BIO prior to travel to discuss the visa application process and possible risks. General Visa information can be found on the Applying for a Visa webpage. If your F-1 visa has expired, and OPT or OPT STEM Extension application is pending, you will NOT be able to apply for a new F-1 visa until the application is approved and you have the EAD. 

If You Are on OPT & Have a Pending or Approved H-1B or OPT Cap-Gap I-20

Please first check with your employer and the legal counsel processing your H-1B about your travel plans. Berkeley International Office can only advise you on travel as an F-1, but we cannot advise on how your travel might impact a pending or future H-1B request. Students travelling using an OPT Cap-Gap I-20 should see the H-1B Cap Gap page for more information.