Traveling While on Post-Completion Optional Practical Training   

Re-entry during Post-Completion OPT (Optional Practical Training) when an EAD card (Employment Authorization Document) Has Already Been Issued 

Regulations allow for reentry to the U.S. "to resume employment after a temporary absence." The ISA office cautions students attempting to reenter the United States while on post-completion Optional Practical Training who have not yet secured jobs. 

  • Students may be questioned at the Port of Entry on whether or not they are returning to the U.S. to continue or start a job.  
  • The longer a student has had an EAD card but has not been working, the greater the likelihood he or she might encounter difficulties at reentry. 
  • In all cases, if you are not employed, you should be prepared to explain the substantial steps you have been taking to secure employment. 
  • SEVP has further clarified that the student need not have already commenced actual employment before leaving the U.S., as long as the student has a job offer to return to. 
  • This policy concerns eligibility to reenter the United States. It does not mean that not having a job offer at the time the EAD is approved is a status violation. It is assumed, though, that a student with approved OPT who does not depart the U.S. must be engaged in a diligent search for employment. 
  • The best general guidance is for you to have both an EAD card for post-completion OPT and a job or job offer in order to avoid experiencing difficulty reentering the United States. If either of these two conditions is missing, then you are assuming risk. 
  • If you are on OPT and plan on traveling, be sure to request a travel signature from the ISA office. During OPT, travel signatures must be less than six months old at the time of reentry.  

For travel during OPT, follow the check-list below: 

  • Bring your original I-20 to the ISA for a travel signature.
  • Provide ISA with a legible copy of your Employment Authorization card (EAD) 
  • Obtain a visa if your visa has expired or will expire before your return to the U.S., or if you changed your status within the U.S .  If you will need a new visa, it is strongly recommended that you visit the office of the International Student Advisor before traveling, as it may be difficult to obtain a new visa while outside the U.S. on OPT.
  • We strongly advise you to carry with you the original letter of employment offer or proof of job interviews when you travel.