F1 OPT Students- Guidelines for Smooth Travel and Re-entry

F1 OPT Students

F1 OPT Students: Guidelines for Smooth Travel and Re-entry


F1 visa holders are those international students eligible to get a work permit for 12 months. They must be enrolled in any full-time course in the English language in any educational institution based in the USA. These F1 visa-holding students are authorized to work under Optional Practical Training OPT.  International students who look for OPT jobs in USA, have to complete the documentation within a stipulated time. There are some rules and procedures that are to be followed by the candidates, to begin with OPT jobs.

OPT Students must find OPT jobs in the related field of their education, and not otherwise. OPT candidates can choose to work with more than one recruiter at a time. The OPT candidates can work either at the pre-completion or post-completion OPT. STEM OPT students can request to file for an extension of up to 36 months.

The Documents You Need to Travel on an OPT

An international student must be ready to go through a typical process of filing documentation. Passports and other forms are part of the process. Let’s see what mandatory documents that are needed by the OPT candidates to file for OPT jobs in USA and to become eligible for the work permit.

1- A Valid Passport – First of all, they need a Valid Passport which will help them in flying out of the USA. They can travel outside of the USA while their approval of the employment authorization document is pending. The passport must not be expired as it will attract more problems for the candidate abroad.

2- F1 Visa Status – Those international students who apply for a work permit while they are enrolled in any academic program. The educational institution must be based in the USA. The F1 visa status must not be expired while an OPT student is planning to travel outside the USA. They must get the stamp for eligibility for an F1 visa while traveling out of the USA, and while their re-entry the visa status must be active. The visa status must be active before returning to the USA, if it is not active the OPT candidates must apply for the same.

3- I-20 form – while the OPT students are completing their course they can travel outside of the USA. they must take approval from the Designated School Officer, and they can travel only if their educational institution approves their request for travel. They need to update all the required documents with the I-20 form. They can travel while the EAD is pending, which is essential for F1 OPT jobs.

4- An employment Authorization Document – EAD can be termed the backbone of the documents. It is needed while traveling out of the USA and while returning to the USA. Even if the OPT candidates have not received their EAD while traveling out they will need it to come back.

5- Other – other documents are required by the candidate for the procedure of filing for the OPT.

They need proof to show that they are enrolled in any college or university which is based in the USA, to become eligible for the work permit. If an OPT candidate wants to travel outside of the USA they need a document stating their proof of enrollment in a specific educational institution.

They must also have an I-797 notice of action, it is required if any candidate wants to travel outside of the USA, while their EAD is pending.

If an OPT candidate wants to travel outside the USA after their academic program is completed. They need an employment letter also, which must be related to their current employment.

OPT candidates must also have documents supporting their financial stability.

During these times they must also show their COVID-19 vaccination-related documents and mandatory COVID-19 tests.

Suggestions to avoid rejection of an OPT and EAD or OPT STEM extension application

For those international students who aspire to build a life in the USA, it is important to acquire relevant experience in a related field of their academics. This professional experience helps them to stand out from a crowd of workers. It is equally important, to begin with, the filing and to sum up the documentation on time. Even if an OPT candidate is planning to travel outside the USA while their approval is pending they must ensure these steps:

  • The candidates must regularly check the status of their application related to OPT and EAD.
  • The application for filing for EAD and OPT must be completed on time. It must be done within the stipulated period and it must be done before you plan to travel outside of the USA.
  • OPT candidates must choose suitable schedules which are not inconsistent with other engagements or while they are out and unavailable for the OPT.
  • If you are not in the USA and EAD and OPT application is rejected. It will directly affect your F1 status, and you will not enjoy the same status.
  • For re-application, the OPT candidate must have Employment Authorization Document. It will serve as the evidence of their employment.

FAQs with answers about F1 OPT/OPT STEM/F1 visa traveling outside the United States

1- Can I travel from India to the US on an F1 OPT?
If an OPT candidate has their OPT and EAD approved, they can travel anywhere in the whole world. They can re-enter the USA before the beginning of their OPT job.

2- How long can I stay out of the US on STEM OPT?
Candidates who are on STEM OPT get the privileged extension of up to 36 months, which is otherwise 12 months for OPT candidates. They can travel outside of the USA for not less than 5 months if they want to re-enter the USA for F1 OPT jobs.

3- Can we travel outside the USA on OPT?
OPT candidates can travel outside the USA after completing their graduation. In case they want to re-enter the USA they must have their EAD and OPT approval.

4- How many years can I stay in the USA on an F1 visa?
After finishing with the graduation the OPT candidates get 60 days to find a suitable OPT job in USA. An F1 visa is issued for 5 years and the OPT students can live in the USA for their academics and job as it is mentioned and approved in the I-20 form.

5- Is it possible to renew my Visa on OPT and STEM OPT?
Yes, the visa can easily be renewed while you are on OPT and STEM OPT.

6- Do you have to stay in the USA while waiting for OPT?
An OPT candidate doesn’t need to stay in the USA while waiting for their OPT. They can travel outside the USA while their OPT approval is pending.


While an F1 visa holder is planning to travel outside the USA, they must align a few things. Their trip must not clash with their OPT job date. They must wrap up the filing of an application for OPT and EAD before traveling out of the USA.