Most of the Students who are on OPT face the dilemma about their travel while their OPT period is active. There is no specific answer to this query of the students. If the student wants to work for the OPT jobs and has applied for the same then there are some restrictions based on the law related to the category of the visa which has to be kept in mind.
The factors on which the answer is dependent are:
- Kind of OPT application
- Situation of Student on OPT
For each case the answer varies as each every student has different issues and situation where they may need to travel during the OPT period. Any person in his OPT period is considered to hold a F1 visa status regardless of whether he/she has completed the graduation or is pursuing. There are few cases which have to be kept in mind while thinking about traveling outside the USA during the OPT period:
Before getting the card for pre-completion OPT
The student is permitted to travel outside US before he/she gets the card if the intention is utilizing the OPT period of pre-degree completion. The student must hold a valid F1 visa along with I-20form and passport for their reentry in country.
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After getting the card for pre-completion OPT
Students are allowed to travel outside USA once they have received the card as long as they plan to remain student of the respective university. The student must hold a valid F1 visa along with I-20 form and passport for their reentry in country.
Before getting the card for post-completion OPT
It is risky to travel outside the USA while the application for the post completion Opt is in waiting state. In the pending status of application, the reentry is possible only if the student has valid proofs. It is compulsory to carry passport, I-20form, and proof of non-immigrant intent. Student is eligible for a new F-1 visa application even if the work card has not yet been approved.
After getting the card for post-completion OPT
The student must possess the unexpired employment card and a valid F1 visa for the reentry in the united states after the approval of OPT application for the post completion. Holding passport and a I-20form as well proof of job and proof of non-immigrant intent is compulsory. Students are eligible for a new F-1 visa application as well, during the OPT approved period.
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Before receiving the OPT STEM extension work card
If the student has applied for the OPT STEM extension but it is still not approved then reentry in the united states is allowed only If the current OPT period has not expired and the student carries proof of filing the OPT extension application. The reentry also requires the proof of having employment with the E-verified Employer. The entry demands a valid F1 visa.
The same situation with a criteria that the current OPT period has expired makes the reentry problematic. It is quite risky to travel during this period and take the reentry as the student would not possess the work card. Yet if the traveling is compulsory then the student should keep the proof filing the Opt Extension. In addition student should have proof of temporary employment with an E-Verify employer.
After receiving the OPT STEM extension work card
If the students have the valid STEM extension work card then reentry in the United States is easy if they carry the STEM OPT work card, the previous work card, and proof of temporary employment with an E-Verify employer. They would also need a valid F-1 student visa to re-enter the U.S. Yet there can be hanging risk of reentry being rejected or denied if the officer fails to trust student. Students have to make the officers believe that they would leave the country after the end of the work duration period. Rejection of visa happens when the respective candidate fails to prove his employment. It is important to show that the employment is appropriate to field of study and degree level.
Every student has a 60 day grace period following the end of OPT period, unless they have extended their F-1 status for another degree program, or they are under application to change their immigration status to another classification.