Travelling Abroad During OPT or STEM OPT
You can absolutely travel abroad during OPT, but the there are a few additional pieces to prepare than the typical documents required for current students.
You’ll need to carry the following documents when returning to the US during your OPT year:
1. Valid passport, Valid F-1 visa
2. I-20 – please make sure your I-20 has:
– your current employer information updated on the employment page
– a travel signature, found at the bottom of the 2nd page on the new I-20 format, bottom of the 3rd page of the older formt, that will not be more than 6 months old as of your return date to the US. Contact the IES office at least a few weeks in advance of your travels if you need an updated travel signature on your I-20!
3. Proof of employment – this should be either a job offer letter or verification of employment letter from your employer. Paycheck stubs will not suffice.
4. Current, valid EAD card
Renewing Your F-1 visa During OPT or STEM OPT
Even during OPT or STEM OPT, your immigration status in the US is still F-1. Therefore, you can still apply for a new F-1 visa if you need to while travelling abroad.
You can use the basic instructions to schedule a visa appointment you may already be familiar with, or use the detailed directions here.
In addition to the typical documents, please be sure to carry the following additional documents:
- Proof of Employment (job offer letter or verification of employment letter from your current employer)
- I-20 with current job information and travel signature no more than 6 months old
- Current, valid EAD card
You can expect the visa interview to be similar to past interviews, where the officer will want to know about your goals in the US and your intent to return home after completing those goals.
However, the difference is that you will still need to answer these questions in such a way that you show your goals in the US to be in line with a student visa – that your goals are ultimately academic in nature. You’ll need to make it clear to the official interviewing you that your goals in the US are still ultimately academic in nature, and that you still intend to return home after you complete your academic goals. While it may sound daunting, this can absolutely be done, and many students have successfully renewed their visa during their OPT or STEM OPT periods. Please contact the IES office at firstname.lastname@example.org for more specific guidance on how to approach your visa interview in your specific situation.