Traveling During F1-OPT/STEM OPT

Travel while on Post-completion OPT

Travel while on OPT is not restricted. However, in order to reenter the US after you complete your degree and during the entire OPT period, you should be in possession of your EAD card, OPT I-20 with travel signature, a valid F-1 visa, a valid passport, and a letter from your employer verifying employment.  If you are missing any one of these documents you risk being denied entry and losing your OPT. While on OPT the travel signature on the I-20 form is valid for only 6 months.

Alumni/ae who need an updated travel signature during post-completion OPT should request a new I-20 from your ISO advisor directly by email with subject line: ‘OPT Travel I-20, MIT ID#xxxxxxxxx’.  Please make sure that your reporting requirements to the ISO are up-to-date prior to your email request and include a mailing address in your email.

Travel while on STEM OPT Extension

Travel while on STEM OPT Extension is not restricted. During the 24-month extension, you must carry the following documents in order to return to the U.S.:

  • STEM OPT Employment Authorization (EAD) card
  • STEM OPT Form I-20 form with a valid travel signature (valid for 6 months)
  • valid F-1 entry visa stamp in passport (issued by US Consulate abroad, to enter the U.S. in F-1 status for STEM OPT)
  • valid passport
  • letter from your E-Verify employer confirming your STEM OPT employment

If you are missing any one of these documents, you risk being denied entry to the United States. If your current OPT EAD card is expired and you do not yet have the STEM OPT Extension EAD card, the ISO strongly recommends against travel outside of the U.S. at this time.

However, DHS has clarified in the preamble to the 24-month rule [81 FR 13103 par.774] that, “Students on STEM OPT extensions (including those whose application for a STEM OPT extension is pending) may travel abroad and seek reentry to the United States in F-1 status during the STEM OPT extension period if they have a valid F-1 visa that permits multiple entries and a current Form I-20 Certificate of Eligibility endorsed for reentry by the DSO within the last six months. The student’s status is determined by CBP upon admission to the United States or through a USCIS adjudication of a change-of-status petition.”

If you who wish to travel outside the U.S. without the STEM OPT EAD card, you must have proof that your STEM OPT application was filed in a timely manner and carry the USCIS receipt notice (Form I-797) during your travels.  Please note that your entry to the US on F-1 status while your STEM OPT application is pending may ultimately be determined by CBP upon admission to the United States.

Travel Signature while on STEM OPT

Alumni/ae who need an updated travel signature during STEM OPT Extension should request a new I-20 by submitting the “Request Replacement of Form I-20” online form at iMIT.mit.edu > F-1 Student Services.  Please make sure that your reporting requirements to the ISO are up-to-date prior to your online request.