Travel during the F-1 Status
Recommendations and documents F1 students should be aware of when they return to the U.S. based on common Student Statuses and Employment Authorized periods.
While the F-1 Student Visa does allow the holder to travel internationally while studying in the U.S., there are some important things to be aware of and the documents you need to carry if their planning to travel abroad after you have applied for post-completion OPT, a STEM OPT extension, or while in Gap-Gap protection.
Below are recommendations and documents students should be aware of when they return to the U.S. based on common Student Statuses and Employment Authorized periods once their degree program has been completed.
The below list focuses on the most common situations for F-1 students.
If students are travelling:
Before the I-20 end date
Since you are currently enrolled in a U.S. University or Institution and plan to return to the U.S. prior to the end date of your program as listed on your I-20, students will have little issue reentering the U.S. As an F-1 Student, you should have the following documents ready: - Passport - Unexpired F-1 visa - Current I-20 - A copy of your I-901 fee receipt - Travel itinerary
After Graduation with an approved OPT EAD
If you have an approved post-completion EAD and you have the EAD card in hand, you are allowed to travel internationally. At the time of reentry to the U.S. you should be admitted as an F-1 Student. Students should carry with them: - Passport - Unexpired F-1 visa - Current I-20 - The EAD card - Proof of your Job Offer or an Employment Verification Letter
After the degree program is complete but your Post-Completion EAD is still pending
Generally, it is highly advisable not to travel while an application is pending with USCIS. If the application is delayed, rejected, or denied for any reason while you are outside of the U.S., you will not be allowed to reenter the U.S.
With an approved STEM OPT
Similar to being in valid F-1 status and being currently enrolled in a degree program, travel with an unexpired F-1 visa and an approved STEM OPT Extension EAD should be very straightforward. It is recommended that students bring the following documents when reentering the U.S. in this situation: - Passport - Unexpired F-1 visa - Current I-20 with STEM OPT designation - The EAD Card - Proof of your Job Offer or an Employment Verification Letter - Recent pay statements
With students' current and unexpired post-completion OPT but before the STEM Extension has been approved
Travel in this circumstance is allowed and should not be a problem when reentering as long as you are planning to reenter prior to the expiration date of the EAD. If you do travel and the STEM OPT has not been approved and your current EAD is expired or expires while you are outside of the U.S. then you will not be allowed to reenter the U.S. It is recommended that students bring the following documents when reentering the U.S. in this situation: - Passport - Unexpired F-1 visa - Current I-20 with post-completion OPT designation - The EAD Card - Proof of your job Offer or an Employment Verification Letter - Recent pay statements
During the Cap-Gap Period
F-1 Students who have been selected for the H-1B lottery and have an H-1B filed on their behalf may be eligible for Cap-Gap relief. A Cap-Gap extension on an F-1 student's OPT or STEM OPT is a regulatory provision which extends an eligible F-1 student's status to bridge the gap between the expiration of F-1 OPT or OPT STEM work authorization and the start of the upcoming H-1B status on October 1, or the subsequent date when the H-1B has been approved.
It is recommended that you do not travel while the H-1B petition is pending with USCIS. If you do travel while the H-1B is pending and the OPT or STEM OPT EAD has expired, then you will not be eligible to reenter the U.S. If your EAD is unexpired and the H-1B petition has been approved then you would be eligible to return to the U.S.
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