If I apply for OPT can I leave the U.S.?

In order to re-enter the U.S. after you have applied for OPT, you must have your I-20 signed by an ISSS advisor within the last six months, a valid F-1 visa, a valid passport and your EAD card. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has also indicated the following:

  • If your OPT is approved and you are employed or have been offered employment, you should be able to re-enter the U.S. with the documents mentioned above, PLUS a letter from your employer confirming that you are or will be employed there under Optional Practical Training.
  • If your OPT application is still pending when you wish to re-enter the U.S., you will be allowed to re-enter to look for employment (in case your OPT is approved while you are outside the U.S., ISSS strongly recommends that ON THE DAY YOU ARE TO LEAVE THE U.S. you go to the USCIS website where you can enter the receipt number from your Notice of Action and print a statement showing the OPT application is still pending as of that date, and have this with you when you come through the Port of Entry).
  • If your OPT application has been approved and you leave the U.S. before finding a job (as evidenced by a job offer letter, which you should be prepared to show the officer at the Port of Entry), your OPT will be considered canceled and you may NOT be allowed to re-enter the U.S.

Is OPT a different visa?

No. A person with OPT authorization is still in F-1 status, holding an EAD for OPT. You still need an ISSS advisor signature on your I-20 if you want to re-enter the United States during your time on OPT. The ISSS advisor signature should be no more than six months old at the time you re-enter. For more information about travel, view Travel Information and Visa Renewal Information. Visa renewal on OPT can be more difficult, and you are strongly advised to have your OPT card and proof of employment in addition to regular documentation.