The following instructions are for students' re-entry during Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) when an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) has already been issued. Regulations allow for reentry to the U.S. "to resume employment after a temporary absence." The ISA office cautions students attempting to reenter the United States while on post-completion Optional Practical Training who have not yet secured jobs.
Students may be questioned at the Port of Entry on whether or not they are returning to the U.S. to continue or start a job.
The longer a student has had an EAD card but has not been working, the greater the likelihood he or she might encounter difficulties at reentry.
In all cases, if you are not employed, you should be prepared to explain the substantial steps you have been taking to secure employment.
SEVP has further clarified that the student need not have already commenced actual employment before leaving the U.S., as long as the student has a job offer to return to.
This policy concerns eligibility to reenter the United States. It does not mean that not having a job offer at the time the EAD is approved is a status violation. It is assumed, though, that a student with approved OPT who does not depart the U.S. must be engaged in a diligent search for employment.
The best general guidance is for you to have both an EAD card for post-completion OPT and a job or job offer in order to avoid experiencing difficulty reentering the United States. If either of these two conditions is missing, then you are assuming risk.
If you are on OPT and plan on traveling, be sure to request a travel signature from the ISA office. During OPT, travel signatures must be less than six months old at the time of reentry.
Travel During Optional Practical Training
For travel during OPT, you must:
Bring your original I-20 to the ISA for a travel signature.
Provide ISA with a legible copy of your Employment Authorization card (EAD)
Obtain a visa if your visa has expired or will expire before your return to the U.S., or if you changed your status within the U.S . If you will need a new visa, it is strongly recommended that you visit the office of the International Student Advisor before traveling, as it may be difficult to obtain a new visa while outside the U.S. on OPT.
Additionally, we strongly advise you to carry with you the original letter of employment offer or proof of job interviews when you travel.