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Traveling Outside of the US

You must have your I-20 signed by your International Student Advisor before leaving the United States – even if you are just traveling to Canada or Mexico. This signature (on page 3 of the I-20) certifies that you are in good standing at IU Southeast and will allow you to return to the US. Each travel signature is valid for one year.

To have your I-20 signed for travel, contact the International Student Advisor in the Office of Admissions. Please bring your passport and I-20 to the meeting

Traveling Outside of the US while Employed (OPT)

Dates of travel outside of the US while employed do not count as days of unemployment. If a student on OPT is traveling outside of the US for a vacation or for business while continuing to be employed in the major field of study, those dates outside of the US do not need to be tracked or reported as days of unemployment.

While traveling on OPT, you are advised to carry:

  • I-20, signed for travel (each travel signature is valid for only six months during OPT)
  • Valid F-1 visa stamp
  • Passport valid for at least six months into the future from the date of re-entry to the US
  • Valid OPT card
  • Job offer or confirmation letter
  • If traveling for business or on a vacation from the job, ensure that the letter clarifies this.

Traveling in Other Situations

While traveling outside of the US while waiting for your OPT to be approved and before you complete your degree, you are advised to carry:

  • Passport (valid for six months from the date of your re-entry)
  • Signed I-20 (each travel signature is valid for only six months during OPT)
  • Valid F-1 visa stamp

While traveling outside of the US while waiting for your OPT to be approved and after your degree completion, you are advised to carry:

  • Passport (valid for six months from the date of your re-entry)
  • Signed I-20 (each travel signature is valid for only six months during OPT)
  • Valid F-1 visa stamp
  • I-797C (receipt notice from USCIS)
  • BE ADVISED THAT TRAVELING IN THIS STATUS IS SOMEWHAT RISKY

You should use particular caution in this situation. Your US immigration status is determined by the I-94 card that is placed in your passport and because the I-94 is taken each time you depart from the US, establishing your F-1 status while outside the US will be difficult if USCIS has questions about your application. If USCIS sends a request for additional information about an aspect of your application and if it is not resolved in a timely fashion, your application will be denied.

According to DHS, traveling back to the US while your OPT is pending is permitted in order to search for employment.

While traveling outside of the US after OPT has been approved and after the completion date on your I-20 (check item 5 on your I-20), you are advised to carry

  • Passport (valid for six months from the date of your re-entry);
  • Valid F-1 visa stamp
  • Signed OPT I-20 (each travel signature is valid for only six months during OPT)
  • Valid OPT card
  • Job offer or employment confirmation letter (Immigration regulations state that you can re-enter the US to resume employment while on OPT)

If traveling for business or on a vacation from the job, ensure that the letter clarifies this.

It can be very difficult to apply for an F-1 visa stamp while you are on OPT. If your visa stamp is expired, or will soon expire, keep this in mind. Please remember that anytime you leave the US there is never a guarantee that the immigration official at the port of entry will allow you to re-enter.

Cap Gap Extension: SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) strongly recommends students do not, if possible, travel during their cap gap extension. USCIS may consider your application to change from F-1 to H-1 as abandoned and deny the change.

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