Understanding Travel Guidelines for F-1 Students Transitioning to H-1B Status

Understanding Travel Guidelines for F-1 Students Transitioning to H-1B Status

International travel comes with risks and considerations for F-1 students navigating the transition to optional practical training (OPT) or anticipating a change of status to H-1B. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, through Fragomen, provides comprehensive guidance on travel requirements and potential implications on status and reentry.

Traveling abroad during initial post-completion OPT raises concerns about maintaining status and employment eligibility. USCIS suggests carrying essential documents like a valid passport, F-1 visa stamp, OPT-endorsed Form I-20, valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD), and a job verification letter. However, extended stays overseas may affect the permissible unemployment duration during OPT.

F-1 students contemplating international travel while their initial OPT request is pending should consult with legal counsel due to associated risks. Additionally, those in the 60-day grace period post-completion or during a STEM OPT extension must refrain from travel unless returning to their home country.

Obtaining a new F-1 visa for reentry after expiration is generally required, except for specific circumstances outlined for travel to adjacent countries. However, applicants should anticipate increased scrutiny regarding nonimmigrant intent and potential security clearance delays.

During STEM OPT extension periods, travelers must ensure employment continuity and carry requisite documents. Similar caution applies to travel during H-1B cap lottery participation or while awaiting H-1B status change approval. Notably, leaving the U.S. during this process may necessitate reapplying for H-1B visas and facing potential delays or abandonment of status change applications.

Detailed guidance addresses various scenarios, including travel during cap-gap periods, post-H-1B petition approval reentry, and visa application procedures. Fragomen emphasizes adherence to regulations and meticulous preparation to mitigate risks associated with international travel for F-1 students transitioning to H-1B status.


Source: Fragomen