International Students: Travel and OPT

Information About Travel:
If you are a current F-1 student, please stop by the Admissions office prior to traveling outside of the United States. You must have a valid signature on the third page of your I-20.

Social Security Card:
If you are employed on campus, you must have a social security card in order to be paid. Please stop by the admissions office for information on applying for a social security card.

Optional Practical Training:


What is Standard Post-Completion OPT?

Standard Post-Completion Optional Practical Training, or “OPT”, is off-campus work authorization for F-1 international students in their field of study.  If granted by USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) the authorization full time employment for a maximum of 12 months.

How long will it take to get my card?

Immigration can take up to 90 days to process your Employment Authorization Document (OPT card).

What if I receive a “blue letter” from USCIS?

Receiving a blue letter from USCIS means that either something is wrong or missing from your application for employment.  As soon as you receive this letter, it is critical that you notify the Admissions office so we can help you to remedy the problem.  Do not delay!

What if I find a job before my card arrives?


What if I am unemployed during my OPT?

During the Post-completion OPT period, maintaining F-1 status is dependent upon current employment. Students may not be unemployed for a total of 90 days or more during the initial OPT period. Students with 90 days or more time unemployed would be considered in violation of F-1 status.

What counts as employment?

Paid employment at least 20 hours per week, including work for hire and employment through an agency. This employment may be with one or more employers.

  • Unpaid employment at least 20 hours per week
  • Self employment if a student chooses to start a business. Student must be able to prove to Immigration that he/she has the proper business licenses.

ALL Employment MUST be related to the student’s degree program. Students must be able to prove their job is related to their degree, if asked by Immigration.

Do I have to inform International Student Services that I am employed or have moved?

Yes, Immigration now requires all students on OPT to report their employer's name and address, any breaks in employment, and/or any change in name or address, their employer’s name and address to the Office of International Student Services.  *** This information must be reported with 10 days of the start of your OPT period or within 10 days of any changes.  You must inform the Admissions Office  by submitting the OPT Employer Address & Information Form.  If you are unable to submit this form in person please fax it to 212-966-3217 or email it to***

What if I would like to TRAVEL after I have applied for OPT?

Because your recommendation for OPT will be clearly stated on page 3 of your I-20, you will be asked by an Immigration Official to produce your Employment Authorization Card upon entry of the United States.  You will also be asked to show a letter stating that you have secured employment in the USA, and you are returning to resume employment.   We strongly recommend that you travel outside of the US only if you have a job in the US to return to.  Travel with your OPT card, as well as all immigration documents (see below).  (Your OPT card states that it is not valid for entry to the US.  Don’t panic! This means that the OPT card alone is not enough to enter the country, you need all immigration documents.) You may wish to bring copies of a pay check from your employer as evidence that you are engaging in practical training.

If you chose to travel outside the U.S. while on OPT, make sure you have the following documents:

  • EAD Card
  • All SEVIS I-20s including the current I-20 with travel signature on page 3 that is less than 6 months old!  It is very important that your OPT I-20 has been signed by a DSO less than 6 months before the date you plan on re-entering the U.S.
  • Valid F-1 Visa for re-entry to the U.S.
  • Letter from your employer stating that you are re-entering the U.S. to resume employment.  It is also helpful to bring with you and pay stubs as additional proof that you have secured a job.

What do I do when my Post-Completion OPT ends?

USCIS states that you have 60 days from the end date of the authorized Post-Completion OPT period to:

  • Be in the process of changing to another immigration status.
  • Have an I-20 for the next upcoming semester to begin a new academic program.
  • Leave the United States.

After I have gathered all materials needed for the application, what do I do?

Bring in all of the above documents to the Admissions Office.  We will process the paperwork, create a new I-20 for you, and email you to sign it.  You must come in person to pick up the OPT packet and sign the new OPT I-20.