Travel while on STEM OPT extension is not restricted. During the 24-month extension, you must carry the following documents in order to return to the U.S.:
- STEM OPT Employment Authorization (EAD) card
- STEM OPT Form I-20 form with a valid travel signature (valid for six months)
- Valid F-1 entry visa stamp in passport (issued by U.S. Consulate abroad for you to enter the U.S. in F-1 status for STEM OPT)
- Valid passport
- Letter from your E-verify employer confirming your STEM OPT employment
If you are missing any one of these documents, you risk being denied entry to the U.S. If your current OPT EAD card is expired and you do not yet have the STEM OPT extension EAD card, no travel outside of the U.S. is strongly recommended.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has clarified in the preamble to the 24-month rule that students on STEM OPT extensions (including those whose applications for a STEM OPT extension is pending) may travel abroad and seek re-entry to the U.S. in F-1 status during the STEM OPT extension period if they have a valid F-1 visa that permits multiple entries and a current Form I-20 Certificate of Eligibility endorsed for re-entry by the DSO within the last six months.
Your status is determined by CBP upon admission to the U.S. or through a USCIS adjudication of a change-of-status petition.
If you who wish to travel outside the U.S. without the STEM OPT EAD card, you must have proof that your STEM OPT application was filed in a timely manner and carry the USCIS receipt notice (Form I-797) during your travels.
Your entry to the U.S. on F-1 status while your STEM OPT application is pending is determined by CBP upon admission to the U.S.
Note: The U.S. Department of State recommends that visa applications be made in the exchange visitor’s home country as difficulties can arise when applying for a new U.S. visa in a third country.
If you need an updated travel signature during STEM OPT extension you can request a new I-20 by submitting a written request for a replacement form to MCF1Students@mayo.edu. Make sure your reporting requirements to Mayo Clinic’s Legal Department are up-to-date prior to your online request.
Traveling to Canada, Mexico, or adjacent islands
F-1 students who plan to travel to and from Canada, Mexico, or adjacent islands for a short visit (less than 30 days) must have:
- Valid passport. It must be valid for at least six months when you re-enter the U.S.
- Valid F-1 visa stamp.
- Valid I-20. The form must be signed by an approved official in the Mayo Clinic Legal Department within the past year. The signature must be resigned every six months for F-1 students in the OPT or STEM OPT period.
If you have an expired F-1 visa (Automatic Visa Revalidation), the following documents may be used:
- Valid passport.
- An expired F-1 visa stamp.
- An I-94 indicating F-1 status with the notation “D/S.”
- A valid I-20 form. The form must be signed by an approved official in the Mayo Clinic Legal Department within the past year. The signature must be resigned every six months for F-1 students in the OPT period.
Automatic revalidation also does not apply if you have applied for a U.S. nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate in Canada or Mexico during your trip.
In all cases, you must have documents required to enter the country to which you are traveling. Contact the respective country’s consulate for required entry documents and visas.
Note: Entry into the U.S. is at the sole discretion of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) officer at the U.S. Port of Entry.