F-1 students who are in optional practical training (OPT) may experience difficulties when returning to the United States after travel abroad. These problems may arise due to questions by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the U.S. ports of entry regarding the specific nature of the OPT work of the students. Foreign students with OPT should be careful when traveling abroad, because some OPT holders are being refused readmission to the United States based on review of how closely their OPT work is related to their degree programs.
The CBP officers can ask questions to determine whether the individual is really eligible to enter the U.S. in the requested category, they can ask you questions about your OPT employment. It is important to explain clearly how the OPT employment is directly related to your F-1 field of study, how it relates to your most recent degree earned.
F-1 students should have in their possession when travelling:
Ø Employment authorization card (EAD)
Ø Your most recent I-20 form, showing the recommendation for OPT, the name of the employer, and the Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code for the primary majors of each student’s last degree program.
Ø Letters signed by a supervisor, describing how the work is directly related to your most recent degree program.
Remember anytime a foreign national travels out of the United States, it is not guaranteed s/he will be able to return safely. CBP officers have the right to examine every applicant for admission at airports and other U.S. ports of entry.