[Advice needed] Question on re-entering the US

I was working on F1 OPT from February 2019 through September 2020. I resigned from my job and left the US in September 2020 to India due to COVID-19 situation back home.

I have my F1 stamp still valid until May 2022 and EAD card is valid until February 2022.
My I-20 form has date of Jan 2022 as well. During this time, I have been working in India for a different company as my company in the US did not allow transfer to India.

Things are better now back at home and does not require my presence. I am now wondering if I can re-enter the US given this information and if I am able to find a new employer. Can I continue on STEM OPT in this case?

Please let me know if anyone has been through this kind of situation and what you think. I have not voilated any laws or regulations during my stay in the US.


Federal Regulations [8 CFR ยง 214.2(f)(13)(ii)]

An F-1 student who has an unexpired EAD issued for post-completion practical training and who is otherwise admissible may return to the United States to resume employment after a period of temporary absence. The EAD must be used in combination with an I-20 endorsed for reentry by the DSO within the last six months.

This means that you should be able to return to the U.S. after traveling while on OPT as long as you have the required documents:

  • a valid EAD (OPT card)
  • valid passport
  • valid F-1 visa
  • I-20 with a travel signature signed within the last six months
  • employer or job offer letter (not required but recommended)
  • you meet the immigration admission requirements for F-1 status (i.e., you have the required documents - passport, F-1 visa, I-20 and EAD, you are not inadmissible due to commission of a crime, etc., you do not have immigrant intent)
  • you have not been out of the U.S. for more than 5 months
  • you are coming back to resume employment.

Did you talk to your DSO about coming back to complete your Stem Opt? If not you should do it and follow their guidance.
The only concern is you are out of US since 9 months now.

Hi Kalpesh,
Thank you for the reply. This is very helpful.
I have been out of the US for more than 5 months now, but I read that DHS have suspended 5 month rule in March-2020.

DSO said they do not terminate the SEVIS status but USCIS may view this as voilation if I just try to enter now. I will be getting a job offer and new I-20 anyways before entering. The only question is about 5 month rule and how that can be interpreted given COVID situation.

I am hoping CBP will be generous to allow students like you due to the pandemic.
You can try entering with a job offer and all the required documents, good luck!