If you’ve been admitted to graduate school at another U.S. institution, it’s often easier to transfer your visa to the new school, rather than creating a new SEVIS record. In order to initiate a visa transfer, please submit to the ISSO: a copy of your acceptance letter, and a completed Transfer Form from the new school (if available). ** If you are using STEM OPT, you will also need to submit your final self-evaluation (page 5 of Form I-983) before the ISSO can process your SEVIS transfer.
The ISSO will set up a visa transfer in SEVIS that will allow your SEVIS record to roll over to the new school.
Based on your circumstances and travel plans, the ISSO will determine the best Transfer Release date for your SEVIS record. This date can be no earlier than the last date of your Smith affiliation (e.g.] Commencement Day, or the last day of employment at your OPT position), and no later than the 60th day of your grace period after graduation or OPT.
Travel During Grace Period
Traveling domestically for up to 60 days after graduation is allowed in your F-1 status. Just keep in mind that if you exit the US, you forfeit the remainder of this grace period. After you've broken your F-1 status, you'll need a new visa status to re-enter the US. Please note: If you have transferred your visa to a graduate school or have applied for OPT, please see below.
Travel During OPT
After graduation, if you have applied and been approved for OPT, you may want to travel! That's perfectly fine. Just keep in mind that you are still in F-1 status during this time, so you will need to adhere to F-1 regulations for entry.
When traveling on OPT, always bring the following documents:
- Passport - Valid for 6 months beyond entry date.
- F-1 Visa - If your visa has expired, you must renew it before re-entering the U.S. Many consulates will want to see your OPT Approval (or EAD) and evidence of a job in order to renew an F-1 entry visa.
- OPT I-20 - Your OPT I-20 has your OPT recommendation written on page 2. If your I-20 still reads "Pending" and you've been approved, we're happy to print and mail you a new updated I-20 with your current employer.
- Employment Authorization Document (EAD) - highly recommended - Though your EAD is not technically required for US entry, most CBP officers will ask to see it. If you do not have your EAD, we recommend carrying whatever documentation you can to show the status of your OPT application (e.g. Case receipt, Approval Notice).
- Letter of Employment and/or Paystubs - highly recommended - Being employed is not a requirement of OPT, since you are allowed up to 90 days of unemployment during your year of authorization. However, if you do have employment, ISSO recommends carrying proof of that employment when entering the US, just in case.
If you have a pending Post-Completion OPT application, we do not recommend traveling internationally until your case has been approved.
Travel Between Programs
If you have transferred your visa to a graduate program, you may stay in the US for up to 5 months from the Transfer Release date until the new program starts. If you exit the US during this interim period, however, a new I-20 from the new program will be required for re-entry to the US. It's recommended that you re-enter the US no more than 30 days ahead of the new program's start date on the new I-20. Please plan travel carefully to make sure that you have posession of the appropriate I-20 for re-entry.
Transition to H-1B
Each year, 65,000 H-1B visas are avaiable in the US as part of a lottery system. An additional 20,000 are reserved for candidates with graduate degrees. If your employer would like to sponsor you for an H-1B visa in the lottery, that process will open on April 1st of each year. All fees associated with the H-1B application must be covered by your employer.
If you are accepted in the H-1B lottery, please let the ISSO know. The H-1B visa for which you will apply will be effective as of October 1st, so you will need OPT until that date. If you have been accepted in the H-1B lottery and your OPT will expire prior to the October 1 effective date, you will receive an automatic OPT extension called the "Cap-Gap" Extension. The ISSO can print a new I-20 for you that will show your extended authorization until September 30th. Although your EAD will not reflect the extended dates, this new I-20 will suffice to prove your work eligibility.