Pending STEM OPT Application

Many international students usually find themselves at risk when planning to travel with a pending STEM OPT application. If you are one of these students, let us together discuss a few practical solutions and also the risks involved when traveling with a pending STEM OPT application.

Table of Contents

Basics of Traveling With a Pending STEM OPT Application 

You need to take the following factors into consideration when planning to travel with a pending STEM OPT application: 

Visa Status: Even if your STEM OPT application is pending, but you are still within the initial 12-month OPT period with a valid EAD, re-entering the USA should not be complicated. 

Pending vs Approved Application: If there wasn’t a risk involved with a pending STEM OPT application, you wouldn’t be here looking for solutions in the first place. So, if there is a possibility of postponing your travel plan until the application is approved, do it. 

Risks of Traveling With a Pending STEM OPT Application 

You might not want to hear this but there are undoubtedly multiple risks of traveling with a pending STEM OPT application. Let us discuss them so you are at least aware of what you can face: 

Confusion with Intent

There is always a risk with a pending application that the airport officials will not allow you to re-enter. CBP officers are particularly discreet about your intention to return to complete the OPT period and hence hold a right to deny you re-entry. 

Missing Documents

It is not a hidden fact that documents are taken very seriously at the airport for international travel. If you are missing any of the following documents, there is always a chance that you won’t be allowed to enter the USA: 

EAD Card Processing

It is possible that your EAD card was issued after you left the U.S. and now you don’t have anyone to mail it to you. Without that, you can face difficulties entering the USA. 

Realistic Solutions for Traveling With a STEM OPT Application 

Now that we have discussed the potential risks of re-entering the USA with a pending STEM OPT, let us discuss how you can handle those situations with practical solutions: 

Avoid Travel

You probably don’t want to hear this. But, it is the best way out to risk your re-entry. However, if the travel is completely unavoidable, read the solutions below. 

Gather Necessary Documents

You CAN NOT forget any document in the USA that you would need at the time of re-entry. You are already at risk and forgetting another document makes it a sure thing that your re-entry would be denied. So, here is the checklist of documents before you leave the USA: 

  • A valid passport 
  • A valid F1 visa 
  • I-20 endorsed for travel by DSO in the last 6 months 
  • Receipt notice for your STEM OPT application 
  • Employment verification letter 

Keep a Check on Your Application

Even if your application is not approved by the time you leave the USA, it is possible that there will be an update while you are away. Now, in case your EAD is approved and you don’t have it at the time of re-entry, it will be an issue. So, make sure to consistently check the application and have a reliable person mail the EAD in case you receive it while away. 

Traveling During Cap-Gap Extension 

People often seek a Cap-Gap extension once their OPT expires and they are still in the process for the STEM OPT. While this allows you to continue working in the USA, you should avoid traveling during your Cap-Gap extension at all costs. As soon as you leave the US, your Cap-Gap extension is terminated and you can’t re-enter until your application is approved. 


While it is usually possible to re-enter the USA with a pending STEM OPT application, the risks of denial make it a sensitive matter that can not be taken lightly. Ensure that you resolve all confusion before you leave the USA and that you are constantly checking up on your application while away. In case you require more assistance on the matter, you can always seek help from VIS and our expert counselors can guide you. 

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