Short answer: avoid traveling if you can.
With December holiday season fast approaching, many of us are thinking about traveling to visit our families in and outside the U.S. For foreign nationals working on different visa categories (F-1, H-1B, L-1 or their dependents) traveling outside the U.S. might be trickier than before. Let's look at some visa types to give you a better understanding of what to expect.
Interns on CPT
If you are working as an intern on CPT, you could technically travel and come back on the basis that you need to complete your degree. Do make sure to check any travel restrictions on your country using this page and talk to your company's immigration counsel.
Employees on Day-1 CPT
If you still have a valid F-1 visa stamped on your passport from your previous F-1 status, you should be ok to travel. Keep in mind though your status as a student might be questioned on the basis of 36 months rule for CPT + OPT on your way back. Please talk to your company's immigration counsel before making any plans. Also, ask your school to issue a new travel I-20.
Employees on OPT
If you have a valid F-1 visa stamped on your passport, you should be ok to travel since you do need to get a new visa. Traveling on OPT is always risky because the OPT card does not guarantee admission back into the U.S.. In current circumstances, you should avoid traveling on OPT until COVID travel restrictions are lifted. Further, you should not travel during the cap-gap period i.e. if you OPT has expired and you are waiting for your H-1B to start.
Employees on new/transfer H-1B
If you are starting on your H-1B on October 01, 2021 or have transferred to a new employer, you will have to go to a U.S. embassy in your home country for visa stamping, if you travel outside the U.S.. Embassies are currently working on a limited capacity and are only allowing emergency visa appointments. Please make sure to check this page to see if the U.S. embassy in your home country is allowing interviews for visa stamping. Further, check this page to make sure that your country is not on the travel restrictions list. Make sure to take a letter of support from your employer stating your role, start date and when they expect you to be back at work.
Employees on existing H-1B/L-1 (or their dependents)
If you have a stamped H-1B/L-1 and do not have to visit the embassy for an interview then you have cleared the first hurdle. Now, you need to make sure that you would be allowed back state side based on the country that you are planning to travel to. You can use this page to check country specific restrictions. It is a good idea to talk to your company's HR manager and immigration counsel before you finalize your travel plans.
Note - Biden administration has the following countries on travel restrictions -
EU - countries
If you plan to travel then make sure to get a letter of support from you HR manager stating the purpose of your travel, your employment details and that they expect you to be back at work on a certain date. We highly recommend talking to your immigration counsel before finalizing travel plans.
The information contained here is meant to be informational, and while WayLit has made every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information, it is not promised or guaranteed to be complete. Readers of this information should not act upon any information contained on this alert/blog without seeking professional counsel. This alert does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Any reference to prior results, does not imply or guarantee similar future outcomes.