After graduating from college or graduate school, many international students wish to transfer their F-1 visa to an H-1B visa with sponsorship from their employer. These students have two options for applying for the H-1B visa. First, if they've already secured work and their employer is willing to sponsor the H-1B visa, their employer can simply apply for it. But, if they haven't found an employer to sponsor them yet, they can follow the optional practical training (OPT) track first. Working with a seasoned immigration attorney is your best bet for a smooth transition, whatever path you decide to follow.
What is Optional Practical Training?
OPT allows students with an F-1 visa to temporarily be employed in their area of study for up to 12 months before graduating (pre-completion) or after graduation (post-completion). If the student is eligible for both pre and post-completion optional practical training, those periods must not exceed 12 months. Additionally, graduates in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) may apply for a 17-month OPT extension.
Transferring F-1 Visa Status to H-1B Visa Status
Whether you've completed an OPT or not, the first step to transferring your visa status will be to find an H-1B sponsoring employer who is in good standing. After finding a suitable employer, your employer will file an H-1B petition on your behalf. There is a limit to the number of H-1B visas the U.S. administers yearly – 65,000 visas for general degrees and 20,000 more for those with master's degrees, doctoral degrees, or higher. Your employer must file the petition on your behalf and, if approved, you will receive an H-1B status. Also, if your case is still pending and your F-1 status is set to expire before October 1, you might be entitled to a cap-gap extension.
Working through immigration status changes can feel overwhelming. Our immigration clients say they feel at ease after receiving our help. If you or someone you love needs to transfer their F-1 visa to an H-1B visa and are unsure of what steps to take, call Mykyta Law today at (646) 884-3319 to schedule a consultation.