Change of Status from F-1 to H-1B

Differences between Optional Practical Training and H-1B

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a sub phase of F-1 Status. That is, when an alien student is authorized to have OPT, he or she is still under F-1 Status. H-1B is a different status, and H-1B has its own sets of rules and limitations. For more information about H-1B visas, please click here.

Generally speaking, , after obtaining the EAD card allowing employment during the period of OPT, the foreign student would look for a job in the twelve-month optional practical training period. During the practical training period, the student can work for any employer or can make the decision to not work at all. He/she can change jobs if they choose to do so. Also, if the student is laid off during the practical training, he/she may still have some time to find another job.

However, after the student changes his status from F-1 to H-1B, he has to work specifically for the H-1B sponsoring employer. An H-1B holder may not be able to work for other employers without the authorization of the USCIS. If the H-1B holder wants to work for a new employer, the new employer has to file a new H-1B petition for him. Also, if the H-1B holder is laid off, he is out of status immediately; although, the USCIS will examine the situation on a "case by case" basis if the H-1B holder later finds a new job and the new employer files a new H-1B petition for him or her.

Changing from F-1 to H-1B

An individual in F-1 status (whose field of specialization is classifiable as a specialty occupation) is permitted, if certain conditions are met, to change status to H-1B status. An H-1B status is a category for temporary workers who are employed in specialty occupations. A specialty occupation is defined as one that requires theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and which also requires the attainment of a bachelor's or higher degree in the specific specialty or its equivalent as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the U.S.

The first step for an F-1 holder is to find an employer that is willing to file an H-1B petition on his/her behalf. The employer must then file an H-1B petition for the alien. Thereafter, if the H-1B petition is approved, the alien is granted an H-1B status. As a general rule, an individual may remain in the U.S. in H-1B status for a maximum total duration of six years.

(Updated 10/12/2012 by AD)

For more information about F-1 visas, please click on one of the following links: