F1 to H1B visa transfer process is easy provided you have a job and employer is willing to apply for H1B Visa.
Three years back, one of my friend applied from F1 to H1B just 2 days before Oct 1 and he got H1B visa.
But, last 2 years its tough to get H1B Visa due to number of application submitted to USCIS.
OPT in F1 Visa and F1 to H1b status
International students in F1 visa have to apply to OPT before graduation. They can work using OPT as full time employee or as part time. They can also volunteer during OPT period. Since new 90 days unemployment opt rule was published in April 2008, students have to find a job in their field before 90 days of OPT start date else they will be out of status.
If a student happen to volunteer for a company in the same field, then those days will not count under 90 days in OPT. But, if a student start to search for job just after graduation, it will be very hard to find a job within 90 days in OPT.
F1 to H1B Process
If a student in F1 Visa ( OPT ) wants to apply for H1B Visa, here is the list of things he/she would need
- OPT Card in hand
- Job offer
- Employer willing to sponsor H1B Visa
- Employer must submit H1B Visa application on April 1st week of 2009
- If student completed Masters degree in US, employer can submit your application in Advanced degree quota
- Some Immigration attorney want student to have masters degree before they can file H1B application under Masters degree quota
- Some Immigration attorney will file H1B Visa in advanced degree quota, even before graduation ( if graduation in May)
- H1b visa application should be picked in lottery ( if there is going to be H1B Visa lottery in 2009)
- If H1B application is submitted using premium processing, then student should get approval in 3 weeks after selection in lottery
- To get H1b approval notice ( I797) all the required documents should be in proper order.
- If USCIS needs more details, RFE on H1B will be issued, asking employer to provide more details
- Overall lot of luck is required to go from F1 to H1B.
- After H1B Visa approval, student (now employer) are good to work for the employer.
Now above 13 steps should have given an overview of what to expect to change from F1 to H1B Visa.Usually
Convert F1 to H1B
After H1B visa is approved, then your OPT will be invalid, even though you have OPT expire date after H1B start date. With new OPT rule students in STEM degree can get 17 more months in OPT. I would say changing from f1 to h1b is much better option than getting STEM extension. If H1B is not selected, then OPT extension will be better.