F-1 to H-1B Change of Status – Explained

Raghuram Sukumar H1B Visa 27 Comments

An F-1 to H-1B visa transfer process is an easy one provided you have a job and an employer who is willing to apply for your H-1B visa.

Three years back, one of my friends had applied for an F-1 to H-1B transfer just 2 days before October 1 and he got his H-1B visa.

However, during the last 2 years, it had become more difficult to get an H-1B visa due to the high number of applications submitted to the USCIS.

OPT in F-1 Visa and F-1 to H-1B Status

International students in F-1 visa have to apply for an OPT (optional practical training) before graduation.

They can work using OPT as a full time employee or as part time. They can also volunteer during an OPT period.

Since the new 90 days unemployment OPT rule was published in April 2008, students have to find a job in their field before the 90 days of OPT start date or else they will be out of legal status.

If a student happens to volunteer for a company in the same field, then those days will not count under the 90 day period in OPT.

However, if a student starts to search for jobs just after graduation, it will be very hard to find employment within 90 days in OPT.

F-1 to H-1B Process

If a student in F-1 visa (OPT) wants to apply for an H-1B visa, here is a list of things he/she would need:

  1. OPT card in hand
  2. Job offer
  3. Employer willing to sponsor H-1B visa
  4. Employer must submit an H-1B visa application on the 1st week of April 2009
  5. If a student completed a master’s degree in the U.S., your employer can submit your application in the advanced degree quota
  6. Some immigration attorneys want student to have a master’s degree before they can file H-1B application under the master’s degree (advanced degree) quota
  7. Some immigration attorneys will file H-1B visa application in advanced degree quota, even before graduation (if graduation is in May)
  8. H-1B visa application should be picked in the lottery (if there is going to be an H-1B visa lottery in 2009)
  9. If an H-1B application is submitted using premium processing, then student should get approval in 3 weeks after selection in the lottery
  10. To get an H-1B approval notice (I-797), all the required documents should be in their proper order
  11. If USCIS needs more details, an RFE on H-1B will be issued, asking employers to provide more details
  12. Overall, a lot of luck is required to go from F-1 to H-1B.
  13. After an H-1B visa approval, a student (now employed) is good to work for the employer.

I hope by now, the above 13 steps should have given you a good overview of what to expect when changing from F-1 visa into H-1B visa in most cases.

Converting F-1 to H-1B

After an H-1B visa application is approved, your OPT will be made invalid even though you have an OPT expire date after the H-1B start date.

With the new OPT rule, students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) degrees can get 17 more months in OPT.

I would say that changing from F-1 to H-1B is a much better option than getting a STEM extension. If H-1B extension is not selected, then an OPT extension will be better.


  1. Thanks a lot for such a informative website.

    I am on OPT and my H1B is approved with the same company.

    My Visa expires in August/09 (OPT in Jan/10).

    H1B starts in Oct/09.

    Can you please help to understand the followings:

    1. Do I need to go out of the US for VISA Stamping, or can I continue without that?

    2. For OPT I received an Empl Auth Card. Do I need to apply for a similar card again?

    If yes, when?

    If not, what document I should carry to establish my status and that I am staying legally in this Country ?


  2. How can you go about obtaining a part time H1 B ? Also, can you go from F1-H1 without OPT ? Thanks !!

      1. hey HSB in response to your answer to above question I'd like to ask one more thing that how is it possible to get H1 without OPT and also that u mentioned that talk to attoryney for part time H1…..but would you please elaborate who "attorney" is???? I'd really appriciate if you could answer.


  3. Hello HSB. Thank you for all the valuable information provided on the site.

    I had a question:

    I am graduating on July 2nd 2010. I am not eligible for OPT due to certain reasons. My employer has applied for H1B around May 1st week 2010 under PP. If my H1B is approved by May or June, is it possible for me to start working at the company by July 2010? or is the start date for H1B always Oct 1st and beyond?

    1. Hi Kams,
      Start date and approval date are two different things.
      Your h1b can be approved June 1st but you still have to wait until October 1st
      to start working.

  4. Hello HSB,

    I have a tricky question. I currently work for a non-profit organization with my 12-month OPT. My OPT will be expired on July 6,2010. My major is not on the major list of STEM 17-month extension.

    My current employer already filed a cap-exempt H-1B petition on May 4,2010 but it is not been approved yet. Recently, I receive another offer from a industrial company and I will go for it, and therefore, they will file a new cap-restricted H-1B visa. Therefore, to avoid a gap, I must use a cap-gap extension OPT which is applied to all OPT holders. I have two questions as follows.

    1. Can I still use a cap-gap extension OPT for my new cap-restricted H-1B petition if my current cap-exempt visa petition is submitted or approved?

    2. If question 1 is yes, what should I do to get my new EAD card for the cap-gap extension?

    Thank you very much

  5. Hi

    Thank you for posting this valuable information.

    I am currently working for a nonprofit organization using my OPT and they are ready to submit an H1B petition for me. I can also use STEM OPT extension. Now my question is: if in the next couple of month I decide to change my employer which of H1B and OPT STEM is more suitable for job transfer? or does it make any difference?

  6. I on F1. Have H1B approved but will get it stamped in October only.. can I change my job before I get my stamping done?

    1. Hello Nidhi

      I am also in same situation, may be you can help, here is my situation:

      I am currently working for employer A on H1B and filed a transfer to employer B , now there is RFE on h1b transfer.

      Can I travel outside country and do visa stamping using h1b approval from employer A.


  7. Hi,

    I am working on my OPT now and it is expiring on August 29th 2010. They are willinig to sponsor for H1B, but how long will it typically take to get approval and will I be allowed to work during the process until I get the approval?

    Thank you

    1. I am in the same situation, with my OPT expiring 05/31/2011. When can my employer apply and can I continue working from 05/31/2011 to October 1 that same year??

  8. hello, I am currently on F1 visa and my H1 visa is already aproved but it activates from OCT 1, 2010. So do I really need to take classes for this month of September?

    Thank you

  9. hi,

    i have the F-1 visa, and i will apply to H1B can i apply for my wife too, but her status isnt legal!!!


  10. Hi,

    I graduated in December 2008 and started Volunteer work on my first 12 Months OPT and got my OPT extension in January, 2010. I am a Mechanical Engineer and got a job in Mechanical Field in MAY,2010. I got my H1-B approved this year and going for my H1-B stamping in November,2010.

    My question is does US consulate is going to ask any questions on my volunteer work as I do not have any official letter from them, and I do have all the necceasry paperwork for my H1-B Visa like master's degree, transcripts, I-797 PETITION etc..

    Kindly, let me know about the above.


  11. Hi,

    I am planning to join MBA in one of California university. I come across the option like CPT , which is allowed to work for 40+ weekly offcampus. Is this true. Also, this is like work study programe, where in I need to attend classes in the evening. Ofcourse it is a regular course it seems.

    If such (CPT) there :

    How long will it be valid

    For how many yrs the stamping will be

    I am eligible for H1 filling

    As the course duration is for 2 yrs, can I get two yrs CPT

    if not, wht abt OPT

    Can i avail OPT

    Being on CPT, can I apply for H1.

    Can my family come and stay with me there.

    I am working as a Business Analyst and earing ok amout, can i get good oppurtunities for BA.

    Can any one plz help me out. I am planning to intake in Jan-2011. So, information is required very urgently..

    Waiting for responses with needful.



  12. I graduated in July 2010 and my H1b on masters (regular processing )was filed on 8th July. I had no OPT as this was my second Masters. I am currently residing in USA and still waiting on H1b decision. I have been waiting for a period of 5 months now and my status from "initial review" to "RFE" on November 3, 2010. My lawyers answered the RFE on Dec 16th. How long does USCIS usually take to make a decision after the RFE has been answered in regular cases? Also, am I out of status right now? Do i have to go back to my country ? If yes, then how long do I have to wait for H1b to get approved?

    1. Hi…I also hav a similar question like Raj’s…I have done my first M.S in pharmaceutical and used up my opt for my work. Currently, i am on F1 status and enrolled for second masters which is not related to pharma. Now, I am offered a job in pharma industry and the employer is willing to file for h1 to get work authorization and work from oct1.
      Can any one please clarify to me if this process is going to be possible? I am worried because now I am on f1, with non-pharma program and wil hv to shift to pharma on h1b status…
      thanx a lot….

  13. Hi ! Greetings!
    I had a tricky question. I have a B.com LLb degree from India an LLM from USA and presently pursuing my MBA and have 1 semester to finish. I got a job in an IT firm and they want to file my H1b on the Bcom degree as my MBA is not over and they said they cannot use my LLM degree as it does not relate to a Business analyst profile. Can i still file under the masters quota even if the job requires a B.Com qualification and say i already have one masters from USA and i sem to finish my MBA from USA?
    What precaution i have to take when filing for Green card.
    this is very important as there are very few days left to file my H1b Application . Please help.
    Thank you

  14. i was come in usa b1 visa and one year ago i was transpar my visa right now i have f1 so i will trnaspar my stuts f1 to h1. but in back to my country i have only b.comm so give me good reply thanks

  15. Hi,

    I have question. I am on the full time CPT for 11 months. Now unfortunately, I could not get H1B sponsorship on full time CPT. Now Can I get approve H1B on Part Time CPT?

    Kindly advise.

  16. I am with employer A and employer B wants to apply for H1b with change of status (L1B to H1B) for me.

    Is this conversion comes under quota of 65,000 for the financial year (2013)?
    Can my employer B file COS L1B to H1B coversion after the 65000 quota is over?

  17. Hello HSB,

    I have a tricky question for you.

    I am on OPT which will exp on dec 2012. My employer has applied for H1B and is under pending.

    Will there be any problem if i travel to my home country and come back before H1B is approved??

  18. Hello Everyone,

    My F1 Stamped Visa on passport is expired and I am on CPT (I am valid Student) right now and I am planning to file for my H1 visa in the first week of April and I want to travel a trip to India during May/June-2013; here are my concerns.
    1) 1) First concern—is it appropriate to plan a travel trip to India during this critical time.
    2) 2)If I travel to India I know I would definitely need an F1 Visa re-stamping done from Canada; so is it reasonable to take this risk of traveling!!!!
    3) 3)If at all i want to plan a trip then—which month would be best to go visit
    4) 4)Keeping my H1 filing and travel trip to India in mind—would it be advisalable to apply my H1 in premium or regular filing.

    I do understand my case is little critical/complex but I am sure there must be some Smart Guru on web who should be able to respond back with suggested advises.

    Any response or suggestions would be greatly appreciated..

    Best Regards

  19. hello,
    I am an international student pursuing a masters degree in the US, I would like to know if I am eligible to apply for an h1b visa in 2017 during my studies, what are the procedure and requirement for applying.

  20. Hi,
    I am on f1 status and just received my h1b approval notice. What happens to my courses as my employer needs me to start ASAP.

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