Want to Stay in the US? Transition from OPT to H-1B

When an international student’s optional practical training (OPT) begins to wind down, making the switch to an H-1B or Green Card is a common idea that comes up.

While it is possible to remain in the U.S. on the OPT program for several years, many people decide that a more permanent working situation within the United States could fit their goals better. In these cases, making the switch to an H-1B or a Green Card begins to make a lot of sense.

Making the Switch

The first thing that you will need to do when making the switch from an F1 visa to an H-1B is to gather all the required documents. A helpful checklist can be found here.

In short, Form I-129 must be completed and submitted along with all other required documentation. However, there are a few things that H-1B hopefuls must keep in mind while embarking on the H-1B journey.

Here is a brief outline of the process:

Gather Documents for OPT to H-1B Transition

When preparing a petition for an H-1B, you will need several essential documents.

  • A CV or Resume – One of the requirements of the H-1B is that applicants have a specific field or expertise. Submitting a detailed CV or resume helps the USCIS identify what that expertise is.
  • Passport – A passport is also required for change-of-status requests and visa applications.
  • Degree – Another requirement for an H-1B is to show that you hold a university degree. While there are some exceptions to this requirement, most applicants will need to provide proof that they are, indeed, skilled workers who can fill the job roles they are applying for. Along with a university degree, transcripts are also requested.
  • Forms I-20 and I-94 – Form I-20 and I-94 are proof that an F-1 visa exists and that immigration status is valid. Showing these as part of the process of switching from an F-1 visa to an H-1B visa is necessary.
  • When applying for an H-1B from an OPT program, showing documentation for OPT is also required.

Finding Sponsorship

To apply for an H-1B visa, whether you are on OPT or not, it is necessary to find an employer who is willing to be a sponsor. There are many employers who are happy to do this and knowing where to look for potential options is a great place to begin.

There are two conditions that the USCIS looks at when determining the employer’s ability to be a valid sponsor.

The first consideration is whether the employer is prepared to pay a wage that equals at least 95% of what U.S. citizens would make for the same job title.

For obvious reasons, this requirement is in place to protect the H-1B holder and it is always a good idea to make sure that the employer follows this rule.

Another consideration that the USCIS takes into account is the level of competition for a particular job description. This rule is in place to protect American workers from losing jobs to foreign nationals and the employer is required to offer the same position to local workers as well as H-1B holders.

This second consideration is important to know about because different fields and jobs will carry varying levels of competition and some can be, therefore, more difficult to get approval for.

File Petition

The employer is the one who will file the application for an H-1B. There are numerous rules associated with the application process, as well as a cap on how many applicants can be approved.

While the process and payments involved with applying for an H-1B visa are relatively straightforward, one of the more challenging parts of the process is dealing with the cap that is placed on new applicants. Important information regarding the timeline for the application process can be found here.

Generally speaking, there is a cap of 85,000 new H-1Bs each year with 20,000 of those reserved for graduate degree holders. Regardless of how many new applicants there are only those who ‘beat the cap’ will be able to work on an H-1B. It is good to apply as soon as possible to avoid getting left behind.

Cost of Filing an H-1B

The cost of filing an H-1B is multi-faceted and applicants should be aware of the various fees included in the process. There is a filing fee, an ACWIA fee, a fraud prevention fee, and a legal fee. Here is a breakdown on each:

  • Filing Fee –  The filing fee is required to start the process of getting an H-1B visa. The filing fee is $460, though this is updated from time to time. It is always a good idea to check the latest updates on fees here and here.
  • ACWIA Fee – The American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 (ACWIA) states that employers with fewer than 25 employees must pay a fee of $750 and employers with more than 25 employers should pay a fee of $1,500.
  • Fraud Prevention Fee – The fee for fraud prevention is $500.

Final Thoughts on Switching from OPT to H-1B

Whether you are going to an H-1B from an F-1 visa or from an OPT program, the process is pretty straightforward, though not always easy.

Many international students have trouble finding employers who not only meet the criteria to be valid employers for the H-1B visa, but also who are willing to go through the hosting process. The process can be both time-consuming and expensive for some employers.

That should not stop you though. There are many employers who understand the value that international workers bring to the table, and they are certainly ready and able to help.

Check out the H-1B employment resources at Interstride for more comprehensive guidance in finding and securing your H-1B status.

Related Questions

Is it possible to apply for H-1B status by myself? 

It is not possible to apply for an H-1B alone. Part of the application process asks for information from an employer, and this information is required for the successful completion of Form  1-129.

What should I do if my H-1B visa application was denied?

It depends on the reason for the denial. If the applicant missed the deadline or was not chosen for the H-1B lottery, it is possible that waiting and filing early the following year is the best course of action. If the application was denied for any other reason, such as an employer fault, missing paperwork, incomplete payment, etc. A new application with corrected information will be required.


H-1B Visa to Green Card: Follow These Simple Steps [2021]

H-1B Visa to Green Card

If you are looking to transition your status within the U.S. from an H1B visa to a Green Card, you likely already know what the H-1B Visa is. If not, knowing the goal of the H-1B is an important part of the transition process. Here is a short description of the H-1B Visa.

The H-1B Visa is a popular work permit program for international students who have completed their higher education in the United States and plan to work within the country.

The program allows employers to hire international talent, as long as the applicants hold a university degree and have a well-defined skill area that an American employer can benefit from.

The H-1B visa is a nonimmigrant work permit that allows foreign workers to temporarily work in the US. It also allows applicants to live in the US for up to 6 years, and reenter as often as they like while the H-1B is active.

Why is the H-1B so popular? Relative to the standard Permanent Resident Card application process, obtaining an H-1B is usually easier and faster. The Department of Labor also has rules for how foreign workers are paid. The rate of pay must be on par with what similarly qualified talent from the U.S. would make.

Transitioning from the H-1B to a Green Card

For many foreign workers in the U.S., there comes a time when transitioning to a more permanent Green Card becomes necessary. Fortunately, making the transition from an H-1B visa to a Green Card is relatively simple.

There are several steps that Permanent Resident Card applicants must follow for a successful H-1B visa to Green Card transition to take place. As long as each of the steps falls into place as needed, the Green Card will be granted and a permanent residence within the U.S. will become a reality.

Step 1 – Employer

An employer is essential for the H-1B to Permanent Resident Card process. It is not possible to get an employment-based Green Card without gaining sponsorship from an employer.

In many cases, the same employer that sponsored the H-1B visa can also provide sponsorship for a Green Card. There are cases, however, when employers do not meet the suitability requirements to become sponsors for foreign hires.

Additionally, the job/position/role requirements for H-1B and Green Card status differ. It is important to check whether your current position is acceptable for the Green Card requirements.

Step 2 – PERM Labor Certification

Once an employer has agreed to the Green Card sponsorship process, the PERM Labor Certification is the employer’s first step to get the ball rolling.

Through the PERM Labor Certification process Green Card applicants learn their future wage and position within their chosen company. The wage requirements for the Green Card are similar the H-1B’s wage requirements. Without making these determinations, the Green Card process cannot continue.

Step 3 – File Form I-140

After the PERM Labor Certification has been filed and approved, the employer should file Form I-140.

The I-140 does a few different things, but most importantly, it proves to the USCIS that an applicant’s employer can, indeed, provide the benefits specified in the PERM Labor Certification. AS part of the application process, an employer must show proof of financial stability.

When the I-140 has been submitted, there is a bit of a waiting game that begins. A priority date is given, and an applicant must wait until that date becomes active. Once the priority date becomes current, the applicant can file the final form – the I-485.

Step 4 – File Form I-485

Form I-485 is the final step in the process of getting a Permanent Resident Card and switching an applicant’s status from non-immigrant to immigrant. In fact, the I-485 is the ‘Green Card’ form. Once approved, permanent residence is granted.


H-1B to Green Card Timeline

The H-1B to Green Card timeline is straightforward and there is an average rate at which Permanent Resident Cards are granted through the process. As many applicants have differing circumstances, however, there are some variables that can either quicken or slow the process.

In general, applicants should expect their H-1B to Green Card application process to take up to 6 months under normal conditions. That timeline can extend well beyond the 6-month expected Green Card application process for several reasons.

Avoid Waiting to Begin the Green Card Process

It is wise not to wait too long before initiating the H-1B to Green Card application process. There are several reasons for getting the application started as soon as you can, but here are a few of the most common considerations that applicants are often faced with:

  • Potential issues with paperwork causing the Green Card application process to slow down.
  • Application audits can add a considerable amount of time to the application approval timeline. While audits are somewhat uncommon, they do occur, and it is wise to allow for these when deciding when to apply.
  • Applying too late. The process for transitioning from H-1B status to a Green Card can take up to 6 months. If an applicant’s H-1B has expired, the transition from the H-1B can no longer take place.
  • Mistakes on the government side. While it is not that common, many immigration lawyers point out that mistakes can happen on the .gov side. These types of mistakes can result in denials of applications. When an application is denied at no fault of the applicant or sponsoring employer, the applicant can file an appeal. An immigration lawyer can file the necessary documents.


Considerations When Filing for Permanent Residence

Making the switch from a temporary, non-immigrant visa to a permanent residence can be extremely exciting. Despite that excitement, always be sure to dot your ‘i’s and cross your ‘t’s when it comes to filling out paperwork and providing the required information.

The process of switching from an H-1B visa to a Permanent Resident Card is not difficult. However, missing any of the essential steps or filing information that is either partial or false can result in a denial of the application.

For that reason, always provide all information that is requested. Begin the application process for your Green Card as early as possible. Seek legal help if you believe that something is amiss.


Related Questions

How long does it take to get a Green Card from H-1B?

It can take up to 6 months to get a Green Card from an H-1B visa. The process can take up to a year if any issues arise during the approval process. It is a good idea to begin the H-1B to Green Card application process as soon as you have made the decision to remain in the United States.

Can an H-1B holder get a Green Card?

Yes. An H-1B holder can get a Green Card. The process to go from H-1B to a Green Card focuses on modifying an applicant’s immigration status. As long as the H-1B visa is valid, the holder of that visa may apply to change the status of immigration.