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.


Creating Opportunities Through Professional Networking

For many international students nearing the end of their studies, there comes a time to find employment. The process of finding a job can be a bit challenging but creating opportunities through professional networks can really help.

Professional networking is so important, in fact, that more than 80% of all professionals say that their own professional networks helped them achieve success. How is that possible? Less than 30% of all job vacancies are actually published for job seekers to find.

Keep reading to learn how professional networking can help you land that dream job.

Be a Part of Your Professional Network

Before getting into what a professional network is, how to build one, and how you can benefit from building one, it is a good idea to consider the ‘why’.

Professional networks are created by groups of like-minded people. They are comprised of like-minding people interested in finding opportunities, strengthening their careers, and building a sense of professional security.

Given the obvious benefits that come from networking, it may seem like everyone is there to take all that they can from their network.

However, there is another side to the coin. Networks are built through human interaction and relationships. That means, for a professional network to be successful, its members should focus as much on giving as they do on taking.

Essentially, each member of the network should provide some value to the rest of the network. When a person is successful in offering value, the network will also work for them.

Getting Started With Your Professional Network

Getting started with your professional network can be as simple as taking a register of all the people that you know. Fellow classmates, professors, friends, family, and anyone else you have met along the way can be added to your list.

Consider how each of the people on your list relates to your professional goals. Sometimes the connection is clear, other times it is not. Even if you cannot see a direct link between a person on your list and your aims, it is good not to disregard people from your list too soon. It is common for opportunities to come from unexpected places.

The next step is to make a list of professional networking events that are related to your career goals. Whether you are looking for virtual networking events or meetings to attend in person, knowing which events are available to you can prove very useful.

Types of Professional Networking

According to an article published in the Harvard Business Review, there are three main categories that professional networking falls into. Networking can be operational, personal, and strategic. It is essential to understand the various aspects of professional networking so that you can create a network that meets your range of goals.

Operational Networking

Operational networking describes connections that are made within classrooms, workplaces, clubs, and peer groups. These networks work to support current tasks and goals for all members of the network.

Personal Networking

Personal networking describes connections made that enrich a person’s development. These are the types of connections that can often provide surprise opportunities. They are the members of your network who provide value but that value may not be directly related to current work or plans.

Strategic Networking

Strategic networking takes place when connections are made for the advancement of future goals. People in these groups are the ones who will serve a future purpose and may not help with anything at the moment.

Attending Professional Networking Events

Attending professional networking events can be one of the best ways to bring new people and ideas into your circle. From the new connections that you create, there are often doors that begin to open.

The professional networking events that you attend can focus on any kind of networking that suits your needs. Building personal and strategic connections is a common goal for many people attending networking events.

Find the Right Professional Networks

There are many ways to attend professional networking events and it is possible to build a network online without a specific event.

Virtual networking events often take place on networking websites, like Facebook and LinkedIn. These allow for specific groups of people to ‘mingle’ online and share ideas.

Universities often host job fairs and networking events, both in person and online.

In addition, many alumni groups and student associations hold events that help with network building.

No matter what your present and future goals happen to be, regularly attending the right mix of networking events will help you find success.

What Happens After Professional Networking Events?

Once you have completed a networking event, there are some important steps to take. Steps that will help you make the most of the connections that you made.

Review – The first step is to review the people and information that you gained from the event. Organize the contact information that you collected and write down how each of the people on your list can help you achieve your goals.

It is also crucial to make a note of what you can offer to each of the new people on your contact list. Remember the give and take? You will find that your network will serve you much better when you are cognizant of the needs of its members.

Follow Up – After recording all of the necessary information and taking any notes that you deem important to the process, it is time to make contact with your new network one more time.

How you follow up will largely depend on the situation at hand. Emails and social media messages are popular choices. With your chosen method, send a message to each new person on your list. Remind them that you appreciate meeting them. This is also a good time to bring up any value you can add to their lives. They will see how maintaining a relationship with you will be worth their time.


Related Questions

What are professional networks?

Professional networks are groups of people connected by a common interest, such as a specific industry or profession. Taking part in professional networks with other like-minded people creates new opportunities for employment. A well-networked professional may also have access to more resources as a result of the connections they share with others.

What are some professional network examples?

Professional networks can take on many forms. They provide opportunities for personal growth, professional growth, and future prospects. Some examples include international student groups with similar career goals, clubs for alumni, employee associations, etc.

What is not an example of professional networking?

Most professionals would not consider collecting contact information for professionals in your field to be networking. Unless, of course, you do it in a mutually communicative way. Preferably, you should collect contact information in person or at a virtual networking event. Other examples include attending webinars and going to job interviews.