Everything You Need to Know About OPT to H1B

Updated on January 3, 2024

At a Glance

  • Transition from F1 to H1B by gathering essential documents including a job offer, resume, passport, degree, and experience letters.
  • Secure a job offer from an H1B sponsoring employer and ensure timely filing of the H1B petition.
  • Consider a cap-gap extension for continued work under F1 status during the transition process.
  • If traveling during the cap-gap extension, obtain an H1B visa before reentry; F1 students can initially opt for optional practical training (OPT).

F1 to H1B Visas

When a student’s OPT is expected to end in the upcoming weeks or month, they should begin thinking about their options once the training ends. At this point, students will have two choices: return to their home country once their F1 visa expires after the OPT, or apply for an H1B visa after receiving a US job offer.

Required F1 to H1B Visa Documents

When transitioning from an F1 to an H1B visa, you must present the following documents in your application

Official Job Offer

This document should be an official job offer from a US-based company that shows that they will be sponsoring your H1B visa. When receiving your job offer, you should ask the employer to provide written documentation for your H1B visa application.

Job Description

Your application must include a detailed description of the responsibilities and duties of the job you plan to take. This document can go along with the official job offer.

Copy of your Resume

A copy of your resume is used to demonstrate your proficiency in the responsibilities required by the job you plan to take. H1B visa applicants are required to have an advanced degree or specialized knowledge within their field, so the resume should demonstrate that.


In order to immigrate, you must have a valid passport issued by your home country.

Copy of Degree

A college degree is required for most H1B visa applicants, so as part of the documentation, you need to provide proof of your education.

College transcripts and course certificated

This is used to further show proof of your education history

Experience letters with name, title, and dates of employment

H1B applicants are required to have their skills and education verified which is often done through an experience letter from a former employer. Within this letter, the employer verifies the length of time and duties the H1b applicant performed while employed by them.

Awards or Prizes

Since H1B visas are for specialty workers with experience within their field, any awards related to their skills and occupation can help show their extensive knowledge within their work.

Biographic information including full name, DOB, POB, Nationality, Permanent Address, Marital Status

Marriage certificates, birth certificates, naturalization papers, and other forms of ID can all be used to provide biographic information about the applicant.

Copies of I-20s

The I-20 is the Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. This form verifies that the student has a valid F1 visa in the US.

Copy of current I-94 Card

The I-94 is a travel record of the individual which is used to verify immigration status or employment authorization.

Copy of EAD Card (if applicable)

If you have an employment authorization document, you need to provide that as documentation of having a valid work permit.

F1 to H1B Visa Sponsor and Sponsorship Job

Since F1 students often have work experience in the US through their OPT, many times their previous employer will be willing to sponsor their H1B visa in order to allow the individual to continue working for the company. In this case, the employer will need to ensure that the aspects of the job qualify for an H1B sponsorship job.

How to Apply for F1 to H1B Visa Status Change

1. Get a Job Offer from an H1B Sponsoring Employer

The first step in applying for an H1B visa status change is securing a job offer from an H1B sponsoring employer. Essentially, the sponsoring employer must have a good reputation in the industry and they should be able to ensure the USCIS that they would be paying 95% of the principal wage of the occupation to the applicant.

2. Applying for H1B Status

There are limitations on the number of H1B visas that can be issued in the current fiscal year. Accordingly, these restrictions do not allow the USCIS to issue more than 65,000 visas under the general category. If the applicant has a Master’s degree, Doctoral degree or higher, however, an extra 20,000 visa slots are available for them.

Thus, if you want to apply for H1B visa status change, it is necessary that you file your application in time, or you risk missing out on one of the limited spots available.

3. Have Your Employer File an H1B Petition

When your employer offers you a job in the United States, they will be required to file for your H1B petition immediately, as a change of status. This has to be done by them on your behalf. Once the USCIS approves this visa petition, you are granted an H1B status.

4. Apply for a Cap-Gap Extension

A cap-gap extension is a special case that is granted to the people when their H1B status change application is pending. In this situation, the applicant is allowed to remain on F1 visa status for as long as the H1B status change application is not approved. This F1 visa status would then function as your work authorization for employment in the United States. Once the H1B status change comes into the picture, the F1 visa would automatically expire.

Traveling During Your Cap-Gap Extension

An Employment Authorization Document, or EAD, is issued by USCIS to authorize foreign nationals to work in the US for a small period of time, generally one year. If after the completion of OPT, a candidate possessing the EAD wishes to travel outside, they can do so and then return back to the US after a temporary absence.

However, the EAD is deemed expired under a cap-gap extension. In this case, if they travel outside the country, they would not be able to return with an F1 status. In such an event, they would need to apply for an H1B visa separately before returning to the United States. And once the approved H1B petition sets a date, the candidates would not be able to enter the country before that.

Essentially, F1 students can apply for an OPT or optional practical training related to their area of study. When employers provide a job offer to F1 students working on OPT, they are required to file the petition on time for an H1B status change.

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It is possible to transition from OPT to an H1B visa. There are even options for those of you who are a bit behind schedule. We hope this guide was helpful. You can contact us if you have any questions regarding the conversion.

If you have not yet received a job offer from a US based company, doing so will be crucial in order to stay in the US. Remember that once your OPT ends and you are finished with your degree program, your student visa will expire and you will no longer be able to stay in the US.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.