How to Apply for a Change of Status From an F1 to an H1B Visa

Updated on April 12, 2024

At a Glance

  • For F-1 to H-1B visa change, secure a job offer from a sponsoring employer.
  • File the H-1B petition promptly due to limited annual visas.
  • If F-1 status expires while waiting, apply for a cap-gap extension to maintain status.
  • Employer files Labor Condition Application (LCA) and Form I-129, with required documents and associated fees.

If you are an international student studying in the U.S. on an F-1 visa, you might be considering working in the U.S. on a more permanent basis. To accomplish this, you can change your visa status from an F-1 visa to an H-1B visa. This might be a jump since an H-1B worker is considered a professional and you will have limited practical training experience under the F-1 visa. Nevertheless, it is a possibility.

If you are considering this option, take some time to read through the content below. We will explore how the petition process works and how to apply for a change of status from an F-1 to H-1B visa.

Read on to learn more about changing your status from an F1 to an H1B visa or check out our video guide “How to Apply for a Change of Status From an F1 to H1B Visa” below!

How to Apply for an F1 to H1B Visa Status Change

Find an H1B Sponsoring Employer

The main thing to know about attaining an H-1B visa is you will always need a job offer from a sponsoring employer in order to apply.

Your H-1B petition is filed by this employer. Your employer will need to be in good standing and prove to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that you will be paid at least 95% of the prevailing wage for the applicable occupation.

Your employer will also need to prove that your employment will no have an adverse effect on the work conditions for U.S. workers.

File an H1B Petition

Once you’ve found a sponsoring employer, they will need to file your H-1B petition as soon as possible. There are only a certain amount of H-1B visas issued every year. There are 65,000 H-1B visas in the general category and 20,000 visas for people with a master’s, doctoral, or other higher degrees. You will, therefore, want to file as soon as possible to ensure you can grab one of the limited H-1B visas available.

Your employer will file your H-1B petition as a Change of Status. If your petition is approved, you will be granted H-1B status and you will be allowed to start working on October 1st.

File for a Cap-Gap Extension

You might be in a situation where your work authorization and F-1 status will expire while you are waiting for your H-1B petition to be approved. If that is the case, you can apply for a cap-gap extension. With this extension, you will be allowed to remain on F-1 visa status while you are waiting for your H-1B approval.

If you don’t qualify for the cap-gap extension, but your F-1 status expires before October 1st, you will need to leave the U.S. You can then apply for an H-1B visa at a consulate in your home country. If your petition is approved, you will be able to enter the U.S. again on H-1B status.

File a Labor Condition Application

Your employer will have to file for a Labor Condition Application (LCE) once they file your H-1B petition. This form is filed with the United States Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration. To apply, a Form ETA 9035/9035E is submitted. Once the LCA is approved, it will be valid for up to three years of employment.

The purpose of an LCA is for your employer to attest to your employment details. The Department of Labor uses this to ensure the minimum labor conditions have been met.

Complete Form I-129

Form I-129 is the form actually used to apply for your change of status from an F-1 to H-1B visa. Once this form is filed and approved, you may start working under your H-1B visa. For more details about the Form I-129, take a look here.

Submit Required Documents

If you are filing for a change of status, you’ll need to submit the following documents:

  • Your biographic information (full name, date, and place of birth, marital status etc.)
  • The job offer from your sponsoring employer
  • A detailed description of your job with percentage allocations
  • A copy of your resume
  • A copy of the relevant pages of your passport
  • A copy of your degree
  • All your transcripts
  • Any course certificates
  • Catalogs and brochures of the company who is your sponsoring employer
  • Information about any award related to your occupation or field of expertise
  • Experience letters containing your titles and dates of employment
  • Copies of your Form I-20
  • Copies of your current I-94 card
  • If applicable, a copy of your Employment Authorization Document

Need help with your F-1 visa?

Embarking on your academic journey in the U.S. with an F-1 visa can be exciting yet overwhelming due to the rigorous application requirements. If you’re feeling lost among the myriad of eligibility requirements, necessary documents, and the comprehensive application process, Stilt is here to assist. Our team of F-1 visa specialists is dedicated to simplifying the complexity, helping you understand and navigate each step with confidence.

Cost of Filing for an H1B Visa

There are a few fees involved in applying for a change of status from an F-1 to H-1B visa. Fortunately, most of these costs will be covered by your sponsoring employer.

Each employer will have to pay a certain set of fees. Exactly which fees your employer will have to pay will depend on the size of the company and a combination of other factors.

Here is a simple breakdown of the different fees:

  • Base filing fee: $460 – paid by all employers for each petition.
  • AICWA Fee (American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998): $750 – paid by employers who have 1 – 25 full-time employees; $1,500 – paid by employers who have 26 or more full time (or equivalent) employees.
  • Fraud Prevention & Detection Fee: $500 – only applies to new H-1B and change of employer petitions. This does not apply to H-1B petitions that are Chile or Singapore based.
  • Fee-based on Public Law 114-113: $4,000 – your employer must pay this fee if 50 or more employees and more than 50% of its employees are H-1B or L-1 visa holders.
  • Premium Processing Fee: $1,225 – this is an optional fee to have your petition processed within 15 calendar days.
  • Immigration Attorney Fee: variable – this will only apply if you or your employer make use of an immigration attorney. The fee will vary depending on which immigration lawyer you use.

Read More

Final Thoughts

If you want to change your visa status from F-1 to H-1B, follow the simple steps above. Most of the petition is dealt with by your employer. Your biggest task will be to find the right employer to sponsor you for your H-1B visa. Once you’ve got that job offer, make sure your employer files your H-1B petition in time so you stand a better chance of being approved for H-1B status.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the Process to Change Status from an F1 to an H1B Visa?

The process involves finding a U.S. employer willing to sponsor an H1B visa, which is typically for specialized occupations. The employer must file a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on behalf of the F1 visa holder.

Can F1 Visa Holders Automatically Transition to an H1B Visa?

F1 visa holders cannot automatically transition to an H1B visa. They must find an employer to sponsor the H1B visa and go through the application process, including the visa cap lottery if applicable.

What are the Requirements for F1 Visa Holders to Qualify for an H1B Visa?

F1 visa holders must have a job offer from a U.S. employer in a specialty occupation requiring specific skills or knowledge. The employer must file an H1B visa petition on their behalf.

Is There a Cap on the Number of H1B Visas Issued Annually?

Yes, there is an annual cap on the number of H1B visas issued. However, certain applicants, such as those employed at institutions of higher education, are exempt from the cap.

How Long Does the Change of Status Process Take?

The duration of the change of status process can vary. It depends on USCIS processing times, the H1B visa cap lottery, and whether premium processing is used.

Can F1 Students Work While Waiting for H1B Approval?

F1 students can work under Optional Practical Training (OPT) while their H1B petition is pending. If selected in the H1B lottery, they may be eligible for a cap-gap extension that allows them to continue working until H1B status begins.

What Happens if the H1B Visa Petition is Denied?

If the H1B visa petition is denied, the F1 visa holder must adhere to their original F1 status and its conditions, including any work authorization under OPT.

Are F1 Visa Holders Subject to the H1B Visa Lottery?

Yes, F1 visa holders are typically subject to the H1B visa lottery unless they qualify for a cap-exempt petition.

Can F1 Visa Holders Apply for an H1B Visa from Outside the U.S.?

F1 visa holders can apply for an H1B visa from outside the U.S. if they have left the country. The process involves applying for the H1B visa at a U.S. consulate after USCIS approves the petition.

What Should F1 Visa Holders Consider Before Applying for an H1B Visa?

F1 visa holders should consider the timing of the application, eligibility for the H1B visa, the possibility of being subject to the annual cap, and their plans if the H1B visa petition is not approved.

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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.

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