A H1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows foreigners to live and work in the United States for up to six years.
Students on F1 study visas who wish to work in the US need to change their visa status to H1B visa before they could work legally in the US. You need to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree to qualify for the H1B visa. You can switch from F1 visa to OPT and then H1B visa or switch directly from F1 to H1B visa. The H1B visa application has to be filed by your employer you work for on your behalf. The H1B visa allows immigrants to live and work in the US, bring their family to live with them, travel in and out of the US and thereafter apply for permanent residency in the US.
In this blog, we will focus on requirements to change your visa status, documents needed to change to a H1B visa and the procedures involved in the change.
Requirements to Change From F1 to H1B Visa
- You must have a current F1 status. You must ensure that you must have done everything to maintain your F1 visa status which includes staying enrolled, attending the required amount of classes and not taking any illegal jobs.
- You must have gotten an employment offer from a US based employer. For you to get this offer, you must have at least a Bachelor’s degree and the job description must be in line with your degree. Start job application early. Give yourself a good chunk of time to locate a good job so you could interview at multiple places, and have the leverage to negotiate sponsorship.
- You must receive a job offer from an organisation that is legally active and financially stable enough to sponsor your H1B visa application.
Things to Keep in Mind if You Want to go From F1 to H1B
Find a Job
You must obtain a job offer from an employer willing to sponsor your H1B visa application. Start job applications early. Give yourself a good chunk of time to locate a good job so you could interview at multiple places, and have the leverage to negotiate sponsorship. You need to get all your documents ( cover letter, resume, recommendation letter) ready so as to speed up the application process. Bring up the conversation of H1B with your company relatively early too. Tell them on time so they can get their lawyer to apply early.
Many immigrants on F1 visas choose to take part in Optional Practical Training (OPT) to gain more experience before applying for an H1B visa. This gives the student more time and opportunity to search and find a H1B employer. If you choose to take this path,you have to take the OPT process with seriousness and do it early. Apply as early as you can and make sure your documents are ready. Have in mind that your opt could be a deciding factor for your job. OPT allows F1 visa holders to work in the US for a year before applying for an H1B visa. You need to start it as early as 90 days before the end of your program.
Cap Versus Cap-Exempt
There are a number of companies in the USA that their staff enjoy automatic h1b visa approval while some do not( academic institutions, research institutions). If you have an opportunity to choose between these two categories of institutions, it’s preferable to choose a cap-exempt institution. If your organisation is cap-exempt, they can apply for your H1B visa anytime of the year, are not subject to any restrictions in the number of visas that can be awarded or issued and the chances of you not getting the visa is slimmer.
Apply While You Are in School
While in school, you can reach out to a number of companies with your credentials to apply for jobs. Make sure the jobs you locate are ones that the employers are willing to process your H1B visa.
Documents Needed for H1B Visa Application
As an F1 visa holder, you need to provide crucial supporting documents in order to be able to process your H1B visa. You need to provide documents to your potential employer and the employer in turn needs to provide documents in order to be able to apply for the H1B visa on your behalf.
The following are lists of documents you that needs to be provided:
Copies of Your Academic Degree Transcripts
You need to provide copies of all your transcripts alongside certificates to your potential employer. This is because the employer needs to verify your claim and also background information.
Copy of Your I-20 Form
The I-20 form is an immigration document issued to foreign students prior to their full enrollment in US schools. This form is used to also issue the F-1 visa at US embassies and it is provided by the university/college the foreigner enrolled in. This form is a supporting document because the embassy and your employer need to know the details of your previous enrollment in the US tertiary institutions.
An I-129 form is a form that your employer must file with the H-1B petition to request a transfer of visa status.
A Job Appointment Letter
This is used to verify the proof of employment and requirements. It should contain the name of the company, employee’s work status, job description of the employee, employee’s position in the title, annual wage and location of the company.
Switching from an F-1 visa to H-1B visa can be time consuming and demanding. It is, however, the only legal way to work in the US as one cannot work with an F1 visa status. In order to get a good shot at the application process, it is best to start the process (which includes getting an employer willing to sponsor the visa change) early. You cannot file for the H-1B visa on your own, so you need the assistance of the employer. It is best for the employer to hire an immigration lawyer that will help petition for the H1B visa.