Green Cards (Common)
National Interest Waivers
Professors & Researchers
Executives & Managers
PERM Labor Certification
Investors (EB-5 visas)
Family (Spouse, etc.)
Work Visas (Common)
O-1 Extraordinary Ability
TN Canadians & Mexicans
J-1 Visa Holders
Nurses & Physical Therapists
Questions that Students Frequently Ask about H-1B Visas
I am an F-1 student working in my Optional Practical Training (OPT). How do I know if my job qualifies for H-1B status?
For you to qualify for H-1B status, your job must require the use of highly
specialized knowledge, such as that learned through studying for a bachelor's or
higher degree in a particular specialty.
I am in F-1 status on Optional Practical Training (OPT). How soon should I have my employer file its petition for my H-1B status?
Although new H-1B status for any fiscal year does not become effective until
October 1 of that year, your employer is allowed to file your H-1B petition as
early as April 1 of that year. For example, if you want to obtain H-1B status to
start working on October 1, 2009 (i.e., for Fiscal Year 2010), it is critical
that your employer file your H-1B petition as soon as possible after the USCIS
opens its doors for these new petitions on April 1, 2009.
If my Optional Practical Training expires before my H-1B status becomes valid, can I legally stay in the United States between the expiration of my OPT and the start of my new H-1B status?
Fortunately, under current law, the answer is yes. In years past, the answer was no, then yes, then no, and finally yes again, and that is where it is currently. Since 2008, if you win the H-1B lottery, then your F-1 OPT status is automatically extended until October 1, which will be the first day of your H-1B status. This is one of the few major headaches the government has eliminated with respect to the H-1B cap.
I am still studying at a U.S. university, but I am worried about the H-1B caps. Will postponing my graduation until after October 1 make it easier for me to find an H-1B-eligible position without having to leave the country after my Optional Practical Training expires?
Fortunately, under current law (i.e., with the automatic F-1 OPT status extension for those who win the H-1B lottery), the timing of your graduation has generally become less of an issue. Before 2008, one could try to avoid the H-1B "cap gap" problem (i.e., the need to leave the country between the time your OPT expired in late summer and your new H-1B status started on October 1) by graduating in December instead of May/June.
If you are a so-called "STEM" graduate (i.e., if your degree is in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics), a December graduation could give you three chances at the H-1B lottery instead of just two chances. This is an exception to the general guidance above that graduate dates generally do not matter any more.
Specifically, if you graduated with a STEM degree in December, you could
apply in the April H-1B lottery while in still F-1 OPT and if you lost that lottery, you
could continue working in OPT and later on apply for a 17-month OPT extension.
The 17-month extension would allow you to petition for H-1B again in April. Then
just before the very end of your 17-month extension (i.e., in the month before
your OPT expires in May), you could file your third and final H-1B petition, and if you finally won
this one, you could receive the "automatic" OPT "cap gap" extension that everyone gets if
they win the H-1B lottery (i.e., even if they are not STEM graduates). Aside
from this example, the date of your graduation generally does not matter for