F1 to H1B: An Immigration Lawyer’s Thoughts


F1 to H1B: How to Make the Switch

This article covers how to go from an F1 to H1B visa. Many international students use this process to stay and work in the U.S. when they graduate. We’ll teach you everything you need to know about switching from F1 to H1B, including:

  • F1 to H1B Change of Status
  • H1B Consular Processing, and
  • Handling F1 to H1B Denials

Note: If you want to stay in the U.S. permanently, you may also want to check out our advice on how to go from F1 to green card.

Before we get to the two main ways to change status from F1 to H1B, make sure you know the basics.


What is an F1 visa?

The F1 Visa is a visa that lets non-citizens attend school in the U.S.  Students can achieve F1 status in two ways:

  • Consular processing, and
  • Change of status.

Consular processing refers to seeking a visa from outside the U.S., at a U.S. consulate or embassy.  Change of status refers to getting the status from within the U.S.

Here are few key points about the F1 visa:

  • An approved school must sponsor you to come to the U.S. by issuing a Form I-20.
  • To maintain F-1 status, you must attend the school that issued you a Form I-20.
  • F-1 status does not authorize you to work in the U.S., unless you get permission. (This permission is know as Curricular Practical Training – CPT) or Optional practical Training – OPT). 

What is an H1B visa?

The H1B visa is a temporary work visa for non-citizens to work at a U.S. company in a particular job. The job must be in a “specialty occupation.” A specialty occupation is a job that the government believes typically requires a 4-year college degree. For example, a job as an accountant typically requires a college degree, and would qualify as a specialty occupation. By contrast, a maintenance or construction job, is not a specialty occupation, because you can qualify for it through experience only.

A few important reminders about the H1B Visa:

  • You have to work for the company that sponsors you.
  • You are not allowed to quit or change jobs without permission from immigration officials.
  • The company must pay you a fair salary.  What is fair depends on what type of work you’ll do and in which city you’ll do it.

Whether the job offer is in a “specialty occupation” depends on the job description and not the job title.  In other words, a company cannot say you’ll be an accountant if you are going to do the work of a receptionist.


F1 to H1B Change of Status

Now that you understand what each visa is, let’s review how to go from F1 to H1B.  As mentioned above, there are two ways to go from F1 to H1B.

The first is where you apply from within the U.S., by applying for “change of status.” We’ll review that way first.

Change of status is simply where a noncitizen present in the U.S. goes from one immigration status to another. To change status from F1 to H1B, you have to make an application to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Here’s what you have to do.

What are the requirements to change status from F1 to H1B?

  • You must be in valid F1 status.  This means that you have done all that’s required to maintain your status.  You have taken the minimum number of classes, stayed in school and not worked without permission.  To check if you’re invalid F-1 Status, contact your school’s DSO.
  • You must have retrieved a job offer must be from a U.S. company.
  • The job offer must be in a “specialty occupation.” A specialty occupation is a job that the government believes typically requires a 4-year college degree. To decide this, the government looks at the job description and not the job title.
  • The job offer must be “bona fide.” That means it has to be a job offer from a company operating and can afford to pay you for the next three years. (Three years is the initial length of time you get on an H1B).

What are the required forms, fees, and evidence of an F1 to H1B Change of Status?

Forms: You’re required to use form I-129 to change of status from F1 to H1B. This form must be signed by an authorized individual at the company petitioning for your H1B visa.  An authorized person is one in charge of hiring employees.  USCIS requires no form other than the I-129 . When you apply for a change of status, the form acts as both the petition and application for change of status to go from F1 to H1B.

Fees: There are several fees to file the form I-129. The base fee for the I-129 is $460. Then, there is another fee of $750 or $1500 depending if the U.S. company petitioning you has more than 25 employees.  Additionally, there is a $500 fee for Fraud Prevention and Detection. Finally, there is another $4000 fee that is required but that is only in very few circumstances.

ACWIA Fee$750-$1500
Fraud Detection Fee$500

Evidence: You should submit the following evidence with your I-129 to go from F1 to H1B:

  • Copy of your F1 Visa
  • I-94, Permission to Enter U.S.
  • I-20s following your most recent entry
  • Transcript and evidence you graduated
  • Job offer letter from the U.S. Company, including a job title, job duties, and your salary
  • Labor Condition Application (LCA)
  • Copies of the certificate of formation of the U.S. Company
  • Evidence that the company exists, i.e., website, tax returns, etc.

How do you go from F1 to H1B without OPT?

There are no bars to switching from F1 to H1B without Optional Practical Training (OPT). But be careful. Since you need to demonstrate that you graduated with a degree that qualifies you for the job, don’t apply too early. Normally, OPT occurs after you’ve graduated so in most cases you’ll apply for your H1B during OPT.

H1B Consular Processing

The second way to go from F1 to H1B is through consular processing.

Consular Processing is where you get a visa from outside of the U.S.  So H1B consular processing just refers to the way you apply for an H1B visa when you’re outside the U.S. This process is similar to any visa processing, like the way you first sought your F1 visa. In F1 visa consular processing, you completed the form DS160, scheduled an interview at the nearest U.S. consulate and provided the consulate officer with the documents they requested.  You’ll do something similar for your H1B.

Note, consular processing is sometimes referred to as F1 to H1B stamping or the H1B stamping process. If you see mention of visa “stamping,” just know it’s the same thing as consular processing. They sometimes call it stamping since the H1B visa is “stamped” inside your passport. The H1B visa stamp is what you’ll show immigration officials when you enter the U.S. to begin your job.

What are the requirements for H1B Consular Processing?

There are two parts to the process.

  • Part One: the U.S. employer will file the Form I-129 for you, and USCIS has to approve it before you can move on to part two. The employer still needs to provide the documentation listed above, including an LCA, job offer letter and proof it’s currently open and operating.
  • Part Two: if USCIS approves the Form I-129, you must then complete a visa application and schedule an appointment at a U.S. consulate or embassy. At the consulate, the officer may ask you for the original or copies of the documents submitted with the Form I-129. The officer may also ask for your documents such as past visas and evidence of your college degree.

What forms, fees, and evidence are required for H1B Consular Processing (i.e. H1B Stamping)?

Forms: The company sponsoring you needs to file a Form I-129. If approved, you will need to complete the DS-160 application and schedule yourself for an interview at a consulate or embassy in your country.

Fees: The base fee for the I-129 is $460. There is another fee of $750 or $1500 depending if the company petitioning you has more than 25 employees. Additionally, there is a $500 fee for Fraud Prevention and Detection. Finally, there is another $4000 fee that is required in rare situations. For the H1B visa, the fee is $190, which you must pay before you schedule your interview at the U.S. consulate.

Evidence: For your visa interview, you should bring:

  • A copy of the I-129 approval notice from USCIS
  • A copy of the form I-129 and all documents submitted to USCIS
  • All visas ever issued to you, if applicable.
  • Evidence of your education including official transcripts
  • The appointment letters
  • The DS160 confirmation page
  • Evidence that visa fee was paid

Denials of F1 to H1B Applications

How should I handle a denial of my application for change of status from F1 to H1B?

When you go from F1 to H1B, USCIS may not approve your change of status. If your change of status is denied, then there is an appeals process. It’s best if you discuss that process with an experienced immigration attorney to understand the matter. Remember, if you were depending on the approval to be approved from F1 to H1B to be legal in the U.S. then it is important not to wait. In other words, if USCIS does not approve you to go from F1 to H1B then take action right away.

How should I handle a denial of H1B consular processing?

If you are denied during consular process, it’s important to understand why. If you are consular processing to go from F1 to H1B then you should already have an approved Form I-129. This means that it’s more likely there was an issue with your history and background, and not the job offer itself. Sometimes, a visa applicant can be accused of past visa violations or crimes that make them ineligible. That said, ask the officer as many questions as you can about why you were denied. Then take that information to an experienced immigration attorney to see if anything can be done.

H1B Lawyer: Online Search

Search for an H1B attorney here. Under the “type of lawyer,” you should select “Business & Employment.” The attorneys listed here are members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).   Many of AILA’s members have experience with H1B visas.   Our website does not endorse any particular individual you may find on the list.

Related Topics

Need more helpful information? We've got you covered.

B2 Visitor Visa: A Complete Guide

This article is a complete guide for filing B2 Visitor Visa. Visitor visas are nonimmigrant visas for persons who want to enter the United States temporarily for business (visa category B-1), for tourism (visa category B-2), or a combination of both purposes (B-1/B-2).

R1 Visa: A Complete Guide [2023]

The R1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa category that allows religious workers to enter the United States temporarily to engage in religious work.

Navigating the Requirements of VAWA for Immigration Relief: A Comprehensive Guide

VAWA, which stands for Violence Against Women Act, is a U.S. law that was first passed in 1994 to provide protections and resources for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking, including immigrant victims.

U Visa: Requirements & Processing Times

A U visa is a type of non-immigrant visa available to individuals who are victims of certain crimes and who cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of those crimes.

O-1 Visa: Visas for Extraordinary Ability

An O-1 visa is a type of nonimmigrant visa issued by the United States to individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry.

USCIS Online Account: A Guide to ELIS

The USCIS Online Account Number, also known as the USCIS Account Number, is a unique identification number assigned to individuals who create an online account with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Alien Number: Find Your A-Number [2023]

Immigration agencies assign many non-citizens an identification number. The agencies use this number for all filings and to keep track of non-citizens. For this reason, it's important for your to know if immigration has given you one. In this article, we'll explain the number know as the "alien number," how to find it and what you use it for,

I-90 Form: How to Renew Your Green Card by Mail [2023]

The form I-90 is an application that is used by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) when a green card holder needs to replace or renew his or her card. This page provides explanations of when to use the form, how to file it, where to file and the filing fees.

EB2 Green Card Overview: A Complete Guide [2023]

EB2 stands for "Employment-Based Second Preference Category." Learn everything you need to get an EB2 Green Card or EB2 Visa. In this article, we'll tell you everything you need to know for a basic understanding of the process.

How to Move Your Immigration Court

Moving your case to a different immigration court can be helpful. Learn how to transfer your case to a different city or state.

Master Hearing in Immigration Court

The master hearing is the first hearing before an immigration court. Learn more about what to expect from the immigration judge and how to prepare.

How to Cancel A Deportation Order

Do you have a removal order? Learn what how it will affect you and what you can do to cancel a deportation order.

Can A Deported Person Come Back Legally?

If you're deported from the United States, you can still fix your papers. Learn about the penalties for deportations, and how you can still get your papers.

Individual Hearing in Immigration Court

Individual hearings in immigration court are your last chance to fight a deportation. Learn what happens at a final hearing and how to prepare.

EB3 Visa: A Lawyer’s Guide

EB3 Visas are skilled workers, professionals, and unskilled workers. Learn if you qualify for an EB3 green card and how to apply.

EB1 Visa: A Lawyer’s Overview

EB1 green cards are for leaders in their fields. These visas are part of a larger class of green cards know as employment based visas. Learn about getting a green card through the EB1 visa category.

Work Permit: A Guide for Immigrants

Learn everything you need to know about getting a work permit in the U.S. Here, we discuss the process, qualifications and cost of a work permit in the U.S.

F1 Visa Work Options: A Complete Guide [2023]

International students on F1 visas often ask if they can work legally. F-1 students can learn more here about whether they can work and where.

Bring a Sibling to the USA: Sibling Green Cards

Learn how to bring your brother or sister to the USA. In this article, we discuss the process and the different relatives you can sponsor to come to the country.

Automatic Citizenship in the U.S.

Learn who can automatically become a United States citizen and how to apply. Here, we discuss how to directly qualify to become a U.S. citizen without having to wait.

The Conditional Green Card: 7 Things To Know

Immigration has issued you a two year temporary conditional green card. Find out the 7 most important things to know about conditional green cards. In the article, we'll discuss processing and complicated situations that may come up.

Green Card Interview: A Complete Guide [2023]

Being interviewed by an immigration officer can be stressful. Here you'll learn everything you need to be ready and pass your green card interview. After reading this article, you'll be more prepared for immigration's questions for you.

F1 To Green Card: A Complete Guide [2023]

International students often want a way to go from F1 to green card. Learn everything you need to know about how international students can become permanent residents.

DACA News: Helping Dreamers Stay Current

Get up to date information on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) for Dreamers. In this article, you'll find a description of the latest news and other explanations of the current state of the DACA program.

Public Charge Rule: Immigration’s New Rules

The Trump Administration has made it harder for immigrants to prove they financially qualify for a green card. Find out more about how to show you are not a public charge.

N400 Status: Checking Your Citizenship Process [2023]

If you filed an N400, you will need to stay on top of the status of your citizenship application. Find out how to check your N400 case status and more about the naturalization process. In this article, we'll review how to know when USCIS delays processing and what to do about it.

Asylum Case Status: A Complete Guide [2023]

If you are afraid to return to your home country, you may have filed a Form I-589, Application for Asylum. Learn how to check your asylum application status and what to expect throughout the process.

I-765 Case: What’s My Work Permit Status? [2023]

Confirming your I-765 case status is important. A lot depends on getting your work permit -- your job, your driver's license, and your social security card. Learn how to check the status of your work permit application.

Speeding Up Your Immigration Case With USCIS

If you have applied for an immigration benefit, you don't want to wait on USCIS any longer than necessary. Find out here how to speed up your case with USCIS.

USCIS Delays in Your Immigration Case

If you applied for a green card, citizenship, or other immigration benefit with USCIS, you may encounter delays in processing. These can be frustrating, but here are some common causes of delays and how to fix them.

USCIS Delays In Your Green Card Application (I-485)

Immigrants send tens of thousands of green card applications every year to USCIS. Often, you and others confront delays in USCIS making a decision on their green card application. While this can be frustrating, you can speed up the process by knowing the common causes of delays and how to fix them.

I-485 Status Check: A Complete Guide [2022]

The ultimate guide in getting your I-485 status check. Find out how to determine the status of your application and what to do if it's delayed.

I-130 Status: Checking a Pending Petition [2023]

If you filed an I-130 Petition, then you are trying to get a green card through marriage or some other family relationship to a U.S. citizen or green cardholder. Once you filed the I-130, you will probably want to follow up to check the status of your case. Here's how.