Here are some things to consider to make the road to obtaining H-1B status a bit less bumpy.

 

Many beneficiaries of H-1B petitions are already employed by their petitioning U.S. employers. They are employed under Optional Practical Training (“OPT”), which was granted after they completed their studies in F-1 student status. OPT is twelve months of authorization to work in the student’s major field of study. It gives a U.S. employer the opportunity to get to know a foreign worker before committing to an expensive and potentially time-consuming H-1B petition.

Thus, if you are a foreign national, who is currently looking for employment in the U.S. and asking employers to sponsor you for H-1B status, but are having difficulty finding a U.S. employer willing to do so, you may want to first consider an F-1 student visa. When you finish your academic program in the U.S., you will be able to apply for OPT at no cost to a U.S. employer. During your one year of OPT, your U.S. employer may decide to file an H-1B petition on your behalf. Thus, from an F-1 student visa, you would transition to OPT and then to H-1B status. The H-1B petition filed by the U.S. employer may include a request for a change of status so that you do not need to leave the U.S. between the time that your OPT expires and October 1, when your H-1B status begins. If your OPT expires after the H-1B petition is filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, but before October 1, you may be able to continue working in the U.S. pursuant to the cap-gap. However, an updated Form I-20 should be obtained from your Designated School Official.

If you have OPT, and your employer files an H-1B petition for you during the first five business days of April, which is highly recommended due to the cap on new H-1Bs each fiscal year, but the petition is not selected in the H-1B lottery, you may want to consider extending your OPT. A 17-month extension of your OPT is possible if you are a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) graduate and your employer is registered with E-Verify. If you are unable to extend your OPT, you may want to consider re-enrolling at a college or university as an F-1 student and then continuing to work for the employer pursuant to curricular practical training. Obviously, before pursuing this route, you need to make sure that the particular academic program allows curricular practical training.