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Can I Change Status from an F-1 Student Visa to an Employment Visa?


Many foreign students who are studying in the United States with an F-1 nonimmigrant visa do so with the belief that they must return to their residential country upon completion of their studies. While this is indeed an option, it is not uncommon for international students to wish to stay after graduation and pursue employment opportunities in the United States.

In situations such as these, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offers recently graduated students and students who are close to completing their education program the chance to apply their acquired theoretical knowledge to part- or full-time practical work experience in the United States through Optional Practical Training (OPT).

To be eligible for OPT, students must fulfill the following criteria:

  • The employment opportunity must be directly related to the student’s major field of study
  • The student must have been lawfully enrolled full-time at a USCIS approved school for a full academic year
  • The student must not have been in English language training

F-1 students who wish to pursue OPT must receive a recommendation from their Designated School Official (DSO) and file an employment authorization document (EAD) with USCIS within 60 days after the end of their education program. Work may not commence until approved by the USCIS. If approved, students may work for any employer in the United States for 12 months. In the case of students who graduate with degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), they may receive a 24-month extension.

In 2008 under the administration of President George W. Bush, a 17-month extension to the program was allowed for students who received their degrees in a STEM field. This extension was recently struck down on the basis that it allegedly violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The DHS has allowed students during the window of May 10, 2016 to August 8, 2016 to apply for an additional 7 months in the country.

If a student’s OPT expires, they may continue to work for up to 180 days while their OPT extension is still pending as long as (1) they are currently in a period of post-completion OPT, and (2) have properly and promptly filed their OPT extension application with the USCIS.

Can Students Change Status From OPT to an H-1B Work Visa?

F-1 students who wish to continue to work in the United States may apply for an H-1B nonimmigrant work visa. Employers must initiate the H-1B application process with the USCIS on behalf of the employee. As long as the employer, position, and employee meet the criteria for H-1B status, the USCIS may grant the student a change of status from F-1 to H-1B status, which will allow them to work in the United States for three to six years depending on the specifics of their visa.

Experienced Dallas Immigration Lawyers – Call (844) 299-5003

If you are looking to pursue OPT or change from F-1 status to H-1B status, the Dallas immigration attorneys at Akula & Associates, P.C. can provide the guidance you need to maximize your chances of securing a favorable outcome. Backed by many positive client testimonials and more than 30+ years of experience, your immigration case is sure to be in excellent hands.

Contact our office online today to discuss your situation in detail.

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