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Life After F-1

H-1B

The H-1B is a specialty occupation work visa sponsored by an U.S. company on behalf of an international person.

The number of new H-1B work visas issued every year is strictly controlled by the U.S. congress. Currently there are 85,000 new H-1Bs available every year. The first day to file a new H-1B application is April 1. However, in most years more H-1B cases are filed on April 1 then there are H-1Bs available for the entire year. This means that USCIS has to do a random lottery to determine which of the H-1B cases that were filed will fill those 85,000 spots and go on to be reviewed and approved.  Technically this process is a “random lottery due to the annual congressional numerical limitation on H-1B work visas” but H-1B Lottery or H-1B Cap is way easier to say!

  • H-1B registration occurs in March. If more registrations are filed than H-1Bs are available, the lottery occurs.
  • For registrations selected in the lottery, H-1B petitions are filed with USCIS starting in April 1.
  • Receipting takes several weeks, once the petition is receipted the receipt notice is mailed to the attorney and typically updated in SEVIS as well.
  • Petitions are reviewed, approved, or requests for more information (RFEs) are issued throughout the spring and summer. 
  • H-1B Change of Status approval notices become valid October 1 (or later).

H-1Bs can be filed requesting either Change of Status or Consular Processing. This is at the discretion of the employer filing the H-1B and both have specific implications for your F-1 status.

Change of Status – The H-1B approval notice will contain an I-94 card, which will forcibly change your status from F-1 to H-1B on October 1. Depending on your situation, possible benefits include Gap Gap and you may not need to file for your STEM OPT extension.

Consular Processing – The H-1B approval notice will contain a consular notification that you can use to leave the U.S. and apply for an H-1B visa stamp in your passport when you are ready to take on H-1B status. Depending on your situation, possible benefits include the 24 months of STEM OPT, lower tax rate, the ability to travel freely, the ability to change jobs more readily, the unemployment period and the 60 departure period etc. H-1B cases filed under Consular Process cannot benefit from Cap Gap.

 

It depends on your personal and professional goals! The H-1B generally signifies a major commitment to a company and can be great if you feel secure in your job and wish to stay in the U.S. to work for longer period of time.

On the other hand, in most cases an H-1B filing means that you are preparing to transition away from F-1 status and the F-1 benefits such as OPT, STEM OPT, NRA tax status, and free immigration advising from our team of experts!

 

Yes, if the H-1B filed on your behalf is submitted requesting Consular Processing the H-1B approval notice would not take automatic action on your F-1 status and the H-1B would only go into effect when you leave the U.S., secure an H-1B visa stamp and re-enter the U.S. Talk to your company or a qualified immigration attorney to understand is Consular Processing is right for you.

We do not, as a matter of practice, issue updated I-20s each time a student changes employers or when the OPT / STEM OPT status is changed. You do not need one for H-1B filing. 

 

However, if you want to have an updated I-20, we can create one for you if you email iss@scu.edu the following information:
 
Subject Line: H-1B I-20 Request:
Body of the Email must include:
  • Your legal name
  • Your SCU ID
  • Current employer name
  • Start date with current employer

 

You will be contacted once your I-20 has been created and is ready for shipping.

 

You are eligible for the U.S. Master's quota as long as your degree is completed before April 1 (even if proof of completion isn't available until after April 1). The date of completion is listed by the filing attorney on the Form I-129 submitted by the company on your behalf. If you completed your degree in the Winter term, you will not be able to collect your degree (diploma) prior to the April 1 filing deadline.

Instead, our office recommends that you request your official transcripts and an Enrollment Verification from the Office of the Registrar after grades are officially due.

If your grades and final degree audit have already been processed, the documents may list your actual completion date. If your grades or final degree audit are still pending, the documents will show your enrollment at SCU and your estimated completion date. Either way, the documents will be sufficient for your H-1B submission.

At the time of filing, USCIS only reviews the Form I-129 to determine if the case is eligible for the U.S. Master's quota. It is only months later at the formal case review that USCIS begins to look at your degree documentation. If USCIS needs to see proof of degree completion before approving your case, they will issue a Request for Evidence asking for a copy of your official transcripts, diploma etc just prior to the final review of your H-1B case.

If your grades and final degree audit have already been processed, the registrar can list your actual completion date. If your grades or final degree audit are still pending, the documents will show your enrollment at SCU and your estimated completion date, but cannot attest to your actual degree issuance date. Either way, the documents will be sufficient for your H-1B submission.

At the time of filing, USCIS only reviews the Form I-129 to determine if the case is eligible for the U.S. Master's quota. It is only months later at the formal case review that USCIS begins to look at your degree documentation. If USCIS needs to see proof of degree completion before approving your case, they will issue a Request for Evidence asking for a copy of your official transcripts, diploma etc just prior to the final review of your H-1B case.

Please keep in mind that the Office of the Registrar is responsible for maintaining degree integrity for the entire University. This means that it is impossible (and unethical) for anyone at our university to issue a letter confirming that you have completed your degree requirements until all of the assignments of the degree have been completed, grades have been submitted and processed and all the required degree audits have been completed and verified. This is a matter of degree integrity for the entire University and a best practice for Universities across the country. Please be professional in your requests for documentation and respect our University Registrar's time and processes.

SCU is a qualifying U.S. educational institution as defined in 20 U.S.C. 1001(a). SCU is registered non-profit higher educational institution. SCU is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). Students who have completed Master's, Phd, or JD degrees at SCU before April 1 of the filing year qualify for the "advanced degree exemption" for H-1B filing purposes. 
 
We cannot provide documentation at this time and documentation is not required or needed to file an H-1B on April 1. However, if your H-1B is selected in the lottery and the company receives a request for additional information ("RFE") regarding your qualification for the "advanced degree exemption", we are happy to assist you at that time.

We do not, as a matter of practice, issue updated I-20s each time a student changes employers or when the OPT / STEM OPT status is changed. You do not need one for H-1B filing or travel (as long as our current I-20 has a valid travel signature).

However, if you want to have an updated I-20, we can create one for you if you provide the following information via email to ISS@SCU.edu:

  1. Confirm your employer name
  2. Confirm your start date with your current employer
  3. Indicate whether you would like the I-20 mailed or whether you will personally pick it up from our office. If you want the I-20 mailed you will be instructed how to create and pay for the mailing label.

Congratulations! You’re welcome to provide our office a copy of your H-1B approval notice, but this is not required. If your H-1B was filed under Change of Status, your approval notice will take over on October 1 and your F-1 record will be automatically cancelled by the government as you will be in H-1B status. We wish you the best going forward.

In some cases when an H-1B Change of Status application has been filed on behalf of an F-1 student, USCIS makes a note of the pending H-1B into the F-1 student's SEVIS immigration record. These notes are added to SEVIS after the H-1B lottery has been completed and during the USCIS H-1B cap receipting period, which can last several weeks.

Due to the volume of requests that we receive, as well as the mandatory work we must do to maintain the immigration records of SCU'S international students and scholars we are not able to respond to individual requests from students to check SEVIS to see if an H-1B Change of Status has been attached to their F-1 record.

In order to best accommodate students with such inquiries, our team will run periodic reports during the USCIS receipting process (around May 1, June 1, and July 1). We will then email F-1 students who have the H-1B Change of Status notation in their F-1  SEVIS immigration record with information and instructions.

If your OPT expires before October 1 and you are not eligible to file for a STEM OPT extension, you may email ISS@scu.edu and request individual consideration. 

Students cannot see whether anH-1B was selected in the lottery using the new SEVP Portal.

However for students that have a H-1B change of employer that was selected in the lottery and active OPT or STEM OPT that originally expires before October 1 the OPT / STEM OPT end date in the SEVP Portal may be updated to show the automatic cap gap extension once the H-1B gets added to the SEVIS record.

Please review our SEVP Portal information page

If the H-1B Change of Status has been added into a student's F-1 SEVIS immigration record, the record will show that a Change of Status application is pending and will provide a USCIS receipt number. The company's information is not included.

Each year there are students for whom and H-1B has been filed and selected in the lottery but no notation appears in the F-1 SEVIS immigration record. The only way to know for sure that the H-1B Change of Status application that was filed on your behalf was selected in the random lottery is if your company has received a mailed I-797C Receipt Notice from USCIS. The only proof that an H-1B case was not selected in the lottery is when the case is returned from USCIS to the attorney that filed on behalf of your company. You should continue to be in touch with your company and their immigration attorneys with questions about the H-1B process.

The only way to know for sure that the H-1B Change of Status application that was filed on your behalf was selected in the random lottery is if your company has received a mailed I-797C Receipt Notice from USCIS. The notation in your SEVIS record is a good indication, but is not a guarantee that the H-1B was selected. You should continue to be in touch with your company and their immigration attorneys with questions about the H-1B process.

While the change of status is pending, and until the approval goes into effect (usually on October 1) you are still an F-1 student and you need to maintain your F-1 immigration status by either attending classes or engaging in approved OPT / STEM OPT. Once the H-1B Change of Status goes into effect, the SEVIS record will be automatically closed and you will no longer be in F-1 student status, since your H-1B status has taken effect. Our team is happy to answer questions about your F-1 student status and record. Questions related to your H-1B should be directed to a qualified immigration attorney.

In order to re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status after travel abroad, you must carry the appropriate travel documents. Our team is happy to answer questions about your F-1 student status and record. Questions related to your H-1B, and how travel can impact your H-1B filling should be directed to a qualified immigration attorney.

Cap Gap

Is an automatic extension of your OPT work authorization from the date of OPT expiration to October 1 when the H-1B approval takes over. The benefit of cap gap is that the extension is automatic and does not cost any money or require any government filing. The downside of relying on Cap Gap (rather than filing a STEM OPT extension, if available) is that if the H-1B is not approved by October 1, or if the H-1B is denied or revoked, the Cap Gap benefit goes away.

To benefit from Cap Gap you must have an H-1B Change of Status filing submitted on your behalf and selected in the lottery.

Cap gap is valid from the day your OPT expires until October 1, when the H-1B change of status approval takes over.

The Cap Gap extension is automatically put into your SEVIS record by USCIS, so you don’t need to apply for it. However, if your EAD card expires before October 1 and you are not eligible or do not plan to file a STEM OPT extension then you will need a new I-20 showing the Cap Gap authorization to demonstrate your continued status and work authorization. To request a Cap Gap I-20 you can submit a Cap Gap I-20 Request to ISS@scu.edu.

 

In general, the safest course is to only rely on Cap Gap if your H-1B is approved before your current OPT expires. 

Requesting a Cap Gap I-20 from our office signifies that you plan to rely on Cap Gap (and therefore that you do not plan to file a STEM OPT extension). If you request a Cap Gap I-20, we generally will not also process a STEM OPT extension on your behalf.

Your request for a new Cap Gap I-20 must be submitted via email to ISS@scu.edu. The email must include:

  • Subject Line: Cap Gap I-20 Request (Your Student ID#)
  • Attach your completed Cap Gap I-20 Request
  • Attach your H-1B Receipt Notice*
  • Attach a copy of your current EAD Card

*If your OPT or STEM OPT extension expires before June 1 and are are not eligible for further OPT / STEM OPT extensions, we can create an interim Cap Gap I-20 authorizing you continued work authorization through June 1 while waiting to see if your H-1B is selected in the lottery in this case, in lieu of an H-1B receipt, provide our office proof of delivery of your H-1B petition and confirmation from your company that the H-1B was filed under the Change of Status.

Cap Gap is only valid from the day your OPT expires to October 1, if the H-1B is selected and later approved.

If the H-1B filed on your behalf is selected in the lottery but later denied after your OPT expires and before your H-1B goes into effect on October 1, you would be out of status, unless you had STEM OPT as a back up.

Our office strongly recommends that all eligible students file a STEM OPT extension. This is true even if an H-1B was registered, selected, filed, and / or approved on your behalf.  

ISS always recommends filing a STEM OPT extension over relying on Cap Gap.

The only situations when ISS will recommend relying on Cap Gap are if:

  1. You have no choice. You are at the end of your OPT and are not eligible for STEM OPT extension or you are at the end of your approved STEM OPT extension; or, 
  2. Your H-1B is approved and you know with certainty that you will join the company in H-1B status on October 1 (i.e. there is no chance of you being laid off or wanting to change employers).

This recommendation comes in the context of increasing H-1B processing times (approvals arriving after October 1), increasing H-1B denial rates, and increasing numbers of students who transition employers (either due to choice or lay-off) prior to October 1. All of these factors impact the students F-1 SEVIS immigration record and leave the student without continued or stable work authorization.

You can file a STEM OPT extension and still benefit from an H-1B petition. 

 

Our office strongly recommends that all eligible students file a STEM OPT extension. This is true even if an H-1B was registered, selected, filed, and / or approved on your behalf.  

 

ISS always recommends filing a STEM OPT extension over relying on Cap Gap.

 

The only situations when ISS will recommend relying on Cap Gap are if:

 

  1. You have no choice. You are at the end of your OPT and are not eligible for STEM OPT extension or you are at the end of your approved STEM OPT extension; or, 
  2. Your H-1B is approved and you know with certainty that you will join the company in H-1B status on October 1 (i.e. there is no chance of you being laid off or wanting to change employers).

 

This recommendation comes in the context of increasing H-1B processing times (approvals arriving after October 1), increasing H-1B denial rates, and increasing numbers of students who transition employers (either due to choice or lay-off) prior to October 1. All of these factors impact the students F-1 SEVIS immigration record and leave the student without continued or stable work authorization.

 

Requesting a Cap Gap I-20 from our office signifies that you plan to rely on Cap Gap (and therefore that you do not plan to file a STEM OPT extension). If you request a Cap Gap I-20, we generally will not also process a STEM OPT extension on your behalf.