Student F.A.Qs - Planning your H1B Career
 

Changing Status

Normally students who come to US will be on F-1 or J-1 visa. The ambition of most of them would be to get it converted to H-1B visa and subsequently to a green card. International students planning to stay back must remember a few things which will enable such transition smoothly. The basic rule is, never violate your status. It can prove to be a disaster if you do not land in a job as soon as you graduate, and if you have already used up your practical training period. You will either have to go back or violate your status.
The H-l B status is an employment-based status. As such, this status immediately ends on upon termination of employment. Although the Form I-797 (USCIS approval notice) may indicate a date well into the future, it will become invalid upon termination. If the prospective employee is currently in the United States, maintaining a legal nonimmigrant status (such as F-1 student, B-1/B-2 visitor) he/she may change status to H-1B.
In order for someone to change their status from one category to another, or to extend a category, the person must show that they have maintained their status.
In the case of an H-1B, that means showing that they have been working right up until the point the change of status petition is filed. If you are not able to show that you were working, the petition will probably be denied. That would leave you with a trip abroad as the only legal possibility to change status to an F-1. Remember! Getting an F-1 is not easy and it requires that you show that you have sufficient funds to pay tuition expenses and living expenses without working. As for your employer, it would be highly risky if he brings H-1Bs to the U.S. without being assured of having an assignment for them. Your employer is liable to pay you your wages regardless of whether you are working or not.

H-1B CAP

H-1 petitions for foreign national workers, filed by academic institutions, will continue to be exempt from the annual numerical limit, or "cap," on the number of H-1 petitions that may be approved. The number of new H-1B visas available is limited to 65,000 now. You can get H-1B sponsorship from two kinds of employers:

H-1 For Recent Graduates

Beginning on March 8, 2005, an additional 20,000 non-academic H visas for graduates of US Ph.D. and Masters programs, will become available. This may help international student graduates of MIT who are going to work in industry.

H1 Visa Validity

You can be on an H-1B for six years, and it takes the entire green card process about approximately three years. You can always change employers while on H1B.H1 Visa is initially granted for 3 years and can be extended year to year or for 3 more years. Certain aliens working on Defense Department projects may remain in H1B status for 10 years.
H1 visa holder can buy house or any other real estate property in USA. H1 visa holder can also work invest money in stocks, mutual funds, bonds etc. H1 visa holder can not work as self-employed or freelancer and do contract type of work in free time.

New Regulations

On December 8, 2004, the President signed the Omnibus Appropriations Act. This new law contains provisions that will affect H-1B Temporary Worker visa processing. A significant new fee and other provisions will take effect March 8, 2005.

New Additional Fee

The New Act requires employers to pay the Department of Homeland Security a new "anti-fraud" fee of $500 per H-1 petition. The fee will apply to all H petitions for new employment filed on or after March 8, 2005. Petitions for extension with the same employer and/or amendment will be exempt from the fee. The anti-fraud fee must be paid in addition to the regular filing fee ($185 per application) and, in some cases, in addition to the elective "premium processing" fee for expedited processing ($1000 per application). Colleges and universities will not be exempt from this fee. The Act indicates that the fee is to be imposed "on the employer." This means that the fee cannot be "passed on" to the international scholar, as it is an employer business expense. Research funds cannot be used for this purpose.

Changing jobs

If you are hold H1 visa and moving to another employer, the new employer must file (and Immigration must receive) the new petition BEFORE the date of termination. If there are changes in the terms of employment (including promotions, changes in duties, or change of departments), you must first consult with OISS to determine whether an amended or new petition must be filed. If an amended petition is required, it will be necessary to initiate a new H-1B application.

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