Updated on 22.04.2022

Visa question of the month - F-1 visa and OPT before H-1B visa

Your question: I am in the USA on an F-1 visa and have received a job offer from a software company. Unfortunately, there are no more H-1B visas available for this year. What can I do?

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Your question

I am currently in the USA on an F-1 visa and am studying computer science at Harvard University in my final semester. I am completing my Master's degree in June and have now received a very interesting job offer from a software company in the United States. The company would like to hire me as of July 1, 2022. Unfortunately, there are no more H-1B visas available for this year. So what can I do?

Our answer

It is true that the so-called H-1B cap has been exhausted for this year. The number of visas is limited to 65,000 per US Fiscal Year. Registration for the selection process is possible from March for the earliest possible start of work on October 1 of each year. The additional master's cap of 20,000 H-1B visas for people with a master's degree obtained in the USA has also already been exhausted. Unfortunately, applications for H-1B visas can therefore only be submitted again next year for the earliest possible start date of October 1, 2023.

For people with a F-1 visa who are studying in the USA, however, there is the possibility of an Optional Practical Training (OPT) during or after your studies. Under certain conditions, the OPT allows you to apply for a general work permit (EAD) after successfully completing your studies, which allows you to work in the USA for up to 12 months immediately after graduation. However, the position offered must be directly related to the field of study.

If you are interested, you should urgently contact your School Official at Harvard University, who will be able to explain the exact application process to you and provide you with the necessary application documents. For certain subjects, it is even possible to extend the 12-month OPT by a further 24 months – this applies to degrees in the field of "STEM" (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). You can find out in advance whether your field of study falls under this by completing a Check list.

If your US employer wants to employ you beyond the 12 months, you have the option of applying for an H-1B visa next year. If you are not covered by the STEM program and could not officially start work until October 1, 2023, you would theoretically have a gap after the end of OPT (July 2023 to October 2023). Due to a special regulation (cap-gap regulation), this gap can be closed under certain conditions. This means that you may stay in the USA in OPT F-1 status for longer than 12 months until the official start of work on October 1, 2023. Further information on this topic can be found on the website of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Cap-gap regulation.


Updated on 22.04.2022