F-1 students who are soon planning to seek to change their status to H-1B visa category should understand the potential implications and risks of their abroad trips on their H-1B visa process.
If the H-1B visa petition is filed on behalf of a F-1 student before her OPT expires and the H-1B petition was selected, the F-1 student can remain in the U.S. and continue to work under the “cap-gap” provisions until October 1 even after the OPT period is expired (called cap-gap period).
However, if the F-1 student departs the U.S. during the cap-gap period, she will not be allowed to return to the U.S. as her F-1 student status had expired. Further, USCIS considers a change of status petition from F-1 to H-1B, abandoned if the beneficiary departs the U.S. prior to the approval of the petition. In this case, upon the approval of the H-1B petition, the F-1 student will need to apply for her H-1B visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad. Once she acquires her H-1B visa, she become admissible to the U.S., however, no sooner than 10 days prior to October 1, 2015, which is the effective date of her H-1B petition.
F-1 visa holders should always consult with their immigration professional prior to planning any international trips. If you have any questions about the F-1 visa category, please contact Sujin Kim, Esq. at (251) 387-2544/(251) 379-8065 or firstname.lastname@example.org