(by Emily Neumann, Attorney at law This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

International students in the United States on F-1 visas often transition to an H-1B visa following graduation. A period of training called Optional Practical Training (OPT) available for up to 29 months after completion of the degree aids the student in obtaining real-world experience and helps with the timing of the H-1B visa application. For those applying for an H-1B visa for the first time, the visa will usually have an effective start date of October 1st, which coincides with the beginning of the government’s fiscal year. While the visa begins in October, the filing window opens six months earlier, in April. The delay between the time of filing and the effective start date can create issues for a student wishing to travel, change jobs, get married, or otherwise deal with life in general.

In the past, graduation timings lead to the inability of students to maintain status between April and October. This gap in status created by the H-1B filing cap is referred to as the Cap Gap. USCIS created a temporary fix for the problem by providing a Cap Gap extension of status for students with a pending or approved H-1B petition. This meant that a student whose OPT period expires between April and October would obtain an automatic extension of the OPT through September 30th if an H-1B petition was filed on their behalf requesting a change of status. In addition, the creation of a 17-month extension of OPT for graduates with degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math (STEM extension) provided additional relief from the H-1B cap.

Here are some of the most common questions regarding the transition period between F-1 and H-1B status:

Q: My employer filed an H-1B petition on my behalf, and it was approved as a change of status. Can I change employers before October 1st?
A: Yes, but your new employer will need to file a new H-B petition requesting a change of status again. Because you were already counted in the H-1B cap when you obtained the earlier approval notice, you do not need to wait for the next filing window to open in April.

Q. What if my H-1B petition is still pending, can I also change employers?
A. This would not be recommended. If you change employers before the H-1B petition is approved, your pending H-1B could be withdrawn. In this situation, you would no longer be considered “counted” in the H-1B cap.

Q. My H-1B petition is approved as a change of status, but my OPT is valid beyond October 1st. Can I continue on my OPT after October 1st?
A. No, the H-1B automatically becomes effective on October 1st and the OPT is no longer valid. If you want to continue on OPT and are no longer interested in the H-1B status, you would need to request your employer to withdraw your approved H-1B before October 1st and inform you school.

Q. My H-1B is pending, can I visit my home country for summer break?
A. Technically yes, but this is not recommended. When you leave the country while a change of status is pending, your request to change status is considered to be abandoned. Even if your H-1B were to be approved later on, you would need to wait until October 1st before you can return to the U.S. and must obtain the H-1B visa stamp.

Q. What if my H-1B change of status is already approved, can I visit my home country and return to the U.S. before October 1st?
A. If you have a valid F-1 visa stamp, an unexpired OPT card, and an I-20 endorsed for travel, you technically can leave and come back in F-1 status before October 1st without impacting your approved H-1B according to a 2004 advisory letter from USCIS. However, it is still best to avoid travel in this situation. The advisory letter is not binding on officers at the port of entry. Also, while you are out of the country, you may be considered to be unemployed for purposes of the OPT rules on unemployment. Finally, some students have faced heavy scrutiny at the port of entry upon their return and were refused admission back into the country.

Q: Can I travel during the Cap Gap extension using my expired OPT card?
A: No. Although the Cap Gap allows you to remain in the U.S. and continue working after your OPT period expires, it does not allow you to travel. You would lose the Cap Gap protection by leaving the country and would need to remain outside the U.S. until October 1st.

Q: I am on OPT with an approved H-1B. Can my spouse apply for an F-2 visa to join me?
A: It is recommended for your spouse to apply for an H-4 visa and travel to the U.S. on or after October 1st.

 

Emily Neumann has practiced immigration law in Texas since 2005, representing both employers and immigrants. Neumann writes a blog on immigration law (immigrationgirl.com) and shares updates on Twitter (@immigrationgirl) and her Facebook page to help her clients stay informed of the latest news. She is a partner in Reddy & Neumann, P.C. in Houston and Dallas.

 

Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is an immigration law firm in Houston, Texas. For over 15 years, our firm has successfully represented corporate clients across the United States in their efforts to bring foreign workers and business professionals to the United States. Our experienced team of immigration lawyers in Houston & Dallas advises clients throughout the H-1B visa application process, including responding to various requests for evidence and consular processing issues. From filing, through approval, and on to appeal, we do everything possible to ensure that your company can bring the best and brightest in the world to the United States.

On September 17, USCIS will celebrate Constitution Day and Citizenship Day to commemorate the signing of the United States Constitution in 1787. Each year, USCIS marks this special occasion by setting aside a week to celebrate our history and reflect on what it means to be a U.S. citizen.

USCIS will welcome more than 18,000 new citizens during more than 180 naturalization ceremonies between September 16 and September 23 in honor of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day. A list of highlighted ceremonies is below.

 

9/16/2013

Lawrence, MA

Campagnone Common Civil War Memorial

9/16/2013

Beatrice, NE

Homestead National Monument

9/17/2013

Calexico, CA

Calexico City Hall

9/17/2013

Flat Rock, NC

Carl Sandburg Home (National Historic Site)

9/17/2013

Tumacacori, AZ

Tumacacori National Historical Park (National Historic Site)

9/17/2013

Wilmington, NC

USS Battleship North Carolina

9/17/2013

Avondale, AZ

Avondale Civic Center

9/17/2013

Olney, MD

Rosa M. Parks Middle School

9/17/2013

Staunton, VA

The Frontier Culture Museum

9/17/2013

Fruita, CO

Colorado National Monument Park (National Historic Site)

9/17/2013

Brockport, NY

The College at Brockport

9/17/2013

St. Paul, MN

State Capitol Rotunda

9/17/2013

San Diego, CA

Golden Hall

9/17/2013

Jamaica, NY

Rufus King Mansion

9/17/2013

Independence, MO

Harry S. Truman Library

9/17/2013

Nueva York, NY

New York Public Library

9/17/2013

Portland, ME

Portland City Hall

9/17/2013

Beaverdam, VA

Patrick Henry’s Scotchtown

9/17/2013

Salem, NJ

Salem County Historic Courthouse

9/17/2013

Sullivans Island, SC

Charles Pinckney National Historic Site

9/17/2013

Toledo, OH

University of Toledo Law School

9/17/2013

Washington, DC

Smithsonian National Museum of American History

9/17/2013

Montclair, NJ

Montclair State University (University Hall)

9/17/2013

Louisville, OH

Louisville Middle School

9/17/2013

Bellevue, WA

Bellevue City Hall

9/17/2013

Chicago, IL

Richard J. Daley Center (Daley Plaza)

9/17/2013

St. Louis, MO

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (National Historic Site)

9/17/2013

Lawrence, KS

Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics

9/17/2013

Avondale, AZ

Avondale Civic Center

9/17/2013

Shelburne, VT

Shelburne Museum

9/18/2013

Springfield, MA

Springfield Armory National Historic Site

9/19/2013

Campbell, CA

Campbell Heritage Theatre

9/19/2013

Fresno, CA

Fresno Convention Center (Valdez Hall)

9/19/2013

Ft. Sill, OK

Fort Sill Army Post

9/19/2013

San Diego, CA

Marine Corps Recruit Depot

9/19/2013

Campbell, CA

Campbell Heritage Theatre

9/20/2013

Las Cruces, NM

Las Cruces Convention Center

9/20/2013

Schaumburg, IL

Schaumburg Township District Library

9/20/2013

Nashville, TN

Hermitage Historical Museum and Plantation

9/20/2013

Point Reyes Station, CA

Point Reyes National Seashore (National Historic Site)

9/20/2013

Ft. Vancouver, WA

Fort Vancouver (National Historic Site)

9/20/2013

St. Louis, MO

Thomas J. Eagleton Court House

9/20/2013

Washington, DC

U.S. Institute of Peace

9/20/2013

Canyon, TX

Panhandle Plains Historical Museum

9/20/2013

Akron, OH

Akron-Summit County Public Library

9/21/2013

Vienna, VA

Oakton High School

9/21/2013

Tacoma, WA

Mt. Tacoma High School

9/23/2013

Jacksonville, FL

Duval County School Board (Cline Auditorium)

 

Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is an immigration law firm in Houston, Texas. For over 15 years, our firm has successfully represented corporate clients across the United States in their efforts to bring foreign workers and business professionals to the United States. Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is dedicated in its advocacy and community involvement efforts towards achieving effective comprehensive immigration policy reform. From filing, through approval, and on to appeal, we do everything possible to ensure that your company can bring the best and brightest in the world to the United States.

 

A Fresno man was sentenced Monday to one year in prison for conspiring to sell false identification documents and for being a deported alien found in the United States, following a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Marco Antonio Quiahua-Panzo, 20, was also ordered to forfeit his interest in various property, including approximately $30,000 seized at his residence at the time of his arrest. The sentence was imposed by Senior U.S. District Judge Anthony W. Ishii.

Quiahua-Panzo's co-defendant Omar Hernandez-Gomez, 26, of Madera, is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 7. The defendants have been in custody since their arrest in January. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Baker from the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Eastern District of California.

According to court documents, between October 2012 and January 2013, Quiahua-Panzo and Hernandez-Gomez sold false identification documents to customers in Fresno and Madera counties. The defendants took orders from customers for fraudulent Social Security cards and alien registration cards, also known as "green cards," and produced the counterfeit documents using the photographs and biographical information provided by their customers.

"Trafficking in counterfeit documents poses a serious security vulnerability and contributes to a host of other types of crimes, including identity theft and financial fraud," said Mike Prado, resident agent in charge of HSI Fresno. "Our goal in these investigations is to identify and ultimately dismantle the criminal organizations behind these highly lucrative schemes."

Quiahua-Panzo and Hernandez-Gomez delivered at least 10 sets of false documents to customers, charging between $100 and $180 for a set of fraudulent alien registration cards and Social Security cards.

 

Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is an immigration law firm in Houston, Texas. For over 15 years, our firm has successfully represented corporate clients across the United States in their efforts to bring foreign workers and business professionals to the United States. Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is highly experienced in working with employment-based visas, adjustment of status, green cards, and PERM labor certification. From filing, through approval, and on to appeal, we do everything possible to ensure that your company can bring the best and brightest in the world to the United States.

Customer Identity Verification (CIV), a new verification tool to biometrically verify a customer’s identity when appearing at USCIS offices, will be employed in USCIS field offices beginning September 9, 2013. Customers will now submit biometric data, specifically fingerprints and photographs, when appearing at USCIS offices for interviews or to receive evidence of an immigration benefit.

CIV will be essentially helpful to combat identity fraud and enhancing the integrity of the entire immigration system. The tool will now be phased in between September 9 and October 21, 2013 to customers attending an interview or being issued evidence of an immigration benefit.

How It Works:
After a customer arrives at a field office, clears security, and is called to the counter, the tool will electronically scan two fingerprints and take a picture to verify their identity. The process applies only to customers who have an interview or receive evidence of an immigration benefit. People going to USCIS offices for InfoPass appointments or accompanying a customer will not undergo this process. After verifying the customer’s identity, they can proceed to their interview or receive their document.
Currently, USCIS requires applicants and petitioners requesting immigration or naturalization benefits to visit one of Application Support Centers (ASCs) to provide biometric data.

USCIS uses this data to help determine eligibility for requested benefits. This requirement, along with providing a government-issued document for examination, will not change.

How It Helps:
CIV connects instantly to the United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology’s (US-VISIT’s) Secondary Inspections Tool (SIT). SIT is a Web-based application that processes, displays and retrieves biometric and biographic data. US-VISIT also links databases associated with border inspections and security.

 

Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is an immigration law firm in Houston, Texas. For over 15 years, our firm has successfully represented corporate clients across the United States in their efforts to bring foreign workers and business professionals to the United States. Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is highly experienced in working with employment-based visas, adjustment of status, green cards, and PERM labor certification. From filing, through approval, and on to appeal, we do everything possible to ensure that your company can bring the best and brightest in the world to the United States.