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Your Guide to Applying for Change of Status from B1 to H1
May 7, 2022
9 mins
Isolated on white background, two small black rectangles with arrow icons representing change up and down in flat design pictogram interfaces

In this article, we explore the following topics:

  • Overview of B1 and B2 visa
  • How to apply for COS
  • H1B visa stamping for B1 and B2 holders

Before we explore the change of status from B1 to H1B, we also recommend you to spend a little time to get familiarized with the H-1B visa.

An Introduction to the B1 and B2 Visas

One of the main requirements for an H1B visa is to find an employer in the US who is willing to sponsor it. In other words, they must be willing to file the visa petition on your behalf and bear all the expenses as per the USCIS regulations. However, some foreign employees may find it challenging to get a job with H1B-sponsoring employers when they are not physically present in the US.

This is one of the reasons why many prospective foreign employees seek to change their B1 and B2 visas to H1B visas. What are the B1 and B2 visas?

B1 Visa:

The B1 visa is a temporary business visitor visa. Individuals who participate in commercial or professional activities in the United States are granted a B-1 visa.

B2 Visa:

The B-2 visa is a visitor visa issued to foreigners visiting the US for:

  • Spending a vacation
  • Sightseeing purposes
  • Medical treatments
  • Visiting friends and relatives
  • Weddings or other social events
  • Participating in sports or musical events but not being paid for it.
  • Study courses, but not for credit.

A B2 visa allows you to spend upto a year in the US, along with the extensions. However, getting your B1 or B2 visa extended for a year is no easy job. The process requires extensive paperwork and is far more challenging than filing for the same visas.

The H1B Visa: A Brief Look

The H1B visa is one of the most popular non-immigrant visas issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). To get the H1B visa, you should be a bachelor's or master's degree holder with the knowledge, skills, and experience to hold a specialty occupation. Another basic requirement is that you should have a job offer from a US-based employer for such a specialty occupation in their organization. You should also keep in mind that you need to establish a valid relationship between you and your employer.

It is easy to understand why other visa holders want to apply for a Change of Status (COS) to H1B. All foreign employees can file the Change of Status application from B1 and B2 to H1B if their status is still valid. You may likely face some challenges in obtaining your new non-immigrant status. Let's explore the details further.

Applying for COS from B1 and B2 to H1B: the Process & the Challenges

One of the main challenges while applying for a B2 to H1B Change of Status is maintaining a non-immigrant status until your H1B is approved.

Generally, to apply for an H1B visa, your employer will have to wait until April to file the petition with the USCIS. This is the time when the H1B lottery takes place. The Lottery process starts in the first week of April and lasts for almost one week. However, if you have already been on an H-1B status or the employer is exempt from the cap, the issue will not arise. Hence, you should ascertain if your employer is cap-exempt either by directly enquiring with them or through your immigration lawyer.

You should also remember that even if you are selected in the lottery process and approved, you will have to wait until October for your H1B status to begin. Until then, you will have to maintain your status. It is recommended that you apply for your COS before your B1 or B2 expires. You must petition for an H-1B petition with consular processing if your status cannot be maintained until October 1st when your H-1B becomes active.

Obtaining LCA

The Labor Condition Application is a crucial document that initiates your entire H1B visa processing. In fact, H1B visas cannot be obtained without the LCA. According to the USCIS regulations, your employer should file the LCA on your behalf, along with the following attestations:

  • Payment of existing wages as per the job position and location.
  • Provision of working conditions that will not adversely affect the working conditions of other employees.
  • Notifying other employees about hiring you as a foreign employer.
  • Ensuring there are no lockouts or strikes in the place of work.

During the H-1B lottery process, your employer will file the petition and ask for a re-entry visa for you while you're abroad.

Finally, the H1B lottery can be your biggest obstacle while applying for COS from B1/B2 to H1B. The H1B lottery picks 85,000 applicants for further processing their H1B visas. Of the 85,000 petitions, 65,000 petitions come under the regular cap, and 20,000 are reserved for applicants with advanced degrees. Therefore, having a master's or an advanced degree is the best way to improve your chances of obtaining an H1-B visa. Once your petition is selected in the lottery, you must do the following:

  • Visit the US Embassy or Consulate in your home country.
  • Get the H1B visa stamping through Consular Processing
  • Return to the US on a valid H1B visa.

Also Read: Difference between H1&B1

H1B Visa Stamping for B1 and B2 Holders: What It Means

The "B1/B-2 to H-1B stamping," as it is known, should occur before the H-1B start date of October 1st. Generally, consular officials will not remove the B-1 visa or B-2 visa from the existing passport because a visitor visa is not inconsistent with many other non-immigrant visa statuses. Hence, The B-1 or B-2 visa does not need to be canceled to obtain the H-1B stamp.

To obtain H1B visa stamping, you may require the following documents because this process is different from B1 or B2 stamping:

  • Form I-129
  • Valid passport
  • LCA certified by the Department of Labor
  • Support letter
  • Degree certificates and transcripts
  • Letters stating work experience
  • Academic evaluations
  • Full resume

Availing of the Premium Processing Option

Your employer can also choose Premium Processing to shorten the petition's processing time to 15 days, within which the USCIS will process both Form I-129 and Form I-140. At the same time, remember that the H1B visa has rigid dates to file and commence the process. So, Premium Processing may not be ideal if you hold a B1 or B2 visa. You may consult your immigration attorney before proceeding with this option.

Before We Conclude

Applicants often mistake the Change of Status from B1 and B2 to H1B as " B2 to H1B Visa Transfer." Please note that both are not the same. H1B Transfer refers to the process when you, the H1B holder, apply for a new job with a new employer.
Understanding H1B processes can be quite challenging, especially for first-timers. Visit the TechFetch H1B website for any information related to H1B.

**Disclaimer: All H1B process information is subject to change. Please refer to the USCIS website for the latest updates.

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Article by Techfetch H1B team

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