Q: I am an Indian citizen on a J1 visa in the US. My J1 expires next year, and I’m interested in changing to an H1B visa. How can I do this?
A: You need to find an employer willing to sponsor an H1B visa for you. There are 3 main things to work out as you consider changing from J-1 to H-1B:
- J visa holders subject to the 212(e) two year home residency requirement and J’s for graduate medical education without waivers are not eligible to change status to H-1B in the US. You may need to look into a waiver, or consider returning home to India for 2 years.
- Your education level and occupation need to fit with the H-1B requirements. USCIS has a list of H-1B requirements here.
- Think about the availability of H-1B visas and the timing. H-1B visas work on a lottery system. Employers petition for employees in the spring, and employees who “win” the lottery begin working in October. The amount of H-1B visas is capped at 85,000, and last year 233,000 applied. Yes, ouch! These can be tough odds. However, because you are on a J-1, you may have connections at a University. As you may be aware, Universities and some non-profit organizations are not subject to the 85,000 cap for H-1B visas, and employers can petition for an H-1B employee at any time.
As you can tell, there are several pieces to think about all together in your situation. This list should help you sort out the main considerations, and an attorney could review these areas in more detail and help you or your employer through the process.