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F1 Visa vs H1B Visa

F1 Visa vs H1B VisaSo you know you want to work in the U.S., but you don’t know which visa to apply for. After surveying all the many options, you’re trying to decide between the F1 Visa vs H1B Visa. What’s the between the F1 vs H1B? And which one do you qualify for?


An H-1B visa is a non-immigrant temporary work visa issued to workers in “specialty occupations.” Generally, a specialty occupation is one that requires an advanced degree (usually a 4-year bachelor’s degree or higher). In addition to the education requirement, the worker must also be paid at least the actual or prevailing wage for the occupation, whichever is higher. The purpose of the wage requirement is to prove that the worker is legitimately getting a job the requires his or her degree.

The H-1B visa is very highly sought after and as such, has an annual cap of only 65,000 visas each fiscal year. The first 20,000 petitions that are filed on behalf of individuals with a U.S. master’s degree or higher are exempt from the cap.

Certain types of employees are also exempt from the cap, meaning they can are guaranteed year-round application processing. The special jobs include those at an institution of higher education (think: college professor), a non-profit research organization (like American Society of Civil Engineers), or any government research organization (like the Center for Communications and Computing).

Unfortunately, the H-1B visa cap for fiscal year 2017 has already been met, but individuals who qualify for an exemption can still apply. Exempt petitioners may also request the much coveted premium processing, which guarantees 15-calendar-day processing time starting the date the immigration office receives the application.


An F1 Visa is a student visa, and it’s usually issued to individuals enrolled full time at an accredited educational institution located in the U.S.  The student must be enrolled in an “academic” program at the institution. The school must also be approved by the Student and Exchange Visitors Program, Immigration & Customs Enforcement.

An F1 Visa student does not have to be proficient in English. Though if the student is not proficient, then he or she need to enroll in courses leading to English proficiency.

Students must also keep their foreign address. For policy reasons, the student has to maintain a residence abroad and show that there is no intention of giving it up. The reasoning behind this requirement is to prevent immigration fraud. You can imagine a scenario in which a student attends school in the U.S. with the intention of never leaving. An F1 student visa is not the proper mechanism for establishing permanent residency in the U.S. Hence, the rigorous residency requirement.

Despite not being able to give up the foreign residence, F-1 students are allowed to be employed in the U.S. An F-1 student can even work during the first academic year, but the work must be limited to an on-campus job. After the first year, F-1 students may seek employment off-campus. The off-campus jobs must be a very specific type of employment, generally those which are “directly related to the student’s major area of study.” F1 Visa students seeking employment should file a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.

If you can’t already tell, the F-1 visa is must more strict than the H-1B visa. Both have their plus sides. An F1 would be perfect for a student while they earn their degree. After they earn their degree, the H-1B would be the better option.

If you would like to work in the U.S. or would like to know more about the F1 Visa vs H1B Visa, contact Boyer Law Firm today.

Have a specialty degree? Here are some other visa options you may qualify for.

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