Once the 12-month OPT limit has been reached (or 29-month limit for STEM students with extension), the F-1 visa holder may no longer remain in the United States without a change of status. For those students wishing to remain, obtaining an H-1B visa is typically the next step though other options may be available for certain specialty workers.
The H-1B visa gives temporary worker status to a foreign national in the United States for a maximum period of three years, which can be extended for an additional three years for a possible total of six years.
In order to change status from F-1 to H-1B, the F-1 student visa holder must find an H-1B sponsor company that will provide an appropriate H-1B temporary worker position. Theoretically, a graduating F-1 student could change status to H-1B directly after completion of the student’s field of study, but practically speaking, most F-1 students choose OPT as an interim step toward the H-1B. Often the company that provided the student with OPT will also be the sponsoring company for the H-1B or will provide the real-world work experience that will enable the F-1 student to find another H-1B sponsor company.