H-1B Cap-Gap Extension FAQs
Am I eligible for the H-1B CAP GAP extension?
You are eligible for the cap gap extension if BOTH are true:
- Your employer files an H-1B petition for you, on or after April 1st, and requests a change of status to H-1B to begin October 1st.
- You are still within your OPT authorization period, or 60-day grace period following the OPT expiration, when your employer submits the H-1B petition on your behalf (on or after April 1st).
If your OPT authorization is still valid when your employer submits your H-1B petition to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), your OPT authorization is extended. You can continue working in F-1 status through the extension date.
If your OPT authorization is expired but you are in your 60-day grace period when your employer submits your H-1B petition to USCIS, your F-1 status is extended. You cannot work but you can remain in the U.S. through the extension date.
What if I am NOT eligible for the Cap-Gap extension?
F-1 students who do not qualify for a cap-gap extension, and whose periods of authorized stay expire before October 1, are required to leave the United States, apply for an H-1B visa at a consular post abroad, and then seek readmission to the United States in H-1B status, for the dates reflected on the approved H-1B petition.
What are the extension dates?
The length of your extension depends on your H-1B petition phase:
Selected for receipting: If your H-1B petition is selected for receipting, your OPT authorization is extended to September 30. If your OPT authorization already expired but you were in your 60-day grace period at the time of filing, your F-1 status is extended to September 30.
Approved: If your H-1B petition is approved, your OPT authorization is extended to September 30. If your OPT authorization already expired but you were in your 60-day grace period at the time of filing, your F-1 status is extended to September 30.
What if my H-1B petition is denied?
If USCIS denies, rejects, or revokes an H-1B petition filed on behalf of an F-1 student covered by the automatic cap-gap extension of status, the student will have the standard 60-day grace period (from the date of the notification of the denial, rejection, or revocation of the petition) before he or she is required to depart the United States.
For denied cases, the 60-day grace period does not apply to an F-1 student whose accompanying change of status request is denied due to the discovery of a status violation, misrepresentation, or fraud. The student in this situation is not eligible for the automatic cap-gap extension of status or the 60-day grace period.
Similarly, the 60-day grace period and automatic cap-gap extension of status would not apply to the case of a student whose petition was revoked based on a finding of a status violation, fraud or misrepresentation discovered following approval.
In both of these instances, the student would be required to leave the United States immediately.
How do I apply for the Cap-Gap extension?
The cap gap extension of F-1 status is automatic. It begins when your employer submits the H-1B petition to USCIS.
To obtain documentation of your F-1 status extension, submit proof of your H-1B petition to the H-1B Cap Gap I-20 Request Online Form to the ISSO. If your H-1B petition is:
Approved: submit a copy of your approval notice to your the ISSO online I-20 request form.
Selected for receipting: submit a copy of the I-797 Notice of Action (receipt notice) to the ISSO online I-20 request form.
Filed: submit a copy of the petition and FedEx, UPS, or USPS Express/certified mail receipt to the ISSO online I-20 request form. (If your regular OPT authorization is valid through June 1, do not request a new I-20 based on H-1B filing only. Wait for the receipt or approval notice.)
Your ISSO adviser will print a new I-20 for you that indicates the extension of your F-1 status and (if eligible) extension of your OPT employment authorization. The extension benefit is automatic, so you can continue working (if eligible) and remain in the U.S. while waiting for the new I-20.
Can the cap gap extension of OPT be extended beyond September 30 if my H-1B petition is still pending?
No, the cap gap extension is only until September 30. If the H-1B petition is pending beyond October 1, you can remain in the U.S. based on the pending change of status petition. However, you must stop working until the H-1B petition is approved.
Will I receive personal notification of my cap gap extension?
No, you will not receive automatic notification. You must be in close communication with your employer's immigration specialist so you know the status of your H-1B petition. When you are eligible for the cap gap extension, you must submit the ISSO H-1B Cap Gap I-20 Online Request if you want documentation of the extension (though it is not required).
Can I travel outside the U.S. during a cap gap extension period and return in F-1 status?
ISSO recommend you consult your employer's immigration specialist before traveling internationally during the cap gap extension period.
A student granted a cap-gap extension who elects to travel outside the United States during the cap-gap extension period, will not be able to return in F-1 status. The student will need to apply for an H-1B visa at a consular post abroad prior to returning. As the H-1B petition is for an October 1 start date, the student should be prepared to adjust his or her travel plans, accordingly.
Is there a limitation on unemployment during the cap-gap period?
The 90-day, or 120-day for STEM OPT, limitation on unemployment during the post-completion OPT authorization continues during the cap-gap extension.
Where can I get more info on the cap-gap extension?
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides thorough Cap-Gap information.