H-1B Cap-Gap Extension
Students commonly transition from Optional Practical Training (OPT) authorization, part of F-1 status, to H-1B status. H-1B is a work visa that is sponsored by an employer.
New H-1B visas become effective each October 1, but the application period for most employers begins six months earlier on April 1. The "cap-gap" occurs when a student's F-1 status and/or OPT expire before their approved H-1B begins October 1.
The H-1B Cap-Gap Extension allows certain students with pending or approved H-1B petitions to remain in the U.S. in F-1 status until the start date of their approved H-1B employment period, even if the OPT authorization and/or F-1 grace period would have otherwise expired before October 1.
Standard 12-months of Post-Completion OPT Example
- OPT Work Authorization: Jan., Feb., March
- Timely Filing of H-1B: April, May, June
- Cap-gap: July, Aug., Sept.
- H-1B Work Authorization: Oct., Nov., Dec.
H-1B Cap-Gap Eligibility
You are eligible for the cap-gap extension if both:
Your employer files an H-1B petition for you, on or after April 1, and requests a change of status to H-1B to begin October 1.
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 1).
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.
Tip: If you have less than 12 months of post-completion OPT remaining after using pre-completion OPT prior to graduation, you will need to be sure that their post-completion OPT is still valid on April 1. It is recommend counting backwards from April 1 to determine your OPT start date.
How to Apply for Cap-Gap Extension I-20
The cap-gap extension of F-1 status is automatic. It begins when your employer submits the H-1B petition to USCIS. You still must apply for an I-20 that reflects the cap-gap from the ISSO.
To obtain documentation of your F-1 status extension, please complete the ISSO Cap-Gap I-20 Request Form.
If your H-1B petition is:
Filed: Upload a copy of the petition and FedEx, UPS, or USPS Express/certified mail receipt to the cap-gap online application. (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.)
Selected for receipting: Upload a copy of the I-797 Notice of Action (receipt notice) to the cap-gap online application.
Approved: submit a copy of your approval notice (I-797) to your ISSO adviser.
An 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. Please allow 7-10 business days for processing. 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.
If eligible, an ISSO DSO will process your H-1B cap-gap extension I-20 within 7-10 business days from when the request is submitted. 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.