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.

Cap-Gap Extension

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

View a visual representation of This Example

H-1B Cap-Gap Eligibility

You are eligible for the cap-gap extension if both:

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:

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.