H-1B Cap-Gap Extension
The H-1B is a temporary immigration status that is used for individuals in a “specialty occupation.” This immigration status requires the sponsorship of an employer and is often filed by an immigration attorney or Human Resources Department.
For cap subject employers, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) allows 65,000 H-1B visas for professionals with a bachelor’s level and higher, and an additional 20,000 are reserved for individuals with a master’s degree or higher. The process of selecting individuals is through a randomized system and is often referred to as the “H-1B lottery.”
Petitioning employers may register potential H-1B employees from March 1 through March 20 each year. After the initial registration period takes place, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will invite selected candidates to submit a full H-1B petition within 90 days. Upon submission, a full review of the petition will take place for eligibility as it relates to a specialty occupation requirement. USCIS will determine at that point if a petition is approved, denied, or if additional information is required in order to make a decision. All H-1B statuses begin on October 1 for cap subject employers.
H-1B Cap-Gap Extension
Some F-1 students transition from Optional Practical Training (OPT) authorization, to H-1B status. The "gap" occurs when a student's F-1 status and/or OPT expires before their approved H-1B status begins.
The H-1B Cap-Gap Extension allows students on OPT with a pending or approved H-1B petition to remain in the U.S. in F-1 status until the start date of their approved H-1B status even if their OPT has expired.
This only applies to F-1 students whose OPT, STEM extension, or status expires in the few months prior to their October 1st H-1B start date and the employer has requested a change of status with the H-1B petition.
H-1B Cap-Gap EligibilityYou are eligible for a cap-gap extension if:
- Your employer requests a H-1B employment start date of October 1st
- Your employer requests a change of status from F-1 to H-1B
- Your H-1B petition was timely filed with USCIS
- Your OPT EAD expires between April 1st and September 30th
If your OPT authorization is still valid when your employer submits your H-1B petition to USCIS your OPT authorization is extended. You can continue working in F-1 status through the cap gap extension date.
If your OPT authorization expires prior to March 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.
How to Apply for a Cap-Gap Extension
The cap-gap extension for F-1 students has traditionally been automatic. In the past when an employer submitted an H-1B petition to USCIS, the student's SEVIS record was automatically updated.
The process has changed and students will need to submit a "Cap-Gap Extension" Request in the ISSO Portal to obtain a new Form I-20 showing the cap gap extension.
If you are eligible and your request is approved, an ISSO Advisor will process your H-1B cap-gap extension Form I-20 within 7-10 business days.
Can I travel Internationally During the “Cap-Gap” Period?
Consult your employer's immigration attorney or Human Resources Department about all international travel, once you have applied for H-1B status.