A Cap-Gap Extension automatically extends an eligible F-1 student’s status to bridge the gap between the end of Optional Practical Training (OPT) (F-1 status) and start of H-1B status (effective Oct. 1), thereby allowing the student to remain in the US during the “gap.”
The Cap-Gap Extension is available to students who, as of April 1, were either on approved OPT or in their 60-day grace period and have a pending or approved change of status to H-1B petition with the USCIS.
This Cap-Gap Extension will produce one of two outcomes, depending on your individual situation:
- Extension of your OPT work authorization to Sept. 30. This happens if your approved OPT end date (on your EAD card) is April 1 or later and your employer filed an H-1B petition prior to your OPT end date.
- Extension of your F-1 “duration of status.” If your OPT expired before April 1 and your employer filed an H-1B petition during your 60-day grace period, you are allowed to remain in the U.S. if you otherwise maintain your F-1 status, but you are not authorized to work until the H-1B petition is approved and goes into effect Oct. 1.
Cap-Gap Extension FAQs
Who is eligible for the Extension?
Students in all fields of study are eligible for the Cap-Gap Extension as long as the student has not violated the terms or conditions of their F-1 status. To qualify for the Extension, the student must be the beneficiary of an H-1B petition that:
- Is subject to the H-1B cap (petitions filed by "Cap exempt" employers do not qualify because the Cap-Gap is not required and the H-1B can begin any day of the year, so it can begin the day after your OPT expires).
- Has been timely filed (within the acceptance period).
- Requests an employment start date of Oct. 1.
- Requests a change of status (rather than consular processing).
How do I obtain a Cap-Gap I-20?
There is no application process for the Cap-Gap Extension. If the H-1B petition has been received or approved, your SEVIS record should automatically reflect the Cap-Gap Extension and your work authorization or F-1 status will be extended to Sept. 30. It is our experience that it may take 2-3 weeks after your H-1B is receipted for your SEVIS record to be updated with the Cap-Gap Extension.
Please note that your work authorization is automatically extended as long as a viable H-1B application is filed for you BEFORE the end date of your current F-1 OPT. Your employer may require a Cap-Gap I-20 to extend the I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Form.
Therefore, 2-3 weeks after you or your employer have received the H-1B receipt notice or approval notice, you may contact the Center for International Services by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to request a Cap-Gap I-20:
Write “CAP-GAP Extension I-20" in the subject line of your email.
In the body of the email, include:
- Last Name, First Name
- SUID number
- SEVIS ID Number (the N00 number on your I-20):
- H-1B receipt number
- Your current address
- Your employer's name and address
- The address to which you want your new I-20 sent by regular mail (or let us know that you have arranged for express mailing)
If you or your employer have not received a receipt notice for an H-1B from USCIS, then your SEVIS record is not likely to have the Cap-Gap applied to it and we will not be able to produce an I-20 with the Cap-Gap.
How does my employer update the I-9 with the Cap-Gap Extension of OPT?
Your employer should consult section 6.4.2 of the I-9 Handbook for Employers.
What happens if my H-1B is denied after receiving the Cap-Gap Extension?
If the H-1B petition is denied, you will have the standard 60-day grace period from the date of the rejection notice to depart the U.S. However, if a denial is based on a discovered status violation, no such grace period exists and you must leave the U.S. immediately.
View additional information on the Cap-Gap Extension.