What is H-1B Cap-Gap?
Students with pending or approved H-1B petitions are permitted to extend their F-1 OPT/STEM OPT work authorization from the end of the OPT/STEM OPT period through September 30. This period, known as the Cap-Gap, only applies to those whose OPT/STEM OPT period ends prior to September 30 and to those with H-1B petitions filed with a request for a change in immigration status, not consular processing. This regulation enables those on OPT/STEM OPT to continue their employment until their H-1B takes effect on October 1.
Please note that ISSS is unable to advise students on H-1B specific related matters, and students should always consult with an immigration attorney for any inquiries they might have regarding their H-1B status or their change to H-1B status. ISSS is unable to provide updates to students regarding the H-1B or Cap-Gap information on their SEVIS Records. Student's employers or immigration attorneys will always have the most up to date and accurate information surrounding a student's H-1B petition.
Note: Students working for institutions of higher education or their affiliated or related nonprofit entities, non-profit, or government research organizations are exempt from the H-1B cap and no Cap-Gap is issued.
H-1B Cap-Gap Eligibility
Students are eligible for H-1B Cap-Gap if:
the employer files an H-1B petition as a "Change of Status (COS)," not "Consular Notification," with USCIS.
the current OPT/STEM OPT period ends prior to September 30.
the student is on authorized OPT/STEM OPT on the date that USCIS receives the H-1B petition.
Students who have approved OPT/STEM OPT work authorization beyond October 1 are not eligible for Cap-Gap.
Note: If your H-1B petition is filed during the 60-day grace period following your OPT/STEM OPT work authorization, you are not eligible for the Cap-Gap extension of employment. You may still be eligible to remain in the U.S. while your application is pending before beginning to work again on October 1, if approved. Please consult your immigration attorney for more information about this scenario.
Change of Status vs. Consular Processing
If the H-1B petition was filed visa Change of Status (COS), the change to H-1B status will be automatic from the start date on the I-797 Approval Notice and the student's F-1 Student Records will be automatically marked "Completed" in SEVIS. If the student is eligible for the Cap-Gap extension, it will be automatically applied to the student's work authorization.
If the H-1B petition was filed via Consular Processing, the student will need to exit the United States and complete the H-1B visa process at the consulate indicated on the I-797 notice. The student's F-1 Student Records will remain "Active" until the student returns to the United States in H-1B Status.
Students whose H-1B petitions were processed via Consular Processing are not eligible for the Cap-Gap Extension. Students approved for Consular Processing should contact [email protected] when they enter the U.S. in H-1B status for the first time.
Applying for the Cap-Gap I-20
Although the Cap-Gap extension of OPT/STEM OPT is automatic if the student is eligible, the student will need to apply for an updated I-20 indicating that the OPT/STEM OPT work authorization has been extended through September 30. Please note that students will need to have a pending or approved H-1B petition in order to receive a Cap-Gap I-20. Being selected in the lottery is not the same as a pending or approved H-1B petition and the lottery selection does not trigger a Cap-Gap extension.
Students can apply for the Cap-Gap I-20 by submitting the Cap-Gap Extension I-20 Application and the I-797 Receipt or Approval Notice to [email protected].
The status for dependents of F-1 students with Cap-Gap Extension will automatically have their status extended as well. If applying for the Cap-Gap I-20, an updated I-20 for the F-2 dependents will also be issued.
Please remember that the ISSS processing time for all requests is 10 business days.
F-1 Visa Status while on Cap-Gap Extension
Please note that there is no Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued for Cap-Gap. The Form I-20 serves as evidence of Cap-Gap work authorization.
As the Cap-Gap period is an extension of the OPT/STEM OPT Period, the student must continue to maintain their F-1 visa status until the end of the Cap-Gap extension period. This includes:
continuing to submit 6-month STEM Reports for those on STEM Extension
continuing to abide by the allotment of unemployment days while on OPT or STEM OPT
continuing to update ISSS of any changes to employment or biographical information within 10 days of the change
If the H-1B petition is not approved by the end of the Cap-Gap Extension period, the student is not authorized to work beyond September 30, unless they have other approved work authorization. Please reach out to your immigration attorney for additional information.
Applying for STEM OPT while on Cap-Gap Extension
If the student was authorized for Cap-Gap Extension while on Post-Completion OPT and is eligible to apply for OPT STEM Extension, it is recommended that the student apply for the STEM OPT Extension. If your H-1B application is denied but you have applied and been approved for the STEM OPT extension, you will be able to continue working using your F-1 status. USCIS must receive the OPT STEM Extension application prior to the end date of the Cap-Gap Extension, September 30.
Traveling During the Cap-Gap Period
Any questions related to traveling during the Cap-Gap period should be discussed with your immigration attorney. You can also find out more information related to travel and the Cap-Gap period on the Study in the States website.
Closing the F-1 Student Records
The Cap-Gap Extension period will come to an end on September 30 as the H-1B status will go into effect on October 1. In order to close the student's F-1 Student Record, the student should submit their H-1B Approval Notice to [email protected].
Students on STEM OPT Extension (even if STEM OPT was recently approved during the Cap-Gap Extension period) should submit their entire Form I-983 with a completed Final Evaluation (bottom half of page 5) to [email protected] along with their I-797 Approval Notice.
H-1B Rejections, Denials, or Withdrawals
If the H-1B petition is withdrawn, revoked, or denied, the Cap-Gap extension ends and is no longer valid for employment.
Students whose H-1B petitions have been withdrawn, revoked, or denied, for any reason other than a status violation are allotted the standard 60-day grace period from the date of the rejection notice to either exit the United States, transfer to a new U.S. institution, apply for the change of degree level, or apply for a new change of status.
Study in the States - H-1B Status and the Cap-Gap Extension
USCIS - F-1 Status and Cap-Gap Regulations