Cap-Gap Extension 

F-1 students who are the beneficiaries of an H-­1B petition subject to the cap on the number of H-1B petitions accepted by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in a given year (65,000), cannot begin employment until the beginning of the next fiscal year (October 1st).

The cap-gap extension bridges the gap between the end of F-1 status and the start of H-1B status on October 1st, allowing the student to remain in F-1 status until September 30th. If the student is in a period of authorized post-completion OPT on the date the student becomes eligible for the cap-gap extension, the student’s post-completion OPT employment authorization is also automatically extended.

Eligibility Requirements

The student must be the beneficiary of an H-1B petition that:

  • is subject to the annual cap
  • was timely filed
  • requests an employment start date of October 1st of the following fiscal year
  • requests a change of status within the U.S.

The student must maintain the terms or conditions of his or her F-1 status.

Basic Provisions

The student becomes eligible for the cap-gap extension on the date USCIS receives from the prospective employer a properly filed Form I-129 for an H-1B petition, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, naming the student as a beneficiary of the petition. This receipt date is known as the eligibility date and is indicated on the receipt notice sent to the employer from USCIS.

The cap-gap extension applies in the following situations:

  • Extension of F-1 Status: For eligible F-1 students who had no work authorization as of the eligibility date, the cap-gap extension starts at the end of their grace period and ends September 30th unless the H-1B petition for the student is rejected, denied, or withdrawn. These students will not be granted work authorization during the extension period. This includes students whose OPT expired prior to the eligibility date.
  • Extension of F-1 OPT Employment Authorization: For eligible F-1 students with active post-completion OPT on the eligibility date, the cap-gap extension starts the date the student’s original OPT expires and ends September 30th. These students are granted work authorization during the extension period. If the H-1B petition for the student is rejected, denied, or withdrawn, the employment authorization ends ten (10) days after such action. Students are allowed a 60-day grace period from the date of the H-1B rejection, withdrawal or denial.
  • Due to the complexities involved, students will receive cap-gap extensions in increments as the petition goes through the steps of filing, receipting, and adjudication at USCIS. The timelines below are approximate dates and intended for informational purposes only. For specific dates of the current fiscal year please contact ISSS.
  • A student who is the beneficiary of a properly filed H-1B petition will have his or her OPT extended to the beginning of June. An additional 60-day grace period will extend their valid F-1 status to August
  • A student who is the beneficiary of a wait-listed H-1B petition will have his or her OPT extended to late July. An additional 60-day grace period will extend valid F-1 status to late September
  • A student who is the beneficiary of a receipted or approved H-1B petition will have his or her OPT and F-1 status extended to September 30.

Request Procedure

Neither ISSS nor students will receive notification of cap-gap extensions from USCIS.  Therefore, students whose grace period or F-1 OPT will expire before October 1st, and who wish to obtain proof of continuing F-1 status or continuing F-1 OPT, should request a new Form I-20 from ISSS by:

  1. Contacting the employer to request copies of documentation demonstrating the receipt and/or approval of the H-1B petition filed on the student’s behalf. Examples of acceptable documentation include a copy of the USCIS receipt/approval notice (Form I-797) or a copy of the USCIS “wait list” letter to the employer.
  2. Submitting these documents online through the Cap-Gap Extension Request.

The student’s SEVIS record is supposed to be automatically updated by USCIS to reflect the cap-gap extension; however, the update does not always appear in SEVIS as it should. Therefore if a new I-20 is requested by a student in this situation, ISSS will need to request a correction to the student’s SEVIS record, which can take 2-3 weeks to be approved by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program. After the correction is approved in SEVIS , ISSS will issue a new Form I-20 to the student.

The cap-gap extension will be terminated before September 30th if the H-1B petition is withdrawn or denied. Students will not be directly notified by USCIS of a withdrawn or denied H-1B petition, so they must remain in contact with the sponsoring employer and their ISSS advisor. It is the student’s responsibility to check regularly on the status of his or her H-1B petition. 

Travel

ISSS strongly recommends that students not depart the U.S. during the period of their cap-gap extension until they qualify for travel in H-1B status.

Students are encouraged to contact ISSS with questions relating to the cap-gap, eligibility requirements and documentation procedures.