H-1B Cap Gap Extension

USCIS Reaches Fiscal Year 2019 H-1B Cap (April 6, 2018)

About the "Cap Gap"

H-1B is a work visa that is sponsored by an employer. Students commonly transition from Optional Practical Training (OPT) authorization, part of F-1 status, to H-1B status. There are a limited number of H-1Bs available each fiscal year, for most employers, and this limit is often called the "H-1B cap."

New H-1Bs become effective each October 1, but the application period for most employers begins six months earlier, 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.

The 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.

SEVP OPT Cap-Gap Policy Guidance, April 23, 2010

Extension of Post Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) and F-1 Status for Eligible Students under the H-1B Cap-Gap Regulations, Updated May 2016

Eligibility for the Cap-Gap Extension

You are eligible for the cap gap extension if both:

  • Your employer files an H-1B petition on your behalf, on or after April 1, and requests a change of status to H-1B to begin October 1.
  • You are still within your OPT authorization period, or 60-day grace period, when USCIS receives the H-1B petition submitted by your employer (on or after April 1).

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.

Cap-Gap Extension Dates

The length of your cap-gap extension depends on your H-1B petition phase:

  • Filed: If your H-1B petition is properly filed (but not yet receipted or approved), your OPT authorization is extended to June 1. If your OPT authorization already expired but you were in your 60-day grace period at the time of filing, your F-1 status is extended to June 1.
  • Selected for receipting: If your H-1B petition is selected for receipting, your OPT authorization is extended to September 30. If your OPT authorization already expired but you were in your 60-day grace period at the time of filing, your F-1 status is extended to September 30.
  • Approved: If your H-1B petition is approved, your OPT authorization is extended to September 30. If your OPT authorization already expired but you were in your 60-day grace period at the time of filing, your F-1 status is extended to September 30. 

Requesting a Cap-Gap Extension I-20

The cap-gap extension of F-1 status is automatic, and begins when USCIS receives the H-1B petition your employer submitted on your behalf. However, students can request a "Cap-Gap I-20" from their DSO that shows proof of the automatic extension on the 2nd page of their form I-20.

To request a Cap-Gap I-20, send an e-mail to OISSS@tamuk.edu with the following information:

  1. Subject line: Request for Cap-Gap I-20
  2. Attach completed Form ISSS-165, Request for Reprinted I-20.
  3. Attach sufficient proof of your H-1B petition.

If your H-1B petition is:

  • Filed: Attach a copy of the petition and FedEx, UPS, or USPS Express/certified mail receipt to your ISSS adviser. (NOTE: If your regular OPT authorization is valid through June 1, do not request a new I-20 based on H-1B filing only.)
  • Selected for receipting: Attach a copy of the I-797 Notice of Action (receipt notice.)
  • Approved: Attach a copy of your I-797, Approval Notice.

OISSS 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 5 to 7 working days for OISSS 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q:  Can OISSS check my SEVIS record for H1-B application updates?
A:  No. Only your employer can provide accurate, official updates regarding your H1-B application.

If your OPT Authorization expires before October 1, please follow the instructions above to request an updated cap-gap I-20 from OISSS.

Q:  Can the cap-gap extension be extended beyond September 30 if my H-1B petition is still pending?
A:  No. The cap gap extension is only valid until September 30, and cannot be extended further. If the H-1B petition is pending beyond October 1, you can remain in the U.S. based on the pending change of status petition. However, you must stop working until the H-1B petition is approved.

Q:  Will I receive personal notification of my cap-gap extension?
A:  No. You must be in close communication with your petitioning employer or attorney to know the status of your H-1B petition. Once you receive proof of eligibility for the cap gap extension, (i.e. I-797,) you may contact OISSS to request a cap-gap extension I-20, (though it is not required).

Q:  What happens if my H-1B petition is rejected, denied, or revoked?
A:  You will have a 60-day grace period from the date of the notification of the denial, rejection, or revocation, during which time you can make preparations to depart the U.S.

Q:  Can I travel outside the U.S. during a cap gap extension period and return in F-1 status?
A:  OISSS recommends that you consult your immigration attorney before traveling internationally during the cap-gap extension period.

Q:  Does the 90-day limit of unemployment time apply during the cap gap extension period?
A:  Yes, the 90-day limit of unemployment continues during the cap gap extension period.

Q:  Can I apply for the 24-month STEM OPT Extension while I'm within a period of cap-gap extension?
A:  Yes. Students can apply for the 24-month STEM Extension during the cap-gap extension. To request a recommendation for the 24-Month STEM Extension, please see our OISSS-155 form for instructions.

Q:  Are there resources with additional information about the Cap Gap Extension?
A: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides thorough information about the cap-cap extension on their website.

This page was last updated on: April 6, 2018