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H-1B Cap-Gap Extension

UPDATE: Review March 29, 2021 Cap Gap Extension Update.

A DSO no longer has the option to manually extend Cap-Gap for applications that are “waitlisted", "filed", or modify previously extended records that have been “rejected” cap-gap.


A cap-gap extension automatically extends an eligible F-1 student’s status to bridge the gap between the end of OPT (F-1 status) and the start of H-1B status, thereby allowing the student to remain in the US. 

The cap-gap extension is available to F-1 students who were either on approved OPT or in their 60-day grace period and have a pending or approved change of status H-1 petition with USCIS.

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


Eligibility for Cap-Gap Extension 

F-1 students in all fields of study are eligible for the cap-gap extension as long as the following items are all applied to the student:

  • I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker must be timely filed* for the student by the employer.
  • The employer must be subject to H-1B CAP (check with your employer or immigration lawyer).
  • The employment start date must be October 1.
  • Student must receive a USCIS Receipt/Approval Notice or any other evidence as a proof of I-129 filing.
  • Student must maintain their F-1 visa status and must not accrue more than 90 days of unemployment during the Post-Completion OPT.

*Timely filed: An H-1B petition was filed during the H-1B acceptance period, while the student’s authorized duration of status (D/S) admission was still in effect, including any period of time during the academic course of study, any authorized periods of post-completion OPT, and the 60-day departure preparation period, commonly known as the grace period.


Outcome for Cap-Gap Extension

A cap-gap extension will produce one of two outcomes, depending on your situation:

1. Extension of your OPT work authorization and F-1 visa status until September 30

This happens if your OPT end date on your EAD card is April 1 or later. If your H-1B petition is rejected, denied or withdrawn, you will have the 60-day grace period from the date of the rejection notice to depart the US. However, if a denial is based on a discovered status violation, no such grace period exists and the student must leave the US.

2. Extension of your F-1 status until September 30, without work authorization

This happens if your OPT expired before April 1. In this case, you are not authorized to work until the H-1B petition is approved and goes into effect on October, 1. If your H-1B petition is rejected, denied, or withdrawn, you will have the 60-day grace period from the date of the rejection notice to depart the US. However, if a denial is based on a discovered status violation, no such grace period exists and the student must leave the US immediately.


How to Apply for an Cap Gap Extension I-20

In order to receive a Cap-Gap I-20 Form from the International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), please complete New OPT I-20 Request Form and select the option that states, "".

Update: March 26, 2021 - DSOs no longer have the option to manually apply a Cap Gap Extension to a student's I-20.

See more information from Study in the States: If the cap gap extension is not automatically added via the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) interface, DSOs must request the extension via SEVP Resource Center (SRC) after the Form I-129 has been receipted by USCIS.


Frequently Asked Questions:

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  • Please check with your employer on your application status.

  • Please check with your employer on your Change of Status approval status.

  • If the student’s H-1B is denied, the student will have the standard 60-day grace period from the date of the rejection notice to depart the US. However, if a denial is based on a discovered status violation, no such grace period exists and the student must leave the US immediately.

  • If a decision has not been made on a student’s H-1B petition by the end of the Cap-Gap extension (September 30) then the student is not permitted to continue working after September 30th unless the student has approved STEM OPT. Continuing to work after September 30th without STEM OPT or H-1B approval is unlawful.

  • Although your F-1 status would be extended, your OPT employment period is expired, and the cap-gap does not serve to reinstate or retroactively grant employment authorization. You would be required to stop working until October 1.

  • Please check with your employer to see if your employer has received the I-797 Notice of Action Receipt Letter from USCIS. Once your employer has received it, please complete the New OPT I-20 Request Form to receive the cap-gap I-20. If you have timely filed you may be eligible for a manual extension to Cap Gap.

  • When your request is approved, the outcome (either F1 extension of stay or both employment eligibility and F1 extension of stay) will be noted on page 2 of your I-20. The program end date listed on the first page of your I-20 will remain unchanged.

  • An F-1 student may generally travel abroad and seek readmission to the United States in F-1 status during a cap-gap period if:

    1. The student’s H-1B petition and request for change of status has been approved;
    2. The student seeks readmission before his or her H-1B employment begins(normally at the beginning of the fiscal year on October 1); and
    3. The student is otherwise admissible.

    Please note that even if a F-1 student meets all of the requirements listed above, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer always makes the final determination on whether to admit an application for admission after inspecting you at a port-of-entry. Applicants may refer to the DHS Study in the States page for a list of the documents needed to confirm eligibility for F-1 status.

  • Receipt of an H-1B Registration Selection Notice does not qualify an F-1 student for a cap-gap extension.

    Federal regulations stipulate that an F-1 student may receive an extension of their authorized period-of-stay or employment authorization if the student is a beneficiary of a filed H-1B petition seeking a change of status with a start date of Oct. 1. Employers who receive an H-1B Registration Notice have 90 days to file a Form I-129, “Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker,” requesting a change of status to H-1B on behalf of the worker. An F-1 student can avail themselves of the cap-gap extension only after the employer files the petition.

    Petitions requesting a status change via consular processing do not qualify for cap-gap relief.

  • On March 26, 2021, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) revised Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) functionality to accommodate changes in the H-1B process.

    SEVIS has been modified to automatically add cap-gap extensions to records of eligible F-1 students whose H-1B petition was receipted by USCIS.

    A DSO no longer has the option to manually extend Cap-Gap for applications that are “waitlisted", "filed", or modify previously extended records that have been “rejected” cap-gap.

    As a reminder, a DSO cannot submit a data fix ticket to add cap-gap extension until you receive the I-797 Notice of Action Receipt Letter from USCIS.

  • If the cap gap extension is not automatically added via the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) interface, DSOs must request the extension via SEVP Resource Center (SRC) after the Form I-129 has been receipted by USCIS.

    Be prepared to provide the I-797 Notice of Action Receipt Letter from USCIS so a DSO can request SRC to add the cap gap extension to your SEVIS record.