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Cap-Gap OPT Extension

"Cap-gap" is the period of time between the expiration of your OPT and the October 1 start of an H-1B petition. If you are currently on post-graduate OPT or OPT STEM extension, and your employer is sponsoring you for H-1B status, this page is for you! 

What is Cap-Gap OPT extension?

The “cap” refers to a quota on the number of workers who can receive H-1B status at the beginning of the government's fiscal year: October 1. The cap is currently set at 65,000, plus an additional 20,000 reserved for those with a U.S. master’s degree or higher.

The “gap” is the period of time between the end of your F-1 OPT and the beginning of H-1B status. If you graduated in May, your 12 months of OPT will typically end between mid-May and mid-July, leaving a gap in legal status and authorized employment through September 30.

Unlike OPT STEM extension, the cap-gap extension is for F-1 OPT students in all fields. The cap-gap rule automatically extends F-1 status and, when applicable, extends OPT work authorization.

Cap-Gap Extension is Automatic

The great news is that cap-gap extension of OPT through September 30 is automatic, if you’re eligible. You don’t need to apply for a new EAD or pay a new U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) fee.

You can continue to work during the “gap” period, based on the timely filing of your H-1B petition while your OPT was valid.

Some employers are exempt …

Some employers are exempt from the cap or limit. These employers may apply for an H-1B to start at any time. They are not limited by the October 1 start date, and they are not allowed to take advantage of the cap-gap extension. Email the Office of Global Learning if you have questions about your employer’s status.

Can I travel while my H-1B change of status is pending?

No. Do not leave the United States—for work obligations or any other reason—while you’re waiting for your H-1B change of status to be approved. Leaving the country will make you ineligible for the cap-gap extension. Find out more about travel on OPT.

Eligibility

You must fulfill all of the following requirements to be eligible for a cap-gap extension.

  • You must be on F-1 post-graduate OPT.
  • Your employer must file an H-1B application for you with a “change of status.”
  • You must get a receipt notice.

As long as your H-1B application was filed with a change of status and is part of the H-1B quota, then your OPT is extended through September 30. (The H-1B will start on October 1.) Check with your employer to make sure they filed your H-1B with a change of status.

Extending Your I-9

Your work authorization is automatically extended if your employer files an H-1B application before the end date of your current F-1 OPT. You do not need an I-20 showing this cap-gap extension.

To extend the I-9, your employer should reference the case number listed on the receipt notice of your H-1B application and keep a copy of the cap-gap regulation with the original I-9. Read more information.

How to Request an Updated I-20

You don’t need an I-20 showing your cap-gap extension for your work authorization to be valid—but if you want one anyway, we can help.

We can create an I-20 for you that records your cap-gap extension, if it is shown in your SEVIS record. First, your H-1B petition must be officially received by USCIS, and your SEVIS record automatically updated with that receipt. (Our office is not able to do this update—it is an automated upload from USCIS.)

How to request an updated I-20 ...

 

Next Up: Report Your OPT Employment