OPT Cap-Gap Extension

What is the Cap-Gap Extension?

The Cap-Gap Extension is an automatic extension of F-1 status and work authorization past the EAD End Date, for students transitioning to an H-1B work visa.

Most employers can file an H-1B cap-subject petition each year on April 1. If USCIS approves the H-1B petition, the H-1B status goes into effect on October 1. The cap-gap extension of F-1 status and work authorization bridges the “gap” between the EAD End Date and September 30, the day before the H-1B goes into effect.

The Designated School Official (DSO) at OIS processes the Cap-Gap Extension I-20 on behalf of the student. In order for the DSO to process a student’s Filed or Waitlisted Cap-Gap Extension, the student must be able to provide proof that the petition has been filed or waitlisted.

Who is eligible?

Current 12-month Post-Completion OPT or 24-month STEM OPT Extension students:

  • In an approved period of F-1 employment with a future EAD End Date, and
  • Who have a properly receipted or approved H-1B application

The H1-B petition must be must be receipted or approved before your EAD End Date has been reached. If your EAD Card expires before the H-1B petition was filed, you will have the standard 60-day grace period after the EAD End Date, but you are not eligible for an extension of work authorization.

How is the Cap-Gap I-20 endorsed to indicate employment authorization?

OIS processes an I-20 that takes into account the different stages of the H-1B selection and adjudication process. The Cap-Gap Extension I-20 contains an endorsement that F-1 status and employment authorization (i.e., OPT or STEM OPT Extension) is automatically extended to September 30 for individuals with an receipted or approved H-1B petition.

During this period, the student can remain in the United States and continue employment with an expired EAD (Employment Authorization Document), per 8 CFR214.2(f)(5)(iv) and 8 CFR274a.12(b)(6)(iv), as updated April 8, 2008 in a rule published in the Federal Register (73 FR 18944).

Additional information about the Cap-Gap Extension can be found on the USCIS website.

How do I apply?

  1. Login to the OPT I-20 Request System
  2. Click “Create A New Request”
  3. Select I-20 Type: Cap-Gap Extension
  4. Complete the Cap-Gap Extension I-20 Request Information
  5. Upload copies of the following documents (PDFs only):
    • Current I-20 (all pages)
    • Current Employment Authorization Document (EAD, front side only)
    • I-797 Receipt Notice for Pending or Approved H-1B petition with a 13-digit Receipt Number (note that an I-797 for Registration Selection does not suffice)
    • Proof of reported OPT/STEM OPT employment – Screenshot of current employment information in SEVP Portal
  6. Submit payment for the $100 Cap-Gap Extension Administration Fee
    • This fee supports OIS services related to maintenance of status throughout the period of application and Cap-Gap Extension employment. Extended services provided to Cap-Gap Extension students include I-20 travel endorsements, review and processing of mandated reports, and continued access to advisors for questions pertaining to your F-1 status and Cap-Gap Extension employment matters. This fee is non-refundable and must be paid upon submission.
  7. Finalize and Submit the Cap-Gap Extension I-20 Request
    • You will receive an email confirming your request was submitted to OIS

How long does OIS take to process the Cap-Gap Extension I-20 Request?

OIS processes completed Cap-Gap I-20 Requests within seven (7) business days from submission.

OIS will reject incomplete submissions. If your submission is rejected, you must resubmit the same previously rejected request with the appropriate corrections, and the seven-business day processing time will restart. You will not need to pay another $100 Cap-Gap Administration fee.

How will I receive the Cap-Gap Extension I-20 from OIS?

Processed Cap-Gap Extension I-20s will be signed and distributed electronically by OIS Designated School Officials (DSOs). Students will be notified by email to download and print their signed Cap-Gap Extension I-20 from the OPT I-20 Request System.

SEVP, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Department of State (DoS) have confirmed they accept I-20s electronically signed by DSOs. Please note only DSOs may electronically sign I-20s; students may not electronically sign any documents submitted to USCIS.

What do I do if my OPT expires and my Cap-Gap Extension request is still pending with OIS?

Please verify that you have received the extension of your work authorization to September 30 in your SEVP Portal account. You may continue working while your Cap-Gap Extension I-20 is pending with OIS.

What happens if I receive the H-1B pending or approval notice from USCIS after my current EAD has expired and I am in the 60-day grace period?

If your OPT authorization is expired and you are in your 60-day grace period when you receive the I-797 receipt for a pending or approved H-1B petition from USCIS, only your F-1 status is extended. Your work authorization is not extended, meaning you can remain in the U.S. to September 30 but you cannot work.

What happens if my H-1B petition is subsequently rejected, denied or revoked during the Cap-Gap Extension period?

Per USCIS, “if an H-1B petition filed for an F-1 student with a cap-gap extension is denied, rejected, revoked, or withdrawn, the student will have the standard 60-day grace period (from the date of the notification of the denial, rejection, revocation, or withdrawal of the petition) to depart the United States.

The 60-day grace period does not apply to an F-1 student whose accompanying change of status request is denied due to a status violation, misrepresentation, or fraud. In such cases, the F-1 student is ineligible for cap-gap extension of status and the 60- day grace period. Similarly, the 60-day grace period and cap-gap extension of status does not apply to an F-1 student whose petition was revoked based on a finding of a status violation, fraud or misrepresentation discovered following approval. In both of these instances, students are required to immediately leave the United States.”

Do OPT/STEM OPT unemployment rules apply to students with a Cap-Gap Extension?

Yes. The 90-day (for post-completion OPT) and 150-day (for STEM OPT) limitation on unemployment continues during the Cap-Gap Extension.

Can I apply for STEM OPT Extension during the Cap-Gap Extension period?

Yes – if you meet all STEM OPT eligibility requirements. USCIS must receive the STEM OPT Extension application before the cap-gap extension period is terminated (by September 30 or by the notice of rejection, denial, or revocation of the H-1B petition). You will be required to pay the $200 STEM OPT Extension Administration Fee.

Does the Cap-Gap Extension also extend my dependent’s F-2 status?

Yes.

May students travel outside the United States during a Cap-Gap Extension period and return in F-1 status?

Per USCIS, “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 an 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.”

Additionally, please consult with your legal counsel regarding international travel during the Cap-Gap Extension period.