What is the Cap Gap?
The Cap Gap Extension is an automatic extension of work authorization that may be granted to F-1 students who need to “bridge the gap” between the expiration of their OPT EAD and the start date of their approved H-1B (a work visa that is sponsored by an employer). 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 on April 1. The Cap Gap occurs when a student’s F-1 status and/or OPT expire before their approved H-1B begins on October 1.
Cap gap extension eligibility
Please be aware that the responsibility of the Office of Global Services (OGS) regarding H-1B petitions is minimal. OGS is able to issue a cap gap extension I-20 to students in the following cases:
If your H-1B application was properly filed but no response has been received from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS):
- If your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card expires before June 1, OGS can extend your OPT authorization in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) until June 1.
- Once your H-1B application is officially accepted by USCIS to be reviewed and you receive a receipt, you can submit a new cap gap I-20 Request for an OPT authorization extension through September 30.
- If your EAD card does not expire before June 1, your cap gap extension will not be available in SEVIS until your application has been accepted and receipted by the USCIS. (Please fill out the e-form when you have received a receipt from the USCIS).
If your H-1B application was selected for wait-listing:
- If your EAD card expires before July 28, OGS can extend your OPT authorization through July 28. Once your H-1B application is accepted by the USCIS and you receive a receipt, please refill out the e-form to receive an I-20 with OPT authorization extension through September 30
If your H-1B application was approved or selected for processing (receipted):
- If your EAD card expires between April 1 and September 30, OGS can issue a cap gap I-20 with an OPT authorization extension)
- If your H-1B application was denied, your cap gap extension ends 10 days after the date of denial
Please allow 10 business days for processing. You will receive an email when your I-20 is available for pick-up.
How to apply for a cap gap I-20
Please fill out the e-form: Cap Gap I-20 Request.
Applying for STEM OPT during the Cap Gap Extension Period
Students may be eligible to apply for the 24-month STEM OPT extension during their period of Cap Gap extension.
If a student chooses to submit an application for the STEM Extension after their Cap Gap Extension has been applied, they are advised to also submit a letter to USCIS informing them of the date discrepancy that may exist between the actual OPT end date and the Cap Gap Extension end date. The letter should advise the adjudicators at USCIS that if the STEM Extension is approved, it must be approved based on the actual OPT end date, not based on the end date of the Cap Gap Extension. Please email [email protected] to request this letter template.
If a student decides to continue on their 24-month extension rather than changing to H-1B, they must ensure that the employer requests the withdrawal of the H-1B petition prior to October 1. If this is not done, the H-1B status will begin on October 1 and the students eligibility for the STEM OPT extension will be cancelled.
If a student decides to change to H-1B and not proceed with the STEM OPT extension application, the student should send a letter to the USCIS, requesting that the STEM application is withdrawn.