What is H-1B Status?
The H-1B is temporary employment authorization that is used for nonimmigrant individuals in a specialty occupation. In order to become eligible for H-1B status, an employer must sponsor an individual and submit a petition to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Each year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has a limit (cap) of 65,000 new H-1B visas for individuals with a bachelor’s degree or higher being sponsored by a cap-subject employer. 20,000 additional H-1Bs are reserved for individuals with a master’s degree or higher earned at a U.S. college or university. Some H-1B visas are not cap-subject, including but not limited to those employed at institutions of higher education, nonprofit research organizations, or government research organizations. H-1B visas are adjudicated through a randomized system and begin on October 1 for cap-subject employers.
What is the Cap-Gap Extension?
The Cap–Gap Extension is an automatic extension of F-1 status that may be granted to F-1 students who need to “bridge the gap” between the expiration of their OPT/STEM EAD and the start date of their approved H-1B sponsored by a cap-subject employer.
Because new H-1Bs become effective on October 1 of each year, the Cap-Gap Extension allows eligible F-1 students to remain in the U.S. between the expiration of their OPT/STEM Extension and the start of their H-1B.
You can learn more about H-1B status and the Cap-Gap Extension here.
Cap-Gap Extension Eligibility
Please be aware that the responsibility of the Office of Global Services (OGS) regarding H-1B petitions is minimal.
As an F-1 student, you may be eligible for the Cap-Gap extension if:
- You have maintained your F-1 status
- You are the beneficiary of an H-1B petition that was timely filed by an employer that is cap-subject
- The H-1B petition requests a start date of October 1st and a change of status inside the U.S.
- If you have applied for the H-1B via consular processing, you do not qualify for the Cap-Gap Extension.
The Cap-Gap Extension is automatically applied to a student’s SEVIS record. As such OGS is able to provide proof of the extension only if a student has been deemed eligible by USCIS.
If Your H-1B Petition was Filed During Your 60-Day Grace Period:
If your sponsoring employer filed the H-1B petition during your 60-day grace period, your Cap-Gap Extension will allow you to remain in the U.S. until the start date of your H-1B (unless your petition is rejected, denied, or withdrawn). However, your work authorization will not be extended, and you must stop working as of the expiration date on your EAD.
Please Note: Once your SEVIS record completes for the change of status to H-1B, your F-1 status has ended and OGS is not able to “revert” your status back to F-1.
Please allow 10 business days for processing. You will receive your updated I-20 electronically via email.
You can learn more about eligibility for the Cap-Gap Extension here.
How can I Request Proof of my Cap-Gap Extension?
Please fill out this e-form: Cap Gap I-20 Request.
You will need to provide proof of a qualifying “pending” or “approved” H-1B petition. If you are able to do so, OGS will issue you an updated I-20 reflecting your Cap-Gap Extension of status, and extension of OPT/STEM work authorization if applicable.
Can I Apply for the STEM Extension During the Cap-Gap Extension period?
OGS DOES NOT advise students to submit an application for the STEM Extension after the expiration date of your OPT EAD, even when a student has received the Cap-Gap Extension. It is the experience of OGS and other institutions that applications for the STEM Extension have a very high rate of denial when they are submitted to USCIS beyond the OPT EAD expiration date.
If a student chooses to submit an application for the STEM Extension after their Cap-Gap Extension has been applied but before their OPT EAD has expired, 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 (September 30). 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 STEM 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 student’s 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.