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F-1 OPT: Cap Gap Extensions

Many students with a pending or approved H-1B petition are eligible for an automatic extension of their F-1 status and valid OPT work permission. The extension is meant to relieve the burdens to such workers and their US employers, by eliminating any gap in employment authorization and immigration status between F-1 OPT and H-1B Temporary Worker status. This benefit is NOT available for H-1B petitions filed under Consular Notification processing or by cap-exempt employers (including most academic institutions and universities). Only petitions that are filed for a Change of Status from F-1 to H-1B will be eligible for the Cap Gap Extension.

To document the extended F-1 status & OPT period, you may request an updated I-20 listing your new employment dates. All F-1 regulations, including OPT requirements and unemployment limits, remain in effect during the extension period. Please notify the ISO when an H-1B petition is submitted or approved on your behalf.

 

Eligible Extension Period

If your employer has filed your H-1B petition to begin with the new fiscal year (October 1) but your current OPT will expire before then, the validity of a Cap Gap extension will vary with the processing of your H-1B application. If your current OPT authorization will remain valid through October 1st of the upcoming fiscal year, this extension will not be necessary.

Once the H-1B petition is receipted, meaning it has been selected under the quota and an official Receipt Notice is issued, the extension is valid through the end of the fiscal year (Sept. 30th), when an approved H-1B status would then take effect. However, if your petition is properly filed but your OPT will expire before a receipt can be issued, you may be eligible for a temporary extension based on the period when H-1Bs are expected to be assigned under that year's quota. This extension date varies each year, but is usually through early June. Please contact the ISO to discuss your circumstances if needed. In the event that the application is withdrawn or denied, the extension is automatically shortened to 10 days from that action. If your current OPT authorization surpasses your eligible extension period, your OPT remains valid through the approved end date. In all of these scenarios, the standard F-1 grace period of 60 days is available after the work permission expires.

The Cap Gap extension is granted only for the active permissions that were authorized on the day the Change of Status H-1B petition is properly filed. If your OPT is still valid at that time, then your F-1 status and your employment authorization are both extended. However, if your OPT has already expired when the H-1B application is submitted, only your permission to stay in the U.S. during your F-1 grace period will be extended.

 

Documentation of Extension

The Cap Gap extension for OPT takes effect automatically, but the relevant dates will vary by individual and over time. USCIS will NOT issue a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) or other documentation to show that your OPT period has been extended. Instead, students are expected to get an updated I-20 showing that the OPT dates are extended. With appropriate documentation of the status of your H-1B petition, the ISO will request a change to the Duration of Employment listed on the I-20. Such changes must be reviewed and approved through SEVIS and will require sufficient processing before the I-20 can be issued. Keep in mind that any changes to your H-1B application will determine the valid extension date, regardless of what the I-20 shows. F-1 students will need to communicate regularly with their employer to make sure they are aware of the status of their H-1B petition.

To request an updated I-20 reflecting an OPT Cap Gap Extension, please consult the appropriate OPT Reporting Form(s) to notify the ISO of your petition status and provide documentation by email, as needed:

  • Extensions based on a Receipted or Approved H-1B:
    Copy of the I-797 Receipt Notice or Approval Notice
  • Extensions based on a properly filed H-1B petition:
    Letter from the employer stating details of the application & filing date
  • Extensions based on a Wait List application:
    Copy of the USCIS notice of a wait-listed petition