H1B Cap Gap Extension
H1-B Visa allows employers in the US to hire foreign workers from across the world in specialty occupations. Managed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Department (USCIS), it is sponsored by the employer. There is a limit on the number of H-1Bs which are issued by the home department every year and this limit is known as 'H-1B cap'. Generally, students transit from OPT (Optional Practical Training), part of F-1 status, to H-1B status. The new H-1Bs become effective every year from October 1 but the application period for a majority of the employers starts six months early on April 1. The ‘cap gap’ occurs when a student’s F-1 status or OPT expires before their approved H-1B begins on October 1.
The H1-B Cap Gap Extension
Students whose H1-B petitions are pending or approved can stay in the US in F-1 status under the H1-B Cap Gap Extension until the start date of their approved H1-B job period. They are allowed to stay in this status even if their OPT authorization or the grace period for F-1 is expired before October 1.
Eligibility for the cap-gap extension
- In case your employer has filed for an H-1B petition for you on or after April 1 and requests for status change to H-1B from October 1.
- In case you still come under OPT authorization or 60-day grace period after the expiration of your OPT while your employer has submitted the H-1B petition for you.
Candidates’ OPT authorization is extended if their employer had submitted their H-1B petition to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Meanwhile, students can continue with their work in the US under F-1 status until its extension date.
Your F-1 status is extended, if your authorization is expired but you come under 60-day grace period and your employer has submitted your H-1B petition to USCIS. In this case, you can stay in the US through the extension date but cannot work.
Extension Dates for Cap Gap
The length of the extension depends on different phases of the H-1B petition:
Filed: The H-1B petition which is filled properly but not approved or receipted by the concerned authority then your OPT authorization is extended to June 1. Your F-1 status will be extended to June 1 if the OPT authorization expired during your 60-days grace period at the time of your filing.
Approved: Once you receive your H-1B petition approval the OPT authorization will be extended to September 30. You will receive an extension of your F-1 status till September 30 if the OPT authorization expired during your 60-days grace period at the time of your filing.
Selected for receipting: Once your H-1B petition is in the receipting stage, the OPT authorization will automatically be extended to September 30. You will receive an extension of your F-1 status till September 30 if the OPT authorization expired during your 60-days grace period at the time of your filing.
How to Apply
When the employer submits the H-1B petition to USCIS on your behalf, your cap-gap extension of F-1 status starts.
Follow these steps for getting the documentation for F-1 status extension:
First of all, check the SEVP Portal, and submit the OPT Reporting Form if required. Make sure your employment information in SEVIS is up-to-date.
Accumulate all the documents required to upload to the ISS Cap Gap I-20 Request webform. The documents required depends on the status of your H-1B petition.
If the applicant’s H-1B petition is:
Filed: scan or copy of the petition or a copy of the UPS, FedEx, or USPS Express/certified mail receipt.
(If the applicant’s regular OPT authorization is valid from June 1, you need not request for a new I-20 based on H-1B filing. You need to wait for the receipt or approval notice.)
Approved: copy/ scan of the I-797 Notice of Action (Approval Notice)
Selected for receipting: photo/scan of the I-797 Notice of Action (Receipt Notice)
Applicants are required to allow International Student Services (ISS) 10 business days for their request to be processed. The new I-20 certificate issued by the ISS would contain the extension period of their F-1 Student Visa and Optional Practical Training (OPT) authorization, if applicable. Applicants can continue working and remain in the country while awaiting their renewed I-20 certificate, as the extension benefit is automatic.