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"Cap Gap" OPT

What is Cap-Gap OPT?

A Cap Gap OPT extension is a regulatory provision which extends an eligible F-1 student's status to bridge the gap between the end of F-1 status and the start of H-1B status and allows the student to remain in the US during the "gap."

You may be eligible for one of two cap-gap extension benefits:
  • If your employer filed your H-1B (change of status) petition and it is received by USCIS before your post-completion OPT expiration date, you qualify for an extension of your OPT employment authorization.
  • If your employer filed your H-1B (change of status) petition and it is received by USCIS after your post-completion OPT expires but during your 60 day grace period following OPT, your F-1 status and permission to remain in the US are extended but you are not eligible to work.

Requesting Cap Gap OPT

Students who apply for Cap Gap have to meet the following conditions:
  • OPT is expiring after April 1
  • The employer has a timely filed H-1B application
  • The student has a copy of the H-1B I-797C Notice of Action (Receipt Notice)

If you meet these conditions, Cap Gap OPT should automatically be added to a student's SEVIS record when the Change of Status application is submitted.  You can request an updated I-20 showing your Cap Gap OPT by completing the following steps:
  1. Log in to the ISSS Portal
  2. Navigate to Tab 4
  3. Complete the Cap Gap OPT I-20 Request



  • What happens if my H-1B is denied after applying for the Cap-Gap Extension?
    • If the student's H-1B is not selected, the student will have the standard 60-day grace period from the date of the rejection notice to depart the US, transfer the I-20 to a new program, or apply for a change of status. However, if a denial is based on a discovered status violation, no such grace period exists and the student must leave the US immediately.
  • Can I travel during a Cap-Gap Extension period and still return with my OPT I-20 and EAD?
    • You may travel provided the following are true:
      • you have a valid F-1 visa at the time of re-entry
      • you have an I-20 that reflects the cap-gap benefit and has a travel signature (no older than 6 months)
      • the H1-B petition filed on your behalf has been approved BEFORE you travel
    • IMPORTANT: Per Department of Homeland Security policy, an applicant who departs to U.S while a change of status application is pending is considered to have abandoned the application.
  • What if my OPT expires before April 1st? Will the preliminary or automatic Cap-Gap Extension extend my OPT?
    • Although your F-1 status would be extended if you are in your 60-day grace period when the petition is filed, your OPT employment authorization period has expired, and the cap-gap does not serve to reinstate or retroactively grant employment authorization. Your legal status to remain in the U.S. in F-1 status is extended, but you are required to stop working until your H-1B goes into effect on October 1st.
  • What do I do if I am eligible for Cap-Gap and ISSS discovers that the SEVIS system has not been updated by USCIS to reflect my pending H-1B petition?
    • If ISSS checks your SEVIS record and finds that cap-gap has not automatically been applied, then we will have to request a data fix from the SEVIS Help Desk. In these cases, we will have to submit a copy of your EAD card, your H-1B Receipt Notice or your H-1B Approval Notice.
  • What if my original OPT expires and my Cap-Gap Extension data fix is still pending with SEVIS Help Desk?
    • Your post-completion OPT is automatically extended, whether you apply for the cap-gap extension I-20 or not. Therefore, you are allowed to continue working with your employer while the cap-gap extension data fix is pending. Also, keep in mind that the 90-day unemployment rule remains in effect during your automatically extended work authorization.
  • What If my employer has filed for H-1B and I have a Cap Gap in place, but I want to also apply for STEM OPT and my degree is STEM Eligible?
    • It is highly encouraged for students to apply for STEM OPT, if eligible, even if the employer has filed for H-1B, as the likelihood of USCIS approval for STEM OPT is much great than USCIS approval for H-1B. Students on Post Completion OPT who have a receipted H-1B application at USCIS will have an OPT end date of September 30th.
    • Note: Functionality in the SEVIS system will only then allow the DSO to recommend STEM OPT with a false start date of October 1st. The DSO should also attach a letter detailing the correct dates for STEM OPT recommendation, i.e. Start Date for STEM = day after post-completion OPT originally ended, End State for STEM =24 months from original post-completion OPT end date.