The H-1B cap gap is the period of time between the end of a student’s employment authorization during OPT, or ability to remain legally in the US during his subsequent grace period, and the beginning of the student’s employment authorization in H-1B status.
An F-1 student currently utilizing his/her post-completion Optional Practical Training may be eligible for the Cap Gap Relief if the student’s for-profit employer has submitted a timely-filed H-1B Change of Status petition on behalf of the student during his/her authorized OPT period. The “cap gap relief rule” extends the authorized period of stay as well as OPT employment authorization for all F-1 students while the petition is pending or once it is approved by USCIS. The automatic extension of status also applies to F-2 dependents of the above mentioned F-1 students.
Exception: Students whose H-1B petitions were filed during the 60-day grace period following the end of OPT will not be eligible to resume OPT work at this time, but may be eligible to remain in the United States until October 1st if the H-1B petition is approved.
NOTE: The “cap gap relief” does not apply to students who obtain H-1B employment with an institution of higher learning, because “not for profit” employers are currently exempt from the H-1B cap and can file H-1B petitions throughout the year with any start date.
Cap Gap Relief Authorization Process
The cap gap extension is automatically granted to all students who meet the above criteria. If you need documentation, in the form of a new I-20, to prove employment eligibility to your employer, you should contact International Student Affairs.
If the H-1B petition information has been recorded in your SEVIS record by USCIS, Cap Gap language will be displayed in your SEVIS record and International Student Affairs can then print a new I-20 for you. This new I-20 will show your extended OPT dates.
Reporting Requirements while on OPT Cap Gap Extension
Students who remain in the United States under the “Cap Gap” regulation remain in F-1 status and must continue to report address changes and employment information to International Student Affairs and SEVIS. Please see Updating Address with DHS .
Travel during Cap Gap
Generally, international travel is not recommended during your Cap Gap period. Please consult with your employer or attorney before making international travel plans during this time.
Duration of Cap Gap
The cap gap extension of status and work authorization terminates on October 1, when the H-1B status begins. Or, if the H-1B petition is denied, the cap gap extension ends upon notification of denial. In this case, the student will have 60 days (from notification of denial) to depart the U.S.