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Cap-Gap Extension

The Cap-Gap Extension is a provision that allows certain F-1 students with pending or approved H-1B petitions to extend their stay in the United States and continue their employment authorization until the start of their H-1B status, which typically begins on October 1st of the fiscal year for which the H-1B petition was approved.


The term “cap-gap” refers to the period between the expiration of an F-1 student’s Optional Practical Training (OPT) employment authorization and the start of their approved H-1B status. This gap often occurs when an F-1 student’s OPT expires before their H-1B status begins on October 1st, due to the annual cap on H-1B visas and the timing of the H-1B application process.


Under the Cap-Gap Extension, eligible F-1 students with pending or approved H-1B petitions are granted an automatic extension of their F-1 status and work authorization until September 30th. This extension allows them to remain in the United States and continue working for their OPT employer or STEM OPT employer while their H-1B petition is pending or until their H-1B status becomes effective on October 1st.


To qualify for the Cap-Gap Extension, the F-1 student must have an H-1B petition filed on their behalf while they are still in a valid period of OPT or STEM OPT, and the petition must request a change of status to H-1B. The student’s OPT employment authorization is automatically extended until September 30th under the Cap-Gap Extension once USCIS receives the H-1B petition.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a cap-gap extension in the context of immigration?

A cap-gap extension is a provision that allows certain F-1 students who have filed for H-1B status to extend their F-1 status and any current employment authorization until the start of their approved H-1B employment period.

Who is eligible for a cap-gap extension?

F-1 students who are the beneficiaries of timely-filed H-1B petitions requesting an employment start date of October 1 of the current fiscal year are eligible for a cap-gap extension if their OPT (Optional Practical Training) authorization is set to expire between April 1 and September 30 of the current year.

How does the cap-gap extension affect an F-1 student's work authorization?

The cap-gap extension allows an eligible F-1 student to continue working under their OPT authorization until September 30 or until their H-1B petition is rejected, denied, or revoked, whichever comes first. This extension bridges the gap between the end of OPT and the beginning of approved H-1B employment.

How does an F-1 student apply for a cap-gap extension?

F-1 students do not need to apply separately for a cap-gap extension. It is automatically triggered upon the timely filing of an H-1B petition by the student's employer. The student's designated school official (DSO) will receive a notification indicating the extension of the student's OPT authorization.

Can an F-1 student travel internationally during the cap-gap extension period?

Generally, international travel during the cap-gap extension period is not recommended as it may interrupt or complicate the H-1B processing. If an F-1 student with a pending H-1B petition must travel internationally, they should consult with their immigration attorney and DSO to assess the potential impact on their immigration status and reentry to the United States.
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