International Student Cap Gap Extension

A cap-gap 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 start of H-1B status, thereby allowing the student to remain in the US during the "gap." The cap-gap extension is available to students who, as of April 1st (the beginning of each fiscal year) were either on approved OPT or in their 60-day grace period and have a pending or approved change-of-status October 1st H-1B petition with the USCIS that was filed prior to the expiration of their OPT or 60-day grace period.

This does not apply if your employer has filed for consular processing. Your employer may ask you to request an I-20 from OIS. This page explains how to apply for a new I-20 to reflect your “cap gap” extension.

You may be eligible for one of two cap-gap extension benefits:

  • If the employer filed your H-1B (change-of-status) petition and it is received by USCIS prior to your post-completion OPT expiration date, you qualify for an extension of your OPT employment authorization.
  • If the 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.

You must not have violated the terms or conditions of your F-1 status while on OPT. Consult with an OIS advisor if you have any concerns.

How to Apply for Cap Gap I-20

Consult with your attorney or employer in order to ascertain your H-1B petition status. Update your Employer Information and Address to an OIS Advisor.

There are two types of cap-gap extensions:

  • For H-1B petitions that have been filed and receipted
  • For H-1B petitions that have been filed but not receipted

Make an appointment with an OIS advisor and submit the following documents:

  • For a filed H-1B petition but not receipted: Proof of delivery to a USCIS Service Center showing the date of receipt.
  • For a receipted or approved H-1B petition: A copy of the Form I-797 and/or the I-797 receipt number.

Ask your employer or attorney if you are not certain which category you fall into if you are not sure.

Petitions that Have Been Filed and Receipted

If your H-1B (change-of-status) petition has been filed by your employer and receipted by USCIS, you are eligible for an automatic cap-gap extension I-20 through September 30.

Petitions that Have Been Filed but NOT Receipted

If your H-1B (change-of-status) petition has been filed by your employer but not receipted and your OPT expires before June 1 you are eligible for a preliminary cap-gap extension until June 1st.

Processing Time

Processing of “cap gap” I-20s sometimes require a data fix in the SEVIS database, students should allow for a processing time of at least three weeks for an I-20.

Consult with your attorney for guidance regarding any travel outside of the U.S.

If your H-1B is not selected, you 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.