The number of people who can obtain the H-1B status is regulated by a numerical limit, or “cap”, each fiscal year.
NOTE: Institutions of higher education or their affiliated or related nonprofit entities, as well as nonprofit and government research organizations, are exempt from the H-1B cap. They can file H-1B petitions at any time of the year and are not subject to the numerical limit. Cap-exempt employers may plan in advance to avoid any gap between OPT and the H-1B status begin date. Since they are exempt from the cap, the information below does not apply.
If a person's H-1B is subject to the cap, and if that person's OPT expires before September 30, the time in between the EAD expiration and October 1 is called the “cap gap.”
If you meet all of the following eligibility criteria, you may be entitled to an extension of F-1 status and employment eligibility to cover the “cap gap” period:
The cap-gap extension of status and work authorization ends on October 1, when the H-1B status begins. The automatic extension of status also applies to your F-2 dependents.
NOTE: If conditions 1-4 above are true but the H-1B petition was filed in the 60-day grace period following the end of your OPT, you are not eligible for the “cap gap” extension of employment eligibility. You may still be eligible to remain in the United States until October 1 if the H-1B petition is approved. Consult the immigration attorney for your employer for information about this scenario.
Additional information can be found at Extension of Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) and F-1 Status for Eligible Students under the H-1B Cap-Gap Regulations Questions and Answers
If you meet eligibility criteria 1-5 above, the cap gap extension of F-1 status and employment eligibility is automatic.
After the H-1B Receipt Notice comes and before your EAD expires, you are encouraged to request an I-20 reprint showing the cap gap information.
Generally, you should wait to request the Cap-Gap Extension I-20 until you have the H-1B Receipt Notice.
Before requesting the Cap-Gap Extension I-20, please check your SEVP Portal to make sure your employer information is up to date.
To request your Cap Gap Extension I-20, proceed to the I-20 Request Form.
Remember, CIE is simply reprinting the I-20 for you. If USCIS and SEVIS have made the proper updates, processing time is the same as for any other reprint (3-5 business days).
NOTE: Unfortunately, sometimes USCIS and/or SEVIS fail to make the proper updates to a student's SEVIS record. In this case, it may become necessary for an International Student Advisor to intervene on your behalf by filing a “data fix” ticket with SEVIS Help Desk. The Help Desk must process the data fix before CIE can produce your Cap Gap Extension I-20; their processing time can range from weeks to months. If a data fix is necessary, the International Student Advisor who receives your I-20 Extension request will inform you and maintain communication with you.
Reporting Requirements During Cap-Gap Extension Period
Students who remain in the U.S. under the “Cap Gap” regulation remain in F-1 status and must continue to report:
What if the H-1B Petition is Denied?
If your H-1B petition is denied, the “cap gap” extension of employment eligibility will immediately terminate.
After an H-1B petition with Change of Status is filed, consult your employer's immigration attorney about all international travel, whether or not your EAD is expired.
If your EAD is expired, you will not be able to re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status.
You may consult your employer's attorney about whether and when you may be eligible to re-enter the U.S. in H-1B status.