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Cap-Gap Extension of OPT

Each year FHS releases 65,000 H-1B “slots” for professionals in “Specialty Occupations” and an additional 20,000 H-1B slots for professionals who completed a Master’s degree or higher at a U.S. college or university. Since the annual H-1B “Cap” of 85,000 applicants is reached rather quickly, employers must generally submit petitions at the beginning of April to request that the employee they wish to sponsor is considered. DHS accepts H-1B petitions for the first five business days in April and then, if they have received applications in excess of the Cap, they will stop accepting applications and select H-1B applicants based on random visa lottery.

If you are an F-1 Student graduating in May, it would be common for your F-1 Grace Period or your Standard Post-Completion OPT authorization to end over the summer, which is several months prior to the start of H-1B Statuses on October 1.

In order to bridge the gap between the end of your F-1 Status and the beginning of your H-1B status, USCIS offers “Cap-Gap” Extension. If you are in an authorized period of Standard Post-Completion or STEM OPT at the time your employer submits an H-1B petition on your behalf, your employment authorization is automatically extended.
 
You may be eligible for Cap-Gap Extension of F-1 Status and Employment Authorization (i.e. ability to remain in the U.S. and continue working) if:

- You are the Beneficiary of an H-1B petition that was timely filed by a Cap-Subject employer during your authorized period of Standard Post-Completion or STEM OPT, requests your Change of Status to H-1B from within the U.S., and requests an employment start date of October 1 of the next federal fiscal year.
- You are currently maintaining valid F-1 Status and have never in the past violated your F-1 Status.

You may be eligible for Cap-Gap Extension of only F-1 Status (i.e. only the ability to remain in the U.S.) if:

- You are the Beneficiary of an H-1B petition that was timely filed by a Cap-Subject employer after your authorized period of Standard Post-Completion - or STEM OPT, but during your designated F-1 Grace Period, requests your Change of Status to H-1B from within the U.S., and requests an employment start date of October 1 of the next federal fiscal year.
- You are currently maintaining valid F-1 Status and have never in the past violated your F-1 Status.

All Cap-Gap protection ends if the H-1B Petition filed on your behalf is rejected, denied, or withdrawn.
If your employer files an H-1B Petition on your behalf and your F-1 Status and/or Standard or STEM OPT will expire before October 1, it your responsibility to request an I-20 reflecting your “Cap-Gap” Extension authorization. The Immigration Services Office does not automatically receive notification when the H-1B Petition filed on your behalf is received by USCIS.