A cap-gap extension automatically extends an eligible F-1 student’s status to bridge the gap between the end of OPT (F-1 status) and start of H-1B status. This extension allows a student to remain in the US and continue working during the “gap.”
The cap-gap extension is available to students who, as of April 1, were either on approved OPT or in their 60-day grace period and have a pending or approved change-of-status H-1B petition with USCIS with an October 1 start date.
This cap-gap extension will produce one of two outcomes depending on your individual situation:
• Scenario 1: Extension of your OPT work authorization to September 30. This happens if your approved OPT end date (on your EAD card) is April 1 or later.
• Scenario 2: Extension of your F-1 “duration of status.” If your OPT employment authorization expires before April 1 but your 60-day grace period ends after April 1, you are allowed to stay in the U.S., if you otherwise maintain your F-1 status. Please note: this is just an extension of your status, but you are not authorized to work until the H-1B petition is approved and goes into effect October 1.
Who is eligible for the extension?
Students in all fields of study are eligible for the cap-gap extension as long as the student has not violated the terms or conditions of their F-1 status. To qualify for the extension, the student must be the beneficiary of an H-1B petition that:
1. Has been timely filed (within the acceptance period – after April 1, but before
either the OPT period or 60-day grace period expires)
2. Requests an employment start date of October 1
3. Requests a change-of-status (rather than consular processing)
How do I apply for the cap-gap Extension?
There is no application process for the cap-gap extension. If your H-1B petition has been approved by USCIS, your SEVIS record will automatically be updated to reflect the cap-gap extension and your work authorization will be extended to September 30. However, because of the huge number of applications USCIS receives, it is not likely that a case will be either receipted or adjudicated quickly after April 1.
The Office of Immigration and International Admissions can prepare cap-gap extensions at three different steps as allowed by USCIS and SEVP:
1. When your H-1B case has been filed and you can provide Immigration and International
Admissions with proof of the submission (i.e. delivery confirmation), we can update
the SEVIS system to extend your OPT only to June 1. (Please note that if your OPT
already is valid through June 1, there is nothing to be done at this stage).
2. When you get wait-listed by USCIS and you can provide Immigration and International Admissions with evidence of the wait-listing, we can then extend under cap-gap rules again to July 28. (Please note that if your OPT already is valid through July 28 or later, there is nothing to be done at this stage).
3. Finally, when you get an official receipt notice for your H-1B case, we can process the full cap-gap extension until September 30.
To obtain a cap-gap I-20 from the Office of Immigration and International Admissions, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Cap-Gap Extension” in the subject line. Include the following in the email:
• Full Name
• SEVIS number
• Jag ID number
• Employment start and end date as indicated on your current EAD Card
• Proof of filing (for an extension to June 1), or proof of wait-listing (for an extension to July 28), or scanned copy of I-797 H-1B approval and/or receipt notice (for an extension until September 30)
• Indicate whether you would like to pick up your document or have it mailed to you. We can ship documents to you through an express mail service provided by University Express Mail Services (UEMS) to deliver documents through DHL or FedEx in 3-5 days. Requesting your document delivery through UEMS is at your expense. Your credit card (Visa, MasterCard or Discover cards only) will be charged when requesting the service from UEMS. Otherwise, documents will be sent through regular US Postal Services "snail" mail.
What happens if my H-1B is denied after receiving the cap-gap extension?
If the student’s H-1B sponsorship is denied or withdrawn, the student will have the standard 60-day grace period from the date of the rejection notice to depart the U.S. However, if a denial is based on a discovered status violation, no such grace period exists and the student should leave the U.S. immediately.
What if my OPT expires before April 1st? Will the cap-gap extension extend my OPT?
If your OPT employment authorization expires before April 1, but your 60-day grace period extends beyond April 1, your F-1 status will be extended. Although your F-1 status would be extended, your OPT employment period is expired, and the cap-gap does not serve to reinstate or retroactively grant employment authorization.
You would be required to stop working until October 1. Also, keep in mind that the 90-day unemployment rule remains in full effect during your automatically extended work authorization (if you qualify for extension of work authorization.)
On January 27, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order entitled Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Entry into the United States by Foreign Nationals. Under Section 3(c) of that Executive Order, entry into the United States of "immigrants and nonimmigrants" from 7 countries has been suspended for 90 days from the date the Executive Order was signed, "except for those traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas." The countries listed in the Executive Order are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. This order relates to visa issuance, screening procedures, entry into the U.S., and refugees from these countries.
With this Executive Order, we strongly advise all nonimmigrants (F-1, J-1, H-1B, etc.) and immigrants (Permanent Resident “green card” holders) from these countries to avoid travel outside the U.S. at this time. If you are from one of these countries and must exit the U.S., we encourage you to seek legal guidance before travel. There is currently no indication that your visa status is being questioned while you remain in the United States. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and provide additional details and information as it becomes available. In the meantime, please contact our office with specific inquiries or urgent travel issues.
You are a valued member of the University of South Alabama community and family. South Alabama remains committed to supporting your success. We advise that you continue your studies and employment at USA with the same dedication you have always shown. You are welcome here. We are South!
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