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Cap-Gap Extension

by Hamid R. Kashani, Attorney at Law
Nov 07, 2018 (last modified Jan 31, 2019)

Cap-Gap extension serves as a bridge between F-1 and H-1B status. It allows international students who are in F-1 status remain and work in the United States before the start of their H-1B status.

Students usually complete their course of study in May or June, and they are allowed to stay in the country for an additional 60 days (60-Day Grace Period).  On the other hand, H-1B visas (other that the Cap-Exempt H-1B visas) usually become effective on October 1st, which is the beginning the U.S. Government's fiscal year. Thus, a typical F-1 student who is the beneficiary of an H-1B visa would be required to leave the country sometime in July or August and then return on October 1st. Cap-Gap Extension frees affected students from unnecessary travel and visa application overseas.

Cap-Gap Extension is available when

  1. The completion date for the student's program or post-completion OPT is between April 1 and September 30th,
  2. The student has not violated his or her status, and
  3. The student is the beneficiary of a pending or approved, Cap-Subject H-1B petition, which has a starting date of October 1st of the current calendar year, provided the petition requests change of nonimmigrant status in the United States, as opposed to requesting consular processing.

Obviously, students, who are beneficiaries of Cap-Exempt H-1B petitions, do not need Cap-Gap Extension, as they would be able to start their employment immediately and do not need to wait for lottery or October 1 starting date.

An automatic extension of a student's duration of status equally applies to the duration of status of the student's family members holding F-2 status.

Students, whose OPT employment authorization has expired before April 1st and are within their grace periods when their H-1B petitions are filed, will receive an extension of status but no authorization to work until October 1, assuming their H-1B petitions are approved.

Students, who have OPT employment authorizations expiring during the Cap-Gap Extension period, should contact their DSO's to obtain an updated I-120 authorizing their continued employment.

Students in Cap-Gap Extension period should not leave the United States.

When you receive your H-1B approval notice, make an appointment at your local immigration office through the USCIS' Infopass Web Site and request that they stamp the H-1B visa in your passport.

If the H-1B Petition is denied or withdrawn, the student gets a 60-day grace period to leave the United States.

Related Topics:

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

STEM Optional Practical Training (STEM OPT) Extension

Dos & Don'ts for International Students


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