Cap Gap Extension

The cap gap extension is a period in which an eligible F-1 student’s status is automatically extended to bridge the gap between the end of F-1 status and the start of H-1B status. If the student is in a period of authorized post-completion OPT on or after the date the H-1B petition is received by USCIS, the student’s post-completion OPT is also automatically extended.

To Qualify for the H-1B Cap Gap Extension

The student must be the beneficiary of an H-1B petition that

  • is subject to the annual H-1B cap;
  • is timely filed (before your F-1 status expires);
  • requests an employment start date of October 1; AND
  • requests a change of status (instead of consular notification)

The student must not have violated terms or conditions of his/her F-1 status.  The cap gap extension applies to all F-1 students regardless of their major.

Other Guidance

  1. The cap gap extension starts when the student’s current period of F-1 status ends, regardless of whether the student was in a period of OPT.
  2. The extension is granted automatically at no cost.
  3. It is the student’s responsibility to request a new I-20.
  4. Cap gap extension is terminated if the H-1B petition is rejected, denied, or revoked.  However, the student would have a grace period after the termination during which he/she is authorized to remain in the U.S. for up to 60 days to prepare for departure from the U.S., change degree level, transfer, change status, etc., as long as the student has not otherwise violated status.  Employment is not permitted during the 60-day grace period if the application is rejected or revoked.  Employment is only permitted for 10 days after the date of a denial or withdrawal.
  5. Students will not be personally notified by DHS when an H-1B is withdrawn or denied.  The student must remain in contact with the sponsoring employer to check regularly on the status of the H-1B application.
  6. The 90-day limitation on unemployment continues during the cap gap extension for those granted an extension of OPT.
  7. During the cap gap extension, all students must continue with post-comp OPT reporting requirements for any change of address, name, or interruption of employment (as appropriate).
  8. Duration of status also extends to F-2 dependents.

Length of Cap Gap Extension

if I-129 isOPT Extension UntilF-1 Status Extension Until
Properly FiledJune 1

June 1, if duration of status extension only.

August 1, if OPT extension also applies.

Selected and ReceiptedSeptember 30September 30
Denied or Withdrawn10 days after date of withdrawal or denial60 days after date of withdrawal or denial


Denial or Withdrawal of H-1b petition

If your H-1B petition is denied or withdrawn during the cap gap extension period, you must:

  • Terminate OPT on the proper date (See above chart)
  • Leave the U.S. upon expiration of grace period or take other steps to maintain status

If your H-1B petition is denied or withdrawn prior to the original OPT end date, then you may continue on OPT until that original end date, followed by a 60-day grace period.

Travel Outside the U.S. During Cap Gap Extension

SEVP strongly recommends that students do not travel outside the U.S. during the cap gap extension.  USCIS may consider the change of status application to H-1B abandoned and could deny the application.  Also, regulations require a student on OPT to have an unexpired work authorization document (EAD) to be admissible to return to the U.S.  During the cap gap extension, students will not have a valid EAD to carry and may have trouble re-entering the U.S.

How to Request a Cap Gap Extension I-20

Log into iHawk and complete the "Cap Gap Extension I-20 Request" E-Form under "F-1 Practical Training".