OPT Cap Gap Extension

What is the H-1B Cap?

The H-1B is an employment-based visa. Your employer may decide to sponsor you so that you can continue to work for them after your OPT or STEM OPT. In this case, they will assist you in applying for an H-1B visa. There is, however, a limit to the number of H-1B visas that the government will give each year. This is the H-1B Cap.

For H-1B purposes, the fiscal year runs from October 1 to September 30. The H-1B Cap is currently set at 65,000 (+20,000 for U.S. higher degree holders). Currently, there is a pre-registration process for cap subject petitions in March each year and only registered cases selected in the lottery (if any) can file an H-1B petition. If your registration is selected, your employer could file an H-1B petition on your behalf between April 1st and June 30th requesting an October 1st H-1B start date. Universities and colleges are exempt from the cap, and are not subject to the same restrictions as private sector employers.

What is the Cap Gap Extension?

The H-1B cap-gap occurs when your cap-subject employer files an H-1B petition on your behalf, but your F-1 OPT/STEM OPT work authorization will expire before the H-1B begins on October 1. The Cap Gap Extension is an extension of your OPT or STEM OPT which allows you to continue working while the H-1B is pending. 

For example, if your OPT ends on May 30, but your H-1B will not begin until October 1, there would be a gap in work authorization from May 30 (end of OPT) and October 1 (start of H-1B). This period is known as the “cap gap.”

If your employer has filed your cap-subject H-1B registration, it has been selected and your employer files an H-1B petition before your EAD expiration, you would be eligible for cap-gap, and your stay may be extended to September 30 (day before H-1B would begin). 

Things to keep in mind: 

  • Your H-1B petition must have been filed on the basis of change of status, not consular processing.
  • If you are on active OPT when your H-1B petition was filed, your OPT authorization automatically extends and you may continue to work to September 30.
  • If you are in your 60-day grace period when your H-1B petition was filed, your legal stay is extended to September 30. You will not have work authorization, however, until your H-1B becomes effective.
  • If your H-1B petition is rejected or denied, and your OPT EAD has already expired, you will begin your 60-day grace period. You must immediately stop working.
  • Your OPT Cap-Gap extension lasts only through September 30. If your H-1B is still pending on October 1, you must stop working until the H-1B is approved and becomes effective.
  • If your H-1B petition is not subject to the cap, you are not eligible for the OPT Cap-Gap Extension. Your H-1B must become effective no later than the day after your OPT expires in order to maintain your employment authorization.

How to Request a Cap Gap I-20

Provide OISA with a copy of your H-1B receipt or approval notice (I-797). 


Study in the States - H-1B Status and the Cap Gap Extension