You're an F-1 student and you're excited that your H-1B Cap case got filed! Then you realize that your F-1 OPT status is able to expire in July. Oh no! What are you supposed to do? You search online and one of the first hits you see is something called the Cap-Gap. What the heck is a Cap-Gap and how will that help me in my situation? Let's take a look below:
What is the Cap-Gap?
Let’s first go over what the Cap-Gap is. The Cap-Gap provides for automatic extensions of the F-1 status for certain students to bridge the gap between the end of their student OPT status and the start date of their approved H-1B employment. October 1st is the earliest date a cap-subject H-1B employee may start working in H-1B status. However, due to the typical academic calendar, many students’ F-1 status and OPT authorization expire around the summertime. Therefore, the Cap-Gap rule was issued to allow these students to continue to stay in the US while their H-1B petition is pending and adjudicated.
F-1 students who have entered the 60-day grace period are not employment-authorized. If an H-1B cap-subject petition is filed on the behalf of a student who has entered the 60-day grace period, the student will receive the automatic extension of his or her F-1 status, but will not become employment-authorized since the student was not employment-authorized at the time H-1B petition was filed.
If the student’s H-1B petition is denied, withdrawn, revoked, or is not selected, the student will have the standard 60-day grace period from the date of the rejection notice or their program end date, whichever is later, to prepare for and depart the US.
Who’s Eligible for the Cap-Gap?
F-1 students who filed an H-1B Change of Status petition in a timely manner and are on authorized OPT on the date USCIS receives the petition are automatically eligible for the Cap-Gap extension of their OPT. A change of status petition is filed for someone currently in the US on another US status such as the F-1 who is looking to change to H-1B status. This would allow the student to continue working from the time their OPT expires to September 30th, the day before their H-1B is activated.
How Do I Get a New I-20 After My H-1B Cap Petition is Filed?
Students should contact their designated school official (DSO) to request for a new I-20 to reflect the extended OPT permission to work until September 30th. The student should provide the DSO with a copy of the petition, proof of mailing, or receipt notice.
What Other Options Do I Have Besides the Cap-Gap?
F-1 students who have a degree in the field of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) are eligible for an OPT extension. In addition to the 12-month OPT period after graduation, those with a STEM degree may also apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion OPT employment authorization. However, if their H-1B petition is not accepted into the lottery, is revoked, withdrawn, or denied and the student has entered the 60-day grace period, the STEM extension cannot be filed. It is recommended for F-1 students to apply for the OPT extension if they qualify!
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