Cap Gap Extension of OPT

The H-1B Cap Gap Extension bridges the gap between the end of F-1 status (including OPT work authorization if applicable) and the start of H-1B status.

The H-1B work visa is an employer-sponsored application on your behalf. To begin the process of applying for H-1B and becoming eligible for an extension of OPT, you must first speak to your employer.

The H-1B Cap is the congressionally-mandated limit on the number of individuals who may be granted initial H-1B status during each fiscal year. The cap is currently set at 65,000 plus 20,000 more for those with higher degrees (U.S. masters’ degree or higher). Employees who will work at institutions of higher education or a related or affiliated nonprofit entities, or at nonprofit research organizations or governmental research organizations are exempt from the fiscal year cap.

The H-1B Fiscal Year for Cap-Subject employers runs from October 1 to September 30 each year. An F-1 student graduating in the spring semester with the standard 12 months of Post-Completion OPT will have work authorization which expires in June or July of the following year, leaving a gap in work authorization until October 1 when H-1B status can begin.

The Cap Gap Extension of OPT (extended through September 30 of the current same year) is granted if an H-1B petition has been filed by a Cap-Subject employer on the student’s behalf before the current period of OPT expires. The first day to file for H-1B is April 1.

To be eligible for the Cap Gap Extension, students who have less than 12 months of Post-Completion OPT remaining after using some Pre-Completion OPT prior to graduation will need to be sure that their Post-Completion OPT is still valid on April 1. We recommend counting backwards from April 1 to determine your OPT start date.

If your OPT expires before April 1 and you are in a valid 60-day grace period on the day your H-1B petition is filed by your employer, your lawful F-1 status is in the U.S. is extended to October 1 (but you will NOT have  authorization during the gap period.

Work authorization on Cap Gap is valid until September 30 unless the H-1B petition is denied, withdrawn or revoked.

Evidence of work authorization for the extended period is reflected on a new I-20. A new Employment Authorization Card (EAC) will NOT be issued for Cap Gap Extension. To request a new I-20 from the Glavin Office,  email with the subject "Cap Gap I-20" and attach your H-1B receipt notice or approval notice.

Travel during the Cap Gap Extension is not advisable. A valid (unexpired) Employment Authorization Card (EAC) is required for re-entry into the U.S. during the OPT period, and a new EAC will NOT be issued as part of the Cap-Gap extension. Students are strongly advised not to depart the U.S. until they qualify for travel and re-entry in H-1B status.