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What is the Cap-Gap Extension of OPT?

The "cap-gap" extension is for F-1 students who have been approved for post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) or the STEM Extension of post-completion OPT that is expiring before October 1 in a given year, but who have an offer of H-1B employment from a "cap-subject" US employer. If this applies to you, you may be eligible for  a temporary extension of your OPT (or your grace period) until September 30, before the H-1B authorization goes into effect on October 1.

Eligibility for the Cap-Gap Extension

To qualify for the extension, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You are currently in F-1 status but your OPT or STEM Extension OPT, or the 60-day grace period after your OPT, expires after start of the H-1B filing period on April 1 of each year
  • You have have an offer of employment from an H-1B employer who is considered "cap-subject" (see below)*
  • Your H-1B employer files an H-1B petition for you with USCIS before your OPT or your 60-day grace period expires, requesting authorization to offer H-1B employment to you effective October 1
  • Your employer's H-1B petition to USCIS also requests a change of status for you from F-1 status to H-1B status effective October 1
    • Important: Employers sometimes file H-1B petitions requesting "consular processing," meaning that the employee is expected to depart the US and apply for a new H-1B visa at a US consulate, instead of doing an in-country change of status from F-1 to H-1B status. If your employer filed a "consular processing" H-1B petition for you, you are not eligible for the cap-gap extension, but should prepare to leave the US before the end of your 60-day grace period. Please consult with your employer regarding the difference between the "change of status" and "consular processing" options

*Cap-subject H-1B Employers, Defined: The H-1B visa is a temporary work visa for jobs that require specialized knowledge and skills. However, there is an annual limit or "cap" on the number of H-1B visas that the US government issues each year, starting on October 1. If you are granted a "cap-gap" extension, your OPT and/or your F-1 status will be extended from their expiration date until September 30, covering the "gap" until new H-1B visas are available on October 1.Note that most US employers are subject to the annual cap ("cap-subject") and the cap-gap extension only applies to F-1 students with offers of employment from "cap-subject" employers. However, there are some employers, primarily institutions of higher education (such as Tufts University) that are "cap-exempt" and can sponsor H-1B workers at any time of the year.

Cap-Gap Extension Process

To qualify for a cap-gap extension, several steps must happen

  1. H-1B Electronic Registration: Your "cap-subject" H-1B employer must first submit your name to USCIS during the H-1B electronic registration period. This takes place typically during the month of March. Once USCIS receives all pre-registration requests, they will conduct a lottery. Those employer requests selected through the lottery process will be notified by March 31 that they may proceed with step 2, the H-1 petition filing. If your name is not selected through the electronic registration lottery, you will not qualify for a cap-gap extension.
  2. H-1B Petition Filing: If your name is selected through the pre-registration lottery, your employer will have 90 days from April 1 to submit an I-129 petition to USCIS requesting authorization to offer H-1B employment to you. Your employer may submit a petition for you only if your name was selected through the registration process.
  3. USCIS Receipting: Once USCIS receives the I-129 petition, they will issue a receipt. If you are an F-1 student, your SEVIS record should be updated with your employer's H-1B petition information. Please contact the International Center to request a cap-gap extension I-20. If USCIS receipted the petition but the information is not in the SEVIS record, please contact the International Center at You may be asked to provide a copy of your OPT or STEM Extension EAD card and the USCIS receipt notice confirming that they received your employer's H-1B petition.


  • If your employer submits a petition to USCIS before your OPT expires, you should be eligible for an extension of your OPT authorization until September 30
  • If your employer submits a petition to USCIS after your OPT expires, but before your 60-day grace period expires, you are eligible for an extension of stay until September 30, but not an extension of your employment authorization (i.e., you may stay in the US but you are not permitted to work during the cap-gap extension period)
  • If your employer is not able to submit the H-1B petition to USCIS before your 60-day grace period expires, you are not eligible for any cap-gap extension (of your work authorization or of your permission to stay in the US, even without work authorization)

Cap-Gap Questions