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H-1B Cap Gap

Each year, the U.S Department of Homeland Security allots a specific number of H-1B visas for professionals in specialty occupations and with a specific educational level for an October 1st start date. Since the limit is reached quickly, employers are required to submit applications at the beginning of April to request a visa number for the employee they wish to sponsor. Once the number of H-1B applications reaches the limit, USCIS stops accepting applications and selects H-1B visa applicants based on a visa lottery. 

If you are a Mat graduate, your F-1 grace period or OPT employment may end before the October 1st start date of your requested H-1B. In order to "bridge the gap" between the April 1st filing deadline and the October 1st start date of your H-1B status, USCIS automatically authorizes a "cap gap" extension of your F-1 status. This extension of status will include work  authorization if you were on an active period of OPT at the April filing deadline, or simply an extension of your F-1 status (without work authorization) if you were an active student or on your grace period at the filing deadline.

In short, you may be eligible for Cap-Gap extension if:

  • You are the beneficiary of an H-1B petition that was timely filed by a cap-subject employer
  • The H-1B petition submitted on your behalf requests change of status in the U.S. and an employment start date of October 1st of the next federal fiscal year.
  • You were in F-1 status at the time of filing, and have not violated the terms or conditions of your F-1 status.

Depending on the status of your H-1B petition, you may be eligible for one of two cap gap extensions:

  1. Petitions that have been filed and receipted: If your H-1B (change of status) petition has been filed by your employer and receipted by USCIS, you are eligible for an automatic cap-gap extension I-20 through September 30th.
  2. Petitions that have been filed but you have not yet received a receipt: If your H-1B (change of status) petition has been filed by your employer, but not receipted, and your OPT expires before June 1st you are eligible for a preliminary cap-gap extension until June 1st.