Cap-Gap OPT Extension

Are you on Post-Completion or STEM Extension OPT? Is your employer sponsoring you for H-1B status? "Cap-Gap" refers to the period of time after the expiration of your OPT and the October 1st start of an H-1B petition.

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Application Alert

Beginning 9AM Friday, March 10 through 11 AM Monday, March 13, you will not to be able to submit or upload any ISSO applications (including this one) as we conduct our Compass database migration. Do not worry, you will be able to submit applications again starting 12:00 PM Monday, March 13. We are sorry for any inconvenience.

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Before You Apply

What is cap-gap extension of OPT?

The cap refers to the limit or quota on the number of individuals who can receive H-1B status at the beginning of the government's fiscal year — October 1st.  The cap is currently set at 65,000 recipients plus an additional 20,000 for those with US Master's degree or higher.

The gap is the period of time between the end of your F-1 OPT and the beginning of H-1B status. If you graduated in May, typically your 12-months of OPT will end sometime between mid-May and mid-July, leaving a gap in legal status and authorized employment through September 30th.

The Cap-Gap rule automatically extends F-1 status and, when applicable, extends OPT work authorization until the H-1B petition is rejected in the lottery (when the number of petitions exceeds the cap), denied, revoked by USCIS, or until October 1, whichever is earliest. 

The cap-gap extension of OPT is automatic if you’re eligible 

If eligible, you don’t need to file an application or pay a fee for a new EAD and you will not get a new EAD. Your employer can allow you to continue to work on the basis of the timely-filing of your H-1B petition while your OPT was valid. 

An updated “cap-gap” I-20 will reflect your extended OPT permission to work until September 30th.


you may be eligible for an extension of both your F-1 status and OPT if:

When to Apply

The earliest a “cap subject”  employer can file an H-1 petition on your behalf is 6 months in advance of the requested start date, which means April 1 for the following October 1.

For example:

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How to Get a Cap-Gap I-20

Steps to Get a Cap-Gap I-20
Step 1.

Report your current employment if you haven’t yet done so.

The employer name and address will be printed on the cap gap I-20.

Step 2.
Step 3.

Wait until you have a copy of the I-797 H-1B Receipt Notice from your employer of attorney.

Exception: If your EAD expires before June 1, you may include a statement from your employer and dated proof of delivery of the H-1B petition to USCIS instead.

Step 4.

Upload your supporting documents to us.

Use our upload form to upload the documents below as a single PDF file for processing:

*If you're still waiting for your I-797C receipt notice, provide a statement from your employer that you are the beneficiary listed on a properly filed H-1B petition or pages one and two of the H-1B I-129 petition. Include proof of delivery to a USCIS Service Center that shows the date of receipt.

Step 5.

We will review and process your request within 10 business days.

Step 6.

Receive our email when the new Cap-Gap I-20 is ready to be picked up or mailed to you.

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Travel During Cap-Gap Extension Period

Do not leave the US while the H-1B change of status is pending

It will nullify the change of status and make you ineligible for the cap gap extension.

Travel Abroad

Generally, you may travel abroad and return to the US in F-1 status during a Cap-Gap period if:

Traveling on OPT

Traveling on OPT? Visit our Travel page for more information.

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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Your F-1 legal status to remain in the US may be extended, but unfortunately you won't have permission to continue working.

You and your employer will need your passport, EAD card, I-797 receipt notice for H-1B Petition or I-797 B approval notice, Cap Gap I-20, passport. They can refer to page 21 of the Employers’ I-9 Manual.

If your H-1B petition is not selected and approved, you will have the standard 60-day grace period from the date of the rejection notice to depart the US, transfer the I-20 to a new program, or apply for a change of status.

However, if a denial is based on a discovered status violation, there is no grace period and you have to leave the US immediately.

Yes. The 90-day limitation on unemployment during the initial post-completion 12-Month OPT authorization continues during the cap-gap extension, as does the additional 60-day limitation on unemployment under the STEM OPT extension guidelines.

Yes, but your STEM OPT Extension application must be received by USCIS before your cap-gap extension period expires.

Yes. Your F-2 dependent’s status is also extended.

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Want to learn more?

See what USCIS says about the Cap-Gap Extension.