SEVIS Help Hub illustration

SEVIS Help Hub

F-1 Cap Gap Extension


F-1 Cap Gap Extension

Last updated: March 29, 2021

Quick Links:


Some F-1 students may extend their F-1 status beyond the end of their academic program or any authorized Optional Practical Training (OPT), if:

  • Employer files a timely Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), requesting a change of status to H-1B status. 
  • H-1B petition asks for an October 1 start date.
  • Student’s status ends between April 1 and September 30, including any applicable grace period. 

This article explains:

  • A general overview of the H-1B petition and the cap-subject petition process.
  • Which types of petitions give eligibility for the F-1 cap gap extension.
  • How to request a cap gap extension if an eligible student record is not automatically updated in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

Eligibility for a Cap Gap Extension

To be eligible for a cap gap extension:

  • Employer must file an H-1B petition with USCIS to change the student’s status to H-1B.
  • H-1B petition must request an October 1 start date.
  • Student’s Program End Date or Post-Completion/Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) OPT End Date is after the petition filing date and between April 1 and September 30.
  • Student’s Program End Date is today or in the past.


Icon - Pay attention to an important point
  • A petition asking for consular processing is not eligible for a cap gap extension.
  • Petitions submitted by cap-exempt employers are not eligible for the cap gap extensions. The following employers are exempt from the cap:
    • Institutions of higher education.
    • Nonprofit research organizations.
    • Government research organizations.
  • Cap-exempt employers can file for H-1Bs at any time, even if the cap has been reached. 

H-1B Petitions and Filing Timeline

H-1B status is for workers in specialty occupations. Employers must petition USCIS for H-1B status on behalf of the worker. USCIS can only grant a limited number of H-1B statuses each year. This is known as the “H-1B cap.” New H-1Bs become available each year on October 1. Employers enter prospective employee H-1B petition requests during an H-1B electronic registration process starting March 9 of that year. If their petition requests are selected for filing, they can file an H-1B petition with USCIS during the designated window, no earlier than six months before H-1B status is to start. April 1st is the first potential day an employer can file an H-1B petition for an October 1 start date.  

If approved for a change to H-1B status that cannot take effect until October 1, students whose F 1 status ends between April 1 and September 30 face a potential gap in their ability to stay and/or work legally in the United States. The cap gap extension allows them to:

  • Stay legally in the country (with any F-2 dependents), if the petition is filed before the end of their grace period.
  • Extend work authorization for any approved, post-completion OPT or STEM extension OPT that extends to or beyond April 1, if the petition is filed before the end of their approved OPT.

When SEVIS gets data about a pending H-1B petition from USCIS, SEVIS updates the record to show the cap gap extension. However, if the record is not updated by an automated interface, the designated school official (DSO) can request an SEVP Response Center (SRC) data fix to add the cap gap extension for H-1B petitions that have been receipted with USCIS.

Icon - Pay attention to an important point

The H-1B petition filing process: 

  • Employers must register an individual request to USCIS for each H-1B petition they want to file for the fiscal year (FY). They do this electronically before April 1.
  • By March 31, USCIS notifies employers of the first round of petitions that they may file. 
  • USCIS may later add more rounds of selected employers for filing petitions until the FY cap is met. See the USCIS H-1B Electronic Registration Process for more information.

Note: If the employer and petition are not selected, the student is not eligible for the cap gap extension at all during this FY.

  • Selected employers have a 90-day window to file the selected petitions.

USCIS adjudicates the filed petitions. Since selected employers have a 90-day filling window to submit petitions, students and petitioners must work closely to ensure the:

  • Petition is filed before the student’s OPT authorization expires, so the student can legally continue working.
  • Petition is filed before the end of the student’s grace period, so the student can legally stay in the United States until the H-1B takes effect.

Note: It is possible with this filing process, that even if selected, the filing window may fall both after the student’s OPT expires and the 60-day grace period ends. In this case, the student should seek appropriate legal advice.

Significant Dates in SEVIS for Cap Gap Extensions



April 1

  • Cap gap season begins.
  • First date cap gap extension can display on a student record in SEVIS.

Between April 1 and September 30

  • SEVIS adds a cap gap extension to records after getting data from USCIS that an H-1B petition is pending or approved
  • DSOs can contact the SEVP Response Center to have a cap gap extension added to student records

September 30

  • Cap gap season ends.

October 1

  • Government's new fiscal year begins.
  • Change of status to H-1B takes effect if October 1 date was requested. 

Cap Gap Indicators in SEVIS

When a cap gap extension is added to the record, SEVIS:
•    Displays a cap gap indicator at the top of the Student Information page.

Student Information
  • Displays a Change of Status comment at the bottom of the Student Information page. 
Student Requests
  • Prints a comment on Page 2 of the Form I-20.
Employment Authorization

Effect of H-1B Petition on F-1 Status during Cap Gap

A cap gap-eligible student’s status is affected by one of the following statuses in an H 1B petition:

Status of H-1B Petition

Program or OPT End Date


(Entered only through USCIS interface or SEVP data fix.)

SEVIS extends the F-1 status and any authorized OPT until September 30.


SEVIS reverts F-1 status or any authorized OPT end date to the original end date and removes comments about the cap gap extension from the Student Information page and from the Form I-20.


(Entered only through USCIS interface or SEVP data fix.)

SEVIS extends the F-1 status and any authorized OPT until September 30.

The USCIS CLAIMS interface should automatically update a student SEVIS record once USCIS receives and logs an eligible H-1B petition. However, if CLAIMS does not update a student record, the DSO can request a data fix with the SEVP Response Center (SRC) if:

  • An employer has filed a cap gap-eligible H-1B petition for an F-1 student.
  • There is a Form I-797 receipt notice for the pending petition.
  • CLAIMS has not automatically added the cap gap extension to the record. 
Icon - Pay attention to an important point

Before filing a data fix:

  • Wait for two weeks after USCIS confirms the petition was received in a timely manner. 
  • Have a copy of the Form I-797 petition receipt notice ready to send to SRC.

Contact the SEVP Response Center at or 1-800-892-4829 for a data fix. 

What's New


Try the Facebook Chatbot

Visit the tool on the Study in the States Facebook page to learn how to become an F or M international student in the United States.

Summer Employment

Learn About Summer Employment

While employed this summer, make sure you have all the relevant information on maintaining your student status, and the steps you must take before returning to school. 

Icon Guide

See the SEVIS Help Icons on the SEVIS Help Hub for a quick-reference of the icons used in this user guide.

I'm Looking For

Contact Us


SEVP Response Center



Monday - Friday 
8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET,
except holidays

Was This Helpful?
Please provide feedback on this page.