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F-1 Cap Gap Extension

Last updated 20-Jul-2017

General Information

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:

  • An employer filed 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.

Note: A petition asking for consular notification is not eligible for a cap gap extension.

  • The H-1B petition asks for an October 1 start date.
  • The student’s status, including any applicable grace period ends between April 1 and September 30.

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 can file an H-1B petition with USCIS up to six months before H-1B status is to start. April 1st is the first 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).
  • Extend work authorization for any approved, post-completion OPT or Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) extension OPT that extends to or beyond April 1.

When SEVIS gets data about an 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 DSO can request a cap gap extension for H-1B petitions that have been filed with, waitlisted by, or rejected by USCIS.

Significant Dates in SEVIS for Cap Gap Extensions

Date Significance
Before April 1
  • Cap gap functionality is not available in SEVIS.
April 1​
  • Cap gap season begins.
  • First date cap gap functionality can display in SEVIS.
Between April 1 and September 30​ For students whose prospective employers filed a qualifying H-1B cap-subject petition.
September 30
  • Cap gap season ends.
  • Last date of cap gap extension is available in SEVIS
October 1
  • Government's new fiscal year begins.
  • Change of status to H-1B takes effect, if October 1 date was requested.
  • Cap gap functionality no longer available in SEVIS.

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 and a comment at the bottom.

Excerpt from the Student Information Page showing the Cap gap indicator at the top right of the page and the comments about the extension at the bottom of the page in SEVIS

Information iconIf the student is in a period of active post-completion or STEM OPT, the indicator will read Active Cap Gap OPT.

Displays a comment in the Cap Gap Extension section of the Request/Authorization Details page.

Comment in the Cap Gap Extension Section of Request/Authorization Details Page

  • Prints a comment on Page 2 of the Form I-20.

of Status/Cap Gap Extension Comment on Page 2 of the Form I-20

Eligibility for a Cap Gap Extension

To be eligible for a cap gap extension:

  • An employer must file an H-1B petition with USCIS to change the student’s status to H-1B.

Note: A petition asking for consular-pick up is not eligible for a cap gap extension.

  • The H-1B petition must request an October 1 start date.
  • The student’s Program End Date or Post-Completion/STEM Optional Practical Training End Date is between April 1 and September 30.
  • The student’s Program End Date is today or in the past.

Information iconNot all employers are subject to the cap on H-1Bs. 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.

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 H1-B Petition     Program or OPT End Date
Approved
(Entered only through USCIS interface or SEVP data fix)
SEVIS extends the F-1 status and any authorized OPT until September 30.
Canceled 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.
Filed SEVIS extends F-1 status and any authorized OPT until June 1.
Pending
(Entered only through USCIS interface or SEVP data fix)
SEVIS extends the F-1 status and any authorized OPT until September 30.
Rejected SEVIS shortens F-1 status and any authorized OPT to the date of the rejection letter.
Waitlisted SEVIS extends the F-1status and any authorized OPT until July 28.

Add, Update, or Cancel Cap Gap Extension to Reflect H-1B Petition Status

When a DSO learns that an employer has filed a cap gap-eligible H-1B petition for an F-1 student, the DSO can update the student’s record to:

  • Add the cap gap to the record.
  • Update the status of any cap gap extension on the record.
  • Cancel any cap gap extension on the record.

To add, update, or cancel a cap gap extension:

1. Navigate to the Student Information page.

Student Information Page with Cap-Gap Extension Link

2. Click the Cap Gap Extension link. The Cap Gap Extension page opens.

Cap-Gap Extension Page

3. Select the status of the H-1B petition from the drop-down list.

  • Filed: Select this option if an employer submitted a cap gap-eligible petition to USCIS. The Date of Notice is not required if this option is selected.
  • Rejected: Select this option if USCIS rejected the petition. The Date of Notice is required if this option is selected.
  • Waitlisted: Select this option if USCIS has received the petition, but is not yet sure that it falls within the quota. The Date of Notice is not required if this option is selected.
  • Canceled: Select this option if a cap gap extension was added in error or if the

H-1B petition was not eligible for the cap gap extension. This option appears only if the record already has a cap gap extension in Filed or Waitlisted status.

Note: When the status is changed to Canceled, the OPT End Date reverts to its original date, and the comments no longer display in any location.

Note: The student must be able to provide proof that the petition has been filed or waitlisted.

4. Click either Extend Status or Cancel.

  • Extend Status: Submits the extension or any update. It also extends or modifies any associated post-completion/STEM OPT. A message requests you confirm the action. Click either Yes or No.
    • Yes: Extends the student’s status. A success message indicates the record was updated.
    • No: Cancels the action and returns the user to the Student Information page.
  • Cancel: Returns the user to the Student Information page without making a change.

5. Click Print I-20 to print an updated copy of the Form I-20. Sign the form, and then give the printed copy to the student for his/her records.

6. Click Return to View Record to view the student’s SEVIS record.

Correcting Cap Gap Information in SEVIS to Reflect H-1B Petition Status

DSOs can use the Cap Gap Extension link in SEVIS to update the status of cap gap information. SEVIS should be updated if the DSO learns that the status of the H-1B petition has changed. If the link is missing or if other changes are needed, the DSO must call the SEVIS Help Desk (1-800-892-4829) for a data fix.

Icon Guide

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