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SEVIS Help Hub

F-1 Cap Gap Extension

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F-1 Cap Gap Extension

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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.
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A petition asking for consular processing is not eligible for a cap gap extension.

  • 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.

 

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.

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There is an additional step an employer must now take to file an H-1B petition. See the USCIS H-B1 Electronic Registration Process for more information. 

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 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (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 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 USCIS.

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In spring 2020, USCIS changed 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:

  • 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.
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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

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

SEVIS displays link for cap gap extension on individual student records, if the Program Start Date is today or in the past.

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.
SEVIS
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If the student is in a period of active post-completion or STEM OPT with the Cap Gap Extension in Filed status, the indicator will read Active Cap Gap OPT and Cap Gap extension to June 1, <that year>

Displays a cap gap comment at the bottom of the Student Information page. 

Student Requests

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

Content Request

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

Change of Status

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.
Icon - Additional information is available

A petition asking for consular processing is not eligible for a cap gap extension.

  • 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 before the petition filing date and between April 1 and September 30.
  • Student’s Program End Date is today or in the past.
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Not 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 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 to allow time for USCIS to transmit the receipt information to SEVIS
Pending
(Entered only through USCIS interface or SEVP data fix)
SEVIS extends the F-1 status and any authorized OPT until September 30.

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 show the petition has been filed by:

  • Updating the status of any cap gap extension to “Filed” on the record, if SEVIS does not display the correct status.
  • Canceling any cap gap extension on the record.
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Wait for a few days to allow SEVIS to display the information.

To update or cancel a cap gap extension:

1. Go to the Student Information page.

Student Information

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

Cap-Gap Extension

3. Select Filed from the Status of H-1B Petition drop-down list, if an employer filed a cap gap-eligible petition to USCIS.

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The student must be able to provide proof that the petition has been filed.

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.

       a. Sign the Form I-20.

       b. Give the printed copy to the student for his/her records.

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

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 contact the SEVP Response Center at sevp@ice.dhs.gov or 1-800-892-4829 for a data fix.

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