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.