OPT Cap Gap Extension

The H-1B Cap

The OPT Cap-Gap Extension

Request a New OPT Cap-Gap Form I-20


The H-1B Cap  

The U.S. government restricts the number of individuals who can be approved for H-1B visa status each fiscal year. This restriction is called the H-1B cap.  The fiscal year runs from October 1 to September 30. The cap is currently set at 65,000 (+20,000 for US higher degree holders). The earliest day that your employer can file an H-1B petition that is subject to the cap is April 1, which is 6 months before the visa start date of October 1. Universities and colleges are exempt from the cap, and are not subject to the same restrictions as private sector employers.

The OPT Cap-Gap Extension

The H-1B  cap-gap occurs when your cap-subject employer files an H-1B petition for you, but your F-1 status or OPT work authorization expires before you begin your H-1B status on October 1. For example, if your OPT ends May 30, but your H-1B will begin October 1, there would be a gap in work authorization between May 30 and October 1. This is the so-called cap gap.

If your employer has filed your cap-subject H-1B petition for you, and it has been selected for processing, but you have a cap-gap, your stay may be extended until September 30.  

OPT Cap-Gap Basics:

  • Your H-1B petition must have been filed on the basis of change of status, not consular processing.


  • If you are on active OPT when your H-1B petition was filed, and your H-1B was selected for processing, your OPT authorization automatically extends and you may continue to work to September 30.


  • If you are in your 60 day grace period when your H-1B petition was filed, and your H-1B was selected for processing, your legal stay is extended to September 30, but you will not have work authorization until your H-1B becomes effective.


  • If your H-1B petition is rejected or denied, and your OPT EAD has already expired, you will begin your 60-day grace period. You must stop working.
  • Your OPT Cap-Gap extension lasts only through September 30. If your H-1B is still pending on October 1, you must stop working until the H-1B is approved and becomes effective.   


  • If your H-1B petition is not subject to the cap, or was based on a prior year, you are not eligible for the OPT Cap-Gap Extension. Your H-1B must become effective no later than the day after your OPT expires in order to maintain your employment authorization.

Request a new OPT Cap-Gap Form I-20

You may request an updated Form I-20 from ISSS to document your OPT Cap-Gap Extension. Please allow at least two weeks for processing.

Complete the Cap Gap Extension Request record. In the record, upload:

1) A copy of your H-1B approval notice, with new I-94 on the approval notice (if your H-1B has already been approved)


2) A copy of your I-797 receipt notice to document your pending H-1B petition AND page 2 of the filed I-129 petition (black out the SSN before sending).

ISSS will email you when the document is ready for pick-up or mailing.


USCIS Extension of Post Completion OPT and F-1 Status under the H-1B Cap-Gap Regulations


USCIS I-9 Handbook for Employers 7.4.5 Cap-Gap


Study in the States H-1B Status and Cap Gap Extension