UMD: A Globally Connected University

OPT Cap Gap Extension

What is the H-1B Cap?
The H-1B cap is the limit on the number of H-1Bs allowed each fiscal year.* Currently, the cap is 65,000. The fiscal year begins on October 1 when a new batch of the 65,000 H-1s becomes available.  Employers are allowed to file an H-1B petition up to 6 months before the new fiscal year (April 1) so as to join the queue of new applications waiting for the October 1 date. 

*The cap does not apply to all H-1B visas. Certain non-profit research positions are unlimited. The cap does not affect H-1B petitions at UMD.

Cap-Gap Extensions
A cap-gap extension is a regulatory provision which automatically extends an eligible F-1 student's status to bridge the gap between the end of F-1 status and start of H-1B status, thereby allowing the student to remain and possibly work in the US during the gap.  The cap-gap extension is now available to students who, as of April 1, were either on approved OPT or in their 60-day grace period and have a pending or approved change-of-status October 1 H-1B petition with the USCIS.

This cap-gap extension will produce one of two outcomes, depending on your individual situation:

  • Extension of your OPT work authorization to September 30 or a date prior to September 30. This happens if your H-1B Receipt or Approval Date is before your OPT end date (on your EAD card). Most students will receive an automatic extension of their OPT work authorization until September 30; however, if you have not yet been issued an approval notice, in some cases a shorter and temporary extension could be given until the H-1B petition can be adjudicated.
  • Extension of your F-1 duration of status.  This happens if you are still studying or in your grace period.  You would be allowed to stay in the US if you otherwise maintain your F-1 status, but you are not authorized to work until the H-1B petition is approved and goes into effect October 1.

Who is eligible for the extension?
Students in all fields of study are eligible for the cap-gap extension as long as the student has not violated the terms or conditions of his or her F-1 status.  To qualify for the extension, the student must be the beneficiary of an H-1B petition that:

  • Has been filed in a timely manner (within the acceptance period)
  • Requests an employment start date of October 1
  • Requests a change of status

How do I apply for the Cap-Gap Extension?

Log on to your iTerp account and click F-1 Student Services > Cap Gap OPT request. You may be asked to submit the following documentation:

  • EAD card
  • H-1B Receipt/Approval Notice
    • If your current OPT eligibility expires after you have submitted the H-1B petition but before June 1, you can submit the following instead of the Receipt/Approval Notice to request a temporary cap-gap extension through June 1 (please note that because this request is subject to a SEVIS data fix, we cannot guarantee that this will be granted prior to the end of your OPT eligibility):
      • Statement from the employer that student is beneficiary listed on H-1B petition
      • Proof of delivery of H-1B petition to USCIS showing date of receipt

After the submission of your e-form, a staff member process your new I-20 and will contact you with options to have your I-20 mailed to you or to arrange to pick it up from the ISSS office.

What happens if my H-1B is denied after applying for the cap-gap extension?

If the student's H-1B is not selected, the student will have the standard 60-day grace period from the date of the rejection notice to depart the US. However, if a denial is based on a discovered status violation, no such grace period exists and the student must leave the US immediately.

Can I travel during a cap-gap extension period and still return with my OPT I-20 and EAD?
If your EAD is expired, you will not be granted entry to the US based on the cap-gap extension.  If you must travel during the extension period, be prepared to apply for H-1B visa outside the US and adjust your return travel plans accordingly.  Note:  Under H-1B regulations, you may only enter the US up to ten days prior to October 1.

What do I do if my OPT expires and my Cap-Gap Extension request is still pending?
Your post-completion OPT is automatically extended, whether you apply for the cap-gap extension or not. Therefore, you are allowed to continue working with your employer while the Cap-Gap Extension request is pending.

My employer has filed an H-1B petition for me. Can ISSS help me look up my receipt number?
Because this information is based on an application that was submitted by your employer on your behalf,  ISSS is unable to assist students in looking up their receipt number. Your employer or immigration attorney should be able to answer questions related to your H-1B petition.

As the cap-gap period comes to an end, what reporting requirements do I have at the end of my OPT authorization?
In order to close out your F-1 immigration status, we would recommend taking the following steps on before September 30 (you may lose your access to the iTerp system shortly after October 1, so it is recommended to do this before this date):

  • ALL STUDENTS ON OPT OR STEM EXTENSION: Report the end date of your employment. Please log on to iTerp and in the “OPT/STEM Services” menu, report the end date of your OPT employment using the “OPT: Update Existing Employer Information” form. You will record the end date of your employment on OPT as 9/30/2019.
  • ALL STUDENTS ON STEM EXTENSION: Upload your I-983 with final evaluation. Please log on to iTerp and in the “OPT/STEM Services” menu, fill out the “STEM: I-983 Final Evaluation” form. Upload your I-983 with the final evaluation completed. Please make sure you upload a document that includes sections 1, 2, 3 and has the final evaluation completed and signed by your employer.