H-1B Cap Gap Extension of OPT

The H-1B work visa is an employer sponsored application submitted by the employer on your behalf. To begin the process of applying for H-1B and becoming eligible for an extension of OPT, you must first speak to your employer.  

The H-1B Cap is the congressionally-mandated limit on the number of individuals who may be granted initial H-1B status during each fiscal year. The cap is currently set at 65,000 plus 20,000 more for those with higher degrees (U.S. Master's degree or higher). Employees who will work at institutions of higher education or a related or affiliated nonprofit entities, or at nonprofit research organizations or governmental research organizations, are exempt from the fiscal year cap.

The H-1B Fiscal Year for Cap-Subject employers runs from October 1st to September 30th each year.  An F-1 student graduating in the Spring Semester with a standard 12 months of post-completion OPT will find that their work authorization will expire in June or July one year after graduation, leaving a gap in work authorization until October 1st when H-1B status can begin.

Example: Standard 12-months of Post-Completion OPT


The Cap Gap Extension of OPT through September 30th of the current year is granted if an H-1B petition has been filed by a Cap-Subject employer before the current period of OPT expires. The first day to file for H-1B is April 1st.

H-1B must be filed between April 1st and before the expiration of your OPT.

Example: 9 months of Post-Completion OPT after 3-month Summer Internship

*Start date no earlier than July 2nd or 3rd; Expiration date on April 2nd or 3rd

To be eligible for the Cap Gap Extension, students who have less than 12 months of post-completion OPT remaining after using pre-completion OPT prior to graduation, will need to be sure that their post-completion OPT is still valid on April 1st. We recommend counting backwards from April 1st to determine your OPT start date.

If your OPT expires before April 1st and you are in a valid 60-day grace period on the first day to file an H-1B petition, your legal status to remain in the U.S. is extended to October 1st, but you are not eligible to work for this gap period.

While On Cap Gap

Work authorization on Cap Gap is valid until September 30th unless the H-1B petition is denied, withdrawn or revoked.

Evidence of work authorization for the extended period is reflected on a new I-20. There will be no new EAD card issued for Cap Gap Extension. OISS will be able to provide you with an updated I-20 if you notify us and provide evidence of a timely filed H-1B petition (receipt or approval notice) by e-mailing OISS with the subject “Cap Gap I-20.”

Travel is NOT advised during the Cap Gap period.