The H-1B work visa is an employer sponsored petition submitted by the employer on your behalf. To begin the process of applying for H-1B and becoming eligible for a possible extension of STEM OPT, you must 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 for all who have a Bachelor's or higher degree, and an additional 20,000 for those with a 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 cap exempt and can continue to hire new employees on H-1B year-round.
The H-1B Fiscal Year for Cap-Subject employers runs from October 1st to September 30th each year. If you graduated in the Spring semester with a standard 12 months of post-completion OPT and then applied for the STEM OPT extension, you will find that your work authorization will expire in June or July three years after graduation, leaving a gap in your work authorization until October 1st when your H-1B status will begin.
Example: STEM OPT Extension Ends in June or July
The Cap Gap Extension of STEM OPT through September 30th of the current year is granted if:
- an H-1B petition for change of status has been filed by a Cap-Subject employer before the current period of STEM OPT expires, and
- you have received either a receipt or approval notice from USCIS
H-1B must be filed between April 1st and before the expiration of your STEM OPT.
Example: STEM OPT Extension Ends Before June 1st
If you had less than 12 months of post-completion OPT remaining after using pre-completion OPT and then applied for STEM OPT extension, your STEM OPT end date might fall somewhere between April 1st and June 1st. If your STEM OPT end date is between these dates and an H-1B petition for change of status has been filed by your employer, but not yet receipted by USCIS, you are eligible for an automatic preliminary Cap-Gap extension only until June 1st.
If your STEM OPT has expired, but you are still in a valid 60-day grace period as of April 1st, your employer can still file an H-1B petition on your behalf and you can legally stay in the U.S. (extension of duration of status) until you receive official notification about the status of your case from USCIS, but you do not benefit from the Cap Gap Extension and are NOT eligible to work during this period.
While On Cap Gap Extension
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 from USCIS or courier service delivery confirmation with your name on it) by emailing your OISS adviser with the subject “Cap Gap I-20.”
Travel is NOT advised during the Cap Gap period.