U.S. Department of Homeland Security established regulations that automatically extend F-1 status and, if applicable, post-completion OPT employment authorization from April 1 to Sept. 30 for eligible F-1 students. We call this the cap gap extension. The cap refers to the limit on the number of individuals who can receive H-1B status every fiscal year. The gap is the period between the end of an individual’s F-1 status and the beginning of the individual’s H-1B status. The cap gap extension allows for some F-1 students to extend their F-1 status and/or authorized period of post-completion OPT until they transition to the H-1B status on Oct. 1.

Requirements for the H-1B Cap Gap Extension

  1. Students must be the beneficiary of an H-1B that is timely filed by a cap subject employer, has a start date of October 1, and requests a change of status.
  2. Students must be in valid F-1 status on OPT.
  3. Students must continue to report all changes of employer's name and address, residential address, and interruptions of employment while on the Cap Gap Extension.

H-1B Cap Gap Extension Process

U.S. Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services will automatically extend the student’s F-1 status. Our office can no longer process and extension. We recommend that students check at least 1 month before the expiration date of their Optional Practical Training to see if they have been granted an H-1B Cap Gap extension in SEVIS.

Students will need to submit the following documents to your International Student Advisor in Duke Visa Services (DVS) if you want a Form I-20 printed reflecting the Cap Gap Extension.

  1. A copy of the I-797 H-1B receipt or approval notice or a copy of the wait list letter from USCIS to the employer.
  2. Copy of the I-94.
  3. Copy of OPT EAD.
  4. A FedEx account number or complete waybill slip or prepaid US mail envelope in order to return the new I-20 to you, along with the address of where to send the new Form I-20. Or you could make arrangement for someone to pick it up on your behalf. Our office can no longer accept cash, checks or credit card numbers for postage purposes.

Remember that the Cap Gap, the time between the end of OPT (usually in June or July) and the beginning of the H-1B on the first of October, applies only to those who work for “cap subject” employers. Most businesses are “cap subject;” most colleges and universities and some research facilities are “cap exempt.”

If you work for a cap subject employer and you want to benefit from the cap gap coverage, all of the following must be true:

  • You already hold or will receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) work permit for post-completion OPT.
  • Your employer must file for H-1B for you before your OPT expires.
  • You must be one of the lucky winners of the H-1B lottery. Lottery depends on current job market.