Cap Gap and H-1B Frequently Asked Questions-Office of International Education - Carnegie Mellon University

Cap Gap and H-1B Frequently Asked Questions

What is an H-1B?

What is the H-1B Cap?

Can my OIE advisor check my SEVIS record for H1-B application updates?

What is a Cap-Gap Extension and who is eligible?

How do I request a cap-gap extension I-20?

Will I get a new EAD for the cap-gap period?

Can I apply for the 24-month OPT extension while I'm within a period of cap gap extension?

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

Can I travel during a cap-gap extension period and still return with my OPT I-20 and EAD?

What if my OPT expires before April 1st? Will the preliminary or automatic Cap-Gap extension extend my OPT?

What do I do if I am eligible for Cap-Gap and OIE discovers that the SEVIS system has not been updated by USCIS to reflect your pending H-1B petition?

What if my original OPT expires and my Cap-Gap Extension data fix is still pending with SEVIS Help Desk?

What is an H-1B? 

H-1B status permits temporary employment (up to 6 years) in the U.S. for people who have a minimum of a Bachelor's degree in the same or a related field as the job offered. The employer must submit a petition to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) for approval of the H-1B position.

What is the H-1B Cap?

The H-1B cap is the limit on the number of H-1B's 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-1B's 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. See the USCIS website for the most current count of H-1B petitions filed.

*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 Carnegie Mellon University.  However, cap exempt H petitions are not transferable to the private sector.

Can my OIE advisor check my SEVIS record for H1-B application updates?
Only your employer can provide accurate, official updates regarding your H1-B application. OIE cannot provide information about your H-1B petition.


What is a Cap-Gap Extension and who is currently eligible?
A cap-gap extension is a regulatory provision which 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 in the US during the "gap." The cap-gap extension is available to students who, as of April 1st (the beginning of each fiscal year) were either on approved OPT or in their 60-day grace period and have a pending or approved change-of-status October 1st H-1B petition with the USCIS that was filed prior to the expiration of their OPT or 60-day grace period. 

*Those filing for H1-B via consular processing DO NOT qualify for the Cap-Gap Extension. You must confirm with your employer if the H1-B will be filed as a change of status or via consular processing.*

You may be eligible for one of two cap-gap extension benefits:
• If the employer filed your H-1B (change-of-status) petition and it is received by USCIS prior to your post-completion OPT expiration date, you qualify for a cap-gap extension of your OPT employment authorization.
• If the employer filed your H-1B (change-of-status) petition and it is received by USCIS after your post-completion OPT expires, but during your 60 day grace period following OPT, your F-1 status and permission to remain in the US are extended - However, you are not eligible to work.

How do I request a Cap-Gap Extension I-20?

If your H-1B (change-of-status) petition has been filed by your employer and receipted by USCIS, you are eligible for an automatic cap-gap extension I-20 through September 30th. To request this cap-gap extension I-20, send the following to oie@andrew.cmu.edu with "Cap-Gap Extension" in the subject line:

  1. Your full name
  2. Your date of birth
  3. Your academic department at CMU
  4. If you have F-2 dependents (If you have dependents, how many?)
  5. Was your H-1B filed as change of status or consular notification?
  6. Scan and attach to the email:
    • a clear, legible copy of your EAD card
    • a copy of the I-797 Receipt notice from USCIS or USCIS approval notice

Upon receipt of the complete email, OIE will issue the cap-gap I-20 and send you instructions by email on creating a shipping label for the document.  The new I-20 will be ready in 5 business days.

**If you are in the 12-month OPT period, be sure you have upated your employer informaiton using the OPT Reporting Portal.

Will I get a new EAD for the cap-gap period?

No. USCIS will not issue an EAD for the cap-gap period.  The cap-gap I-20 extends the F-1 stay and work permission until the H-1B takes effect.

Can I apply for the 24-month STEM OPT extension while I'm within a period of cap gap extension?

Yes, you can apply for the 24-month STEM OPT extension during the cap gap extension of OPT. However, you must ensure your employer requests the withdrawal of the approved or pending H-1B petition in time for USCIS to officially accept the withdrawal prior to October 1--otherwise, your H-1B will begin October 1, which cancels your eligibility for the 24-month OPT extension.  If you have a pending H petition, you must consult with your H employer about the withdrawal of the H prior to requesting the 24-month STEM OPT I-20.

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, transfer the I-20 to a new program, or apply for a change of status.

Can I travel during a Cap-Gap Extension period and still return with my OPT I-20 and EAD?

A valid EAD card is required to re-enter during the cap-gap extension period along with a valid passport, F-1 visa, signed I-20, and employer letter. Students with EAD cards that have expired are not eligible to re-enter the US during the cap-gap extension period.

**Please note, traveling outside the US may interfere with the processing of your H-1B petition. You MUST consult with your employer regarding all travel plans before departing the US.**

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 U.S. up to ten days prior to October 1st.

What if my OPT expires before April 1st? Will the preliminary or automatic Cap-Gap Extension extend my OPT?

Although your F-1 status would be extended if you are in your 60-day grace period when the petition is filed, your OPT employment authorization period has expired, and the cap-gap does not serve to reinstate or retroactively grant employment authorization. Your legal status to remain in the U.S. in F-1 status is extended, but you are required to stop working until your H-1B goes into effect on October 1st.

What do I do if I am eligible for Cap-Gap and OIE discovers that the SEVIS system has not been updated by USCIS to reflect my pending H-1B petition?

If OIE checks your SEVIS record and finds that cap-gap has not automatically been applied to your SEVIS Record by USCIS, then we will have to request a data fix from the SEVIS Response Center. In these cases, we will have to submit a copy of your EAD card, your H-1B Receipt Notice or your H-1B Approval Notice.  Processing times to correct records with the SEVIS Help Desk can take a few weeks. 

What if my original OPT expires and my Cap-Gap Extension data fix is still pending with SEVIS Response Center?

Your post-completion OPT is automatically extended, whether you apply for the cap-gap extension I-20 or not. Therefore, you are allowed to continue working with your employer while the cap-gap extension data fix is pending. Also, keep in mind that the 90-day unemployment rule remains in effect during your automatically extended work authorization and you must continue to update OIE using the OPT Reporting Portal with any changes in employment or address.

Last Updated: January 10, 2017


Cap Gap and H-1B Frequently Asked Questions