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Employment Authorization for F-1 Students


Int'l Student / Scholar Svcs
Fax: 202-885-3354
Butler Pavilion, Room 410

ISSS office walk-in advising hours: Mondays: 12:00 noon - 5:00 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays: 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Bakar, Senem S
Director, International Student & Scholar Services

Int'l Student / Scholar Svcs
4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW
410 Butler Pavilion
Washington, DC, USA 20016-8041

H-1B Cap Gap Extension

The H-1B visa is employment authorization granted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). For F-1 students on Optional Practical Training (OPT), an employer must submit the application for the H-1B visa on the student's behalf. 

ISSS does not advise on filing or obtaining the H-1B visa, but our office will issue an I-20 with the Cap-Gap Extension notation for qualifying students at their request.

What is the H-1B Cap-Gap?

The "Cap-Gap" refers to the period of time where F-1 students on OPT have a gap in their visa status. An F-1 student graduating in May with standard, 12-month post-completion OPT will end their OPT in June or July of the following year. Since the H-1B status takes effect on October 1 each year, there will be a gap between valid F-1 and H-1B status.

H-1B Cap-Gap Timeline

Graph of cap gap timeline=

Image courtesy of Yale University

How can I get the Cap-Gap I-20?

To receive the I-20 with the Cap-Gap notation, you must email ISSS at with proof that an employer has filed an H-1B petition on your behalf, that you have been selected for the H-1B visa lottery, or that you have been granted the H-1B visa. 

Please submit the following:

  • Copy of petition filed with USCIS
  • Proof of mailing (i.e. receipt from USPS, FedEx, UPS, etc.) or proof of selection

After receiving these documents, ISSS will issue an I-20 with the Cap-Gap notation.

For students with OPT ending before June 1

Upon receipt of the above documents proving a timely-filed H-1B petition, ISSS will issue a Cap-Gap I-20 valid until June 1. To receive a further extension, you will need to show proof that you have either been granted H-1B status or been selected for the lottery.