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.

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.

To receive the I-20 with the Cap-Gap notation, you must email ISSS at isssemployment@american.edu 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 review the information in the SEVIS immigration system to see if an I-20 with the Cap-Gap notation is available. The availability is an automatic function of the SEVIS immigration system itself and not at the discretion of ISSS Advisors. 

For students with OPT ending before June 1:

Upon receipt of the above documents proving a timely-filed H-1B petition, ISSS can check the SEVIS immigration system to determine if a Cap-Gap I-20 valid until June 1 is available to issue. To receive a further extension after June 1, please follow up with ISSS. ISSS will then check the SEVIS immigration system to determine if an updated Cap-Gap I-20 is available after a student has been selected for the lottery.

H-1B Cap Gap Example Timeline

The specific OPT begin and end dates below are for example purposes only. Your start and end date may vary. 

Your post-completion OPT ends. You have 60 days to leave the U.S., apply for a change of status, or move to another degree program.

If an employer has filed an H-1B petition for you and you have been receipted or approved for the H-1B, your OPT will be extended to September 30 (the day before H-1B status begins).

ISSS can issue you a "cap-gap" I-20 that shows your OPT has been extended when it is available in the SEVIS immigration system.

Your OPT grace period ends. 

If an employer filed an H-1B petition and you have not been receipted or approved, we recommend you consult with an immigration attorney.

If you have been receipted, your "cap-gap" I-20 is your current proof of employment authorization.