Thursday, October 15, 2015

OPT Cap Gap Extension

OPT Cap Gap extension is the period of time when an F1 student's status and work authorization expire through the start date of their approved H1-B employment. This period is known as "Cap Gap".

This is applied automatically if your H1B is picked in lottery. This was implemented by USCIS for the students whose initial status is F1 and their H1B is picked up in lottery so that they can maintain their legal status in USA.

The most common case of Cap Gap extension is when a student graduates in May and completes its one year post completion OPT. When the student is working in hist OPT period and the employer applies for his/her  H1B visa and if their H1B is picked up in lottery then the student can remain employed even after their OPT Expires. This is very common with graduates with Non Stem degrees as they cannot apply for OPT Stem Extension. Usually the students who graduate in May apply for their 17 Month OPT Stem Extension ( You can apply for your OPT STEM extension 120 days before Post completion OPT expires) therefore even if their H1B is not picked they get the extension.

The problem occurred when there were more number of application than the defined H1B quota .The H1B Visa has to filed on April 1st but the H1B visa takes effect from October 1st. Therefore if the student's OPT Expires between the months of April - October then they come under Cap Gap period.

This Cap Gap rule implementation really helped students because they can now continue to stay in USA if their H1b has been selected in lottery and their OPT expires before October. In the past the student had to either leave the country and wait until  October 1st to re-enter in USA or enroll himself into classes to maintain his legal status. Cap Gap allows students to continue working from the time their OPT expires till September 30th ( From October 1st the H1B visa will start).

Also this extension is automatic , there is no action needed to be taken by students. Usually your DSO will be informed about this as your SEVIS would change. Also if your driver license is expiring in that period and you need a proof of extension then talk to your DSO and he will issue you a new I-20.

Below are the FAQ's for cap gap Extension:

1) Can I travel outside US during the cap gap extension and return in F1 Status ?
It is not recommended to travel in your Cap Gap period. Please contact your DSO before traveling (If you have to)

2) Does the 90 day unemployment limit apply during the cap gap extension.
Yes 90 day unemployment limit applies during the cap gap extension.

3) What happens if my H1-B petition is rejected, denied or revoked?
You will have a 60 day grace period from the notice date  of denial  , rejection or revocation during the time you can make preparation to depart the US.

4) Will I receive personal email or notification of my Cap Gap Extension?
No you will not receive any personal or email notification. You should be follow up with your employer's immigration lawyer to know your status of H1B petition. You can also contact your DSO for new I20 for your cap gap extension period.

5) Can the cap gap extension of OPT be extended beyond September 30 ?
No the cap gap extension of OPT cannot be extended beyond September 30

6) My H1B did not request a change of status , it is for consular processing. Am I eligible for the cap gap?
No the Cap Gap extension is only available for those who have requested a change of status from F1 to H1B petition.

I hope the above information helps. If you have something to add to it , do leave a comment below. Don't forget to like our facebook page for latest updates. Also follow us on Twitter.

You would also want to look at my article : Best Money Sending Service to India- Online Money Transfers   
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