H-1B and OPT Cap-Gap Extensions

Frequently Asked Questions

Click on these questions to link to the answers below:

  1. What is an H-1B?
  2. What is the H-1B Cap?
  3. What is a Cap-Gap Extension & who is eligible?
  4. How do I apply for a cap-gap extension I-20?
  5. How long will the Cap-Gap Extension request take?
  6. What happens if my H-1B is denied after applying for the cap-gap extension?
  7. Can I travel during a cap-gap extension period and still return with my OPT I-20 and EAD?
  8. What if my OPT expires before April 1st? Will the preliminary or automatic Cap-Gap extension extend my OPT?
  9. What do I do if I am eligible for Cap-Gap and the Berkeley International Office discovers that the SEVIS system has not been updated by USCIS to reflect your pending H-1B petition?
  10. 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?

The 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. Petitions are approved on a first come, first served basis. To find out more, attend one of our H-1B Workshops

What is the H-1B Cap?

The H-1B cap is the limit on the number of H-1Bs 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-1Bs 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 web site 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 UC Berkeley.

What is a Cap-Gap Extension & 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, 2014 were either on approved OPT or in their 60-day grace period and have a pending or approved change-of-status October 1, 2014 H-1B petition with the USCIS that was filed prior to the expiration of their OPT or 60-day grace period.
You may be eligible for one of two cap-gap extension benefits:
• If the employer filed your H-1B petition and it is received by USCIS prior to your post-completion OPT expiration date, you qualify for an extension of your OPT employment authorization.
• If the employer filed your H-1B 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 but you are not eligible to work.

How do I apply for a Cap-Gap Extension I-20?

There are two types of cap-gap extensions:

  1. For H-1B petitions that have been filed and receipted
  2. For H-1B petitions that have been filed but not receipted

Petitions that have been filed and receipted:
If your H-1B 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 internationaloffice@berkeley.edu with "Cap-Gap Extension" in the subject line:

  1. SEVIS number
  2. Your full name
  3. Scan and attach to the email:
  4. A clear, legible copy of your EAD card
  5. A copy of the I-797 Receipt notice from USCIS or USCIS approval notice
  6. Indicate whether you would like to pick up your document or have it mailed to you. If mailed, include your address.

Petitions that have been filed but NOT receipted:
If your H-1B petition has been filed by your employer but not receipted and your OPT expires before June 1, 2014, you are eligible for a preliminary cap-gap extension until June 1st, 2014. Once your petition is receipted, request an automatic cap-gap extension I-20 by following the steps above.

To request the preliminary cap-gap extension because your OPT expires before June 1, send the following to internationaloffice@berkeley.edu with "Cap-Gap Extension" in the subject line:

  1. SEVIS number
  2. Name
  3. Employment start and end date as indicated on EAD
  4. Scan, then attach to the email:
    • a clear, legible copy of your EAD card
    • a copy (PDF or paper) of your timely filed H-1B petition and a FedEx, UPS, or USPS Express/certified mail receipt
  5. Indicate whether you would like to pick up your document or have it mailed to you. If mailed, include your address.

How long will the Cap-Gap Extension request take?

Berkeley International Office will submit the cap-gap request to SEVIS within three (3) business days of the receipt of your email, provided all information above is accurate and complete.

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. However, if a denial is based on a discovered status violation, no such grace period exists and the student must leave the US immediately.

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. Berkeley International Office strongly advises students to consult with their employers 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 US 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, 2014.

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

If Berkeley International Office checks your SEVIS record and finds that cap-gap has not automatically been applied, then we will have to request a data fix from the SEVIS Help Desk. 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.

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

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 the ssu.berkeley.edu website with any changes in employment or address.