"Cap-gap" refers to the gap in non-immigrant status that occurs in a change of status to H-1B, when the student's current F-1 immigration status expires before the H-1B start date on October 1.
For example, if an F-1 student has an OPT end date of June 30, the student's duration of status is for 60 days beyond that, until August 30. In this example:
- The gap between August 30 and October 1 is a "cap-gap" in F-1 status.
- The gap between June 30 and October 1 is a "cap-gap" of OPT employment authorization.
If a student is not in authorized OPT on the eligibility date, they are not eligible for an extension of employment authorization. If the student was still in their 60-day grace period, the student is eligible for an extension of status, but not work authorization.
The automatic extension terminates when USCIS rejects, denies, or revokes the H-1B petition. However, the student would have a grace period after the termination during which they are authorized to remain in the United States for up to 60 days to prepare for departure from the U.S., change degree level, transfer, change status, etc. as long as the student has not otherwise violated status. The student's cap-gap employment authorization would no longer be valid during the 60-day grace period.
The duration of status (D/S), and any post-completion OPT or STEM OPT work authorization, will be automatically extended for an F-1 student who is the beneficiary of a timely-filed H-1B petition requesting change of status and an employment start date of October 1 (the first calendar day of the following fiscal year). This is commonly known as a cap-gap extension.