Friday, April 9, 2010

USCIS issues FAQ on F-1 "cap-gap" OPT extensions

USCIS has just issued an FAQ sheet on the "cap-gap" extension of employment authorization for F-1 students.

The cap gap relief applies to F-1 students who (a) are working pursuant to Optional Practical Training; (b) have F-1 status that will expire more than 60 days before 10/1/10; and (c) have been approved for H-1B status to start on 10/1/10. Without cap-gap relief, these students would fall out of status before 10/1/10, so would need to leave the US and return once the H-1B status could start. This could mean a gap of months if the F-1 status expired in early summer.

The cap gap provision automatically extends the F-1 status and OPT, if applicable. As the FAQ explains:

Once a timely filing has been made, the automatic cap-gap extension will begin and will continue until the H-1B petition adjudication process has been completed.  If the student’s H-1B petition is selected and approved the student’s extension will continue through September 30th unless the petition is denied, withdrawn, or revoked.  If the student’s H-1B petition is not selected and approved, the student will have the standard 60-day grace period from the date of the rejection notice or their program or OPT end date, whichever is later, to prepare for and depart the United States.
The FAQ explains how to get this extension:
A student will need to obtain an updated Form I-20 from his or her designated school official (DSO). The Form I-20 is the only document a student will have to show proof of continuing status and OPT, if applicable. The student should go to their DSO with evidence of a timely filed H-1B petition (indicating a request for change of status rather than for consular processing), such as a copy of the petition and a FedEx, UPS, or USPS Express/certified mail receipt. The student’s DSO will issue an interim cap-gap I-20 showing an extension until June 1st.  Students whose approved period of OPT already extends beyond June 1st do not need an interim extension.

In some cases, a student’s SEVIS record will not be automatically updated with the cap-gap extension, in error. In this situation, the student’s DSO may need to add an interim cap-gap extension to the student’s SEVIS record or contact the SEVIS Help Desk to have the full cap-gap extension applied to the record. For additional information on the interim cap-gap extension, refer to SEVP’s Supplementary Cap-Gap Guidance.

 For information on the H-1B cap:

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