How the F-1 and H-1B Visas Overlap
International students may attend university in the United States under an F-1 visa status. The validity aligns with the university terms, yet H-1B visas typically don’t begin until October 1 of the following fiscal year.
Students under F-1 visas have copious opportunities to meet potential employers who are happy to extend job offers to individuals they’re familiar with. But it doesn’t make fiscal or logical sense for a student to return to their country of origin for a few months while they await the start date of their H-1B visa. That’s where a cap-gap extension’s grace period kicks in.
H-1B work visas are sponsored by employers. When a job sponsor wishes to transition a student from an F-1 to an H-1B status after their Optional Practical Training (OPT), they begin the steps earlier in the year. After a random lottery, the employer knows whether their new potential employee can start working on October 1 of that year. However, the student’s F-1 status will expire before that date.
Cap Gap Eligibility
Students with pending H-1B visas may remain in the United States under their F-1 visa status through September 30, provided they meet two eligibility requirements. The first is that the sponsoring employer has filed an H-1B petition for the student on or after April 1 and has requested a change from the F-1 to an H-1B status beginning October 1. The second is that the student must still be in F-1 status when this petition is submitted.
F-1 status means that the individual was either enrolled, within their 60-day grace period, or within their OPT authorization period. Petitions for F-1 students submitted by cap-exempt employers are not eligible for this extension.
There is no application process for the cap gap extension. Once the employer submits the H-1b petition and status change request, the F-1 status is automatically extended through September 30.
You will need a new I-20 that documents your extension. This can be found in your SEVP portal. If your H-1B petition is pending, you’ll need to scan a copy of the USCIS I-797 Notice of Action. If it’s approved, scan the approval notice of the same form, then submit the cap gap I-20 request to MyISSS.
The benefit is automatic, permitting you to continue any eligible work and stay in the US while you wait for your new I-20. But once you receive the H-1B approval, ensure that your SEVP portal information is accurate because you can’t make any changes after October 1.
If applicable, follow any STEM OPT requirements for your employment authorization documents. Let ISS know about your status change by submitting the ‘Immigration Status Update’ request through the MyISSS portal. Anyone in the STEM OPT period must complete and upload the Final Evaluation, Page 5, of the I-983 Training Plan in their account on the Immigration Status Update web portal.
Whatever your goals for working in the United States may be, Visa2US is here to help. Don’t let small mistakes or missed deadlines delay your career’s progression. Contact us 24/7 to find out how we can improve your chances of obtaining a successful H-1B visa today!