Cap Gap Extension

This term applies to F-1 students and OPT participants. It is a regulatory provision. It is meant to extend the status of the individual to bridge the space between their F-1 status’ end and their H-1B status’ beginning. This would allow the individual, during the gap or space, to remain in the United States.

An OPT, or Optional Practical Training program is for international student on an F-1 visa and a predominant working option.

The most popular visas for non-immigrant foreign nationals is the H-1B visa. Here are a few ways in which they differ.

H-1B:

  • Three-year duration
  • Can be extended for three years
  • Regarding employment change, it is employer specific whereby the individual must have another H-1B sponsor to change their job
  • If this alien worker loses their job their H-1B status is lost as well and they must leave the United States within 10 days after the H-1B status’ expiration
  • A non-immigrant visa for workers of H-1B status; these individuals can have the intention of applying for a green card

OPT:

  • 12-month initial duration
  • Can be extended for 17 months with an extension called STEM OPT
  • An individual can remain unemployed for 90 days if they are an OPT participant but have only 60 days to leave once the OPT is completed (or change to a visa status using another non-immigrant classification)
  • Simpler than the process for H-1B, participants are able to change their job
  • Provided to students of international qualification on an F-1 visa requiring non-immigrant intent

Individuals under OPT can apply for a grace period. Provided the application is approved, they will receive a fresh EAD for an extension of their STEM. If, however, the application is denied, they may only stay through their original OPT’s end. There is also a grace period lasting 60 days in which they can change their status, start a new academic program, or depart the United States. Grace periods only apply, however, if an OPT has been completed.

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