1. CAP Gap Employment:

The USCIS has clarified that F-1 nonimmigrant students with degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) may apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion OPT employment authorization. An F-1 student who is the beneficiary of an H-1B petition and request for change of status that is filed on time may have his or her F-1 status and any current employment authorization extended until the first day of the new fiscal year (10/1/2018). The “cap-gap” period starts when an F-1 student’s status and work authorization expires and, unless terminated, ends on October 1, the required start date of their approved H-1B employment.

  1. When to Apply for STEM OPT Extension:

Students who are eligible for a cap-gap extension of post-completion OPT employment and F-1 status may apply for a STEM OPT extension during the cap-gap extension period. However, students may not apply for a STEM OPT extension once the cap-gap extension period is terminated (if the H-1B petition is rejected, denied, revoked, or withdrawn) and the student has entered the 60-day departure grace period.

  1. SEVIS Data Fix

If the student’s OPT end date is shortened to September 30 even though their H-1B employment would not begin until a later date, the student should contact their DSO. The DSO may request a data fix in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) by contacting the SEVIS helpdesk.

  1. Recovering Unused OPT Period

If the student has been approved to change their status to an H-1B nonimmigrant but is laid off/terminated by the H-1B employer before the date they officially obtain H-1B status, the student can retrieve any unused OPT if he or she has an unexpired EAD issued for post-completion OPT. The student will remain in F-1 status and can continue his or her OPT using the unexpired EAD. The student also needs to make sure that USCIS receives a withdrawal request from the petitioner before the H-1B change of status goes into effect. This will prevent the student from changing to H-1B status. Once the petition has been revoked or withdrawn, the student must provid his or her DSO with a copy of the USCIS acknowledgement of withdrawal (the notice of revocation). The DSO may then contact the SEVIS helpdesk to request a data fix in SEVIS to prevent the student from being terminated in SEVIS.

Additional information is available on the USCIS website regarding OPT CAP Gap and the STEM OPT Hub