- 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.
- 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OPT extension once the cap-gap extension period is terminated (if the H-1B petition is rejected, denied, revoked, or withdrawn) and the student has entered the 60-day departure grace period.
- 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.
- 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 Once the petition has been revoked or withdrawn, the student must provid his or her DSO with a copy of the USCIS acknowledgement of withdrawal (the notice of revocation).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