With the school year coming to a close, it’s time for foreign students to start thinking on ways to continue to remain in the United States, following the conclusion of their academic programs. Some college students on F-1 visas who are authorized to work pursuant to the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program are able to find jobs in their field of study and may continue to remain in the US their stay on an H-1B visa. However, moving from an F-1/OPT directly to H-1B can create a gap of time between the expiration of the OPT and before the H-1B visa starts. Fortunately there is a Cap-Gap, which allows applicants with pending or approved H-1B’s to extend OPT work authorization to cover this gap.
What’s required for an F-1 extension?
If you’ve secured an employer that will apply for an H-1B on your behalf, it’s essential that the H-1B is timely filed. The H-1B should be applied while the OPT is still in effect.
If the H-1B application is selected in the lottery and approved, an automatic F1/OPT extension will take place. On October 1st when the H-1B visa can officially take effect, the applicant should request a change of status. This will allow for a smooth transition from F-1/OPT to H-1B.
Things to watch out for
- If the H-1B application is not chosen in the CAP or the H-1B application is denied, the applicant will be granted a 60-day grace period. During this time the applicant must make plans to leave the United States.
- Once an applicant enters the 60-day grace period, the applicant is no longer authorized to legally work inside the United States.