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Special Circumstances Pre-Completion OPT and Cap Gap

Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT)

OPT is employment authorized before the completion of a student's program of study. Students may work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session, and more than 20 hours while school is not in session. For example, students may work beyond 20 hours per week during an authorized summer vacation term or during official school breaks.

If a student has a job offer in his/her field of study, but the work is not required for the student to make academic progress, and therefore would not qualify for Curricular Practical Training (CPT), pre-completion OPT may be the best option.

A student may be approved for up to a total of 12 months of OPT, including pre-completion and post-completion. If, for example, a student is approved for 6 months of pre-completion OPT, he/she will only be eligible to apply for 6 months of post-completion OPT to work after graduation.

General guidelines

  • Student must be in lawful F-1 student status at the time of application
  • Student must have been enrolled in a full course of study for at least one academic year or will have met this requirement by the time the pre-completion OPT is requested to commence
  • Student must continue enrolling full time throughout the time spent on pre-completion OPT. It is not possible for a student to take a break from school in order to work on pre-completion OPT
  • Student must have not engaged in more than 12 months of full-time curricular practical training (CPT) during the current degree level
  • Student must have not been authorized for 12 months of OPT at the current degree level
  • Student does not need to have a pending job offer letter to apply for pre-completion OPT
  • Student may only engage in part-time employment (up 20 hours a week) while school is in session
  • Student may only engage in full-time employment, if the following applies:
    • A student's annual vacation term and/or during official school breaks
    • A doctoral student who has completed all formal coursework and is making normal progress towards his or her dissertation. However, note that students who are post-candidacy are also eligible for post-completion OPT, which may be a more beneficial option. We recommend students meet with an immigration coordinator before deciding which application to complete.

Important deadlines for pre-completion OPT

  • A student may file for OPT up to 90 days before he or she completes a full academic year.
  • The pre-completion OPT application must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the immigration coordinator's signature on the properly endorsed Form I-20

Students interested in applying for pre-completion OPT, should do the following

  1. Attend an OPT Workshop
  2. Obtain and complete the Application Form – Pre-Completion OPT ( c ) ( 3 ) ( A )
  3. Return completed application form and supporting documentation to OIA for review during our posted walk-in advising hours
  4. Obtain an updated Form I-20 endorsed for pre-completion OPT
  5. Sign the updated Form I-20 (Number 11.) prior to making the photocopy to be included in your application packet
  6. Mail the completed application packet to USCIS within 30 days of the Form I-20 issuance date. Failure to do so will result in denial of the application

Student responsibilities while on pre-completion OPT

  • Students must continue to meet their reporting requirements
    • Report to their DSO within 10 days of:
      • Legal name changes
      • A change in residential or mailing address

After the pre-completion period has begun:

  • Students must provide OIA with a copy of their Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card
  • Students must report the following details regarding employment held on pre-completion OPT:
    • Name of employer
    • Street address of employment
    • Start and end dates of employment

OIA is currently establishing a new process to enable students on OPT to update their information with our office. A notification will be e-mailed and posted on oia.osu.edu. Until this information is posted, please contact an immigration coordinator at iss@osu.edu to report any of the above mentioned required information.

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OPT H-1B Cap Gap

The H-1B cap is the congressionally mandated limit on the number of individuals who may be granted H-1B status during each fiscal year.

The earliest date that a cap-subject employer can file an H-1B petition for consideration under the next fiscal year cap is April 1, for an October 1 start date. If that H-1B petition and the accompanying change of status request are approved, the effective date of the H-1B status will be October 1.

F-1 students who are the beneficiaries of approved H-1B petitions, but whose periods of authorized stay (including authorized periods of post-completion OPT and their grace period) expires before October 1, may not have to leave the United States, and have the possibility of changing status to H-1B in-country. The regulations permit what is referred to as the “cap gap extension,” explained below.

Please note that some employers, such as educational institutions and some non-profit organizations, are cap-exempt, and can file an H-1B petition on behalf of an employee at any time of year.

F-1/ H-1B "Cap Gap" Extension

The term “cap gap” refers to the period of time when an F-1 non-immigrant's student status would ordinarily end and his or her H-1B status begins. It is the period of time between the end of the 60-day grace period following the expiration of Optional Practical Training (OPT) and the start of the H-1B status.

A student should be eligible for the extension of duration of stay in the United States, as well as work authorization, through September 30 (the day prior to H-1B status taking effect) when these conditions are filled:

  • A USCIS Service Center has received a properly filed Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, naming the student as a beneficiary of the petition from the prospective employer
  • The student's OPT expires on or after April 1 and before September 30
  • The petition was received by the Service Center prior to the student's OPT end date

If a student has a pending H-1B petition submitted, and on April 1 is in his/her grace period following the expiration of OPT, the student is eligible for an extension of stay through September 30, but not for an extension of work authorization.

If the H-1B petition is withdrawn or denied during the cap gap period, the student becomes ineligible for the extension. If the H-1B petition is still pending on October 1, the student is not authorized to continue working, but is authorized to remain in the United States.

Due to the complexities involved, students may receive cap gap extensions in increments, as the petition goes through the steps of filing, receipting and adjudication.

Example scenarios

Here are two examples of students eligible for the cap gap extension:

  • “Antonio” has been approved for OPT for the dates 5/1/16 – 4/30/17. His employer files an H-1B petition for him on 4/1/17, so that on 4/30/17 when Antonio's OPT expires, he has a pending H-1B application. Therefore under the cap gap extension, he is eligible to continue working for his employer between 5/1/17 – 9/30/17. He requests a new I-20 from OIA, which shows the extension of his F-1 status and work authorization.
  • “Chen” has been approved for OPT for the dates 2/15/16 – 2/14/17. Her employer files an H-1B petition for her on 4/1/17, while she is in her 60-day grace period. Since she has a pending H-1B application, she is able to remain in the United States, but she cannot continue working for her employer, because she was not in an approved period of OPT when her H-1B petition was filed. She requests a new I-20 from OIA, which shows that her F-1 status (but not her work authorization) has been extended through 9/30/17. Chen's employer receives notification that her H-1B has been approved on 8/1/17. She remains in the United States and resumes working on 10/1/17, when her change of status to H-1B takes effect.

Will students receive personal notification when they have a cap gap extension?

The extension is granted automatically, at no cost, but the new I-20 is not automatically issued to eligible students, and the student must notify an immigration coordinator at the Office of International Affairs of his or her eligibility for the extension.

Students in need of an H-1B cap gap extension verification must submit the following to an immigration coordinator:

  • Photocopy of Employment Authorization Document (EAD card)
  • Notification Form – H-1B Cap Gap Extension
  • One of the following as proof of having timely filed an H-1B Petition
    • For a properly filed H-1B petition: 
      A statement from the employer that the student is the beneficiary listed on a properly filed H-1B petition and proof of delivery to a USCIS Service Center showing the date of receipt
    • For a wait-listed H-1B petition: 
      A copy of the wait list letter from USCIS to the employer
    • For a receipted or approved H-1B petition:  
      A copy of the Form I-797

Student responsibilities during the "Cap Gap" period

Student must continue to meet his or her reporting requirements:

  • Report to their DSO within 10 days of:
    • Legal name changes
    • A change in residential or mailing address (update the "current" address field through Buckeyelink)
    • Changes in employment
    • Loss of employment
  • Providing us with a copy of the approval or denial notice once the petition has been adjudicated

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