International Students

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 six months of pre-completion OPT, they will only be eligible to apply for six months of post-completion OPT to work after graduation.

General guidelines

Important deadlines for pre-completion OPT

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
  4. Obtain an updated Form I-20 endorsed for pre-completion OPT
  5. Sign the updated Form I-20 prior to making the photocopy to be included in your application
  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

After the pre-completion period has begun:

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 Until this information is posted, please contact an immigration coordinator at to report any of the above mentioned required information.


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:

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:

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:

Student responsibilities during the "cap gap" period

Student must continue to meet his or her reporting requirements: