Purpose of Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 Students

  • OPT provides practical training experience that directly relates to an F-1 student’s major area of study
  •  An F-1 student authorized for OPT may work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session and full-time (20 or more hours per week) when school is not in session
  • After completing their course of study, students also may participate in OPT for work experience
  • USCIS may authorize an F-1 student to have up to 12 months of OPT upon completion of their degree program
  • Certain F-1 students may be eligible for an extension of their OPT

Which Students are Eligible For an Extension?

An F-1 student who received a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) from an accredited and SEVP- certified school may apply for a 24-month extension of their optional practical training (OPT).

The Employers Must Satisfy the Following Conditions:

  • Employment must be directly related to the student’s major area of study
  • The employer must be enrolled in and be in good standing with E-Verify
  • The E-Verify company identification number is required for the student to apply to USCIS for the STEM extension using Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
  •  A STEM student may change employers or work at a different hiring site for the same employer, but the new employer or new hiring site must be enrolled in and be in good standing with E-Verify before the student begins their STEM OPT with the new employer or hiring site
  • Implementing a formal training plan to augment the student’s academic learning through practical experience.
  • Completing the employer’s portion and certifying Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students.
  • Reporting to the DSO and updating Form I-983 if there are any changes to or material deviations from the student’s formal training plan.
  • Reporting to the DSO when a student’s employment is terminated for any reason before the end of the authorized extension period.

What is “Cap-Gap”?

F-1 students who seek to change to H-1B status may be eligible for a cap-gap extension of status and employment authorization through September 30 of the calendar year for which the H-1B petition is being filed, but only if the H-1B status will begin on October 1. The term cap-gap refers to the period between the time a nonimmigrant’s F-1 student status would ordinarily end and their H-1B status begins.

There are Two Types of Cap-Gap Extensions:

  1. Extensions of F-1 status only (without OPT).
    If a student is in F-1 status when you file an H-1B petition with an October 1 start date, but the student is not currently participating in OPT, the student will receive a cap-gap extension of their F-1 status, but will not be authorized to work until USCIS approves the H-1B petition and the H-1B status begins on October 1.
  2. Extensions of F-1 status and OPT:

If a student is in F-1 status when you file an H-1B petition with an October 1 start date and is currently participating in post-completion OPT, they will receive an automatic cap-gap extension of both their F-1 student status and their authorized period of post-completion OPT

  • If the H-1B petition is selected and remains pending or is approved, the student will remain authorized to work as an F-1 student with OPT through September 30

The following documents establish identity and employment authorization for Form I-9 purposes for students who have had their status and employment authorization extended through cap-gap:

  • Expired EAD; and,
  • Form I-20 endorsed by the student’s DSO recommending the cap-gap extension

Please note these documents are acceptable through September 30 of the year in which the employer filed the H-1B petition unless the H-1B petition is rejected, not selected, denied, revoked or withdrawn before October 1.

Please note:

  • H-1B ERT registration does not officially start work authorization for those in F-1 status whose OPT EAD work authorizations expire before October 1, 2020, under what is known as the H-1B “cap-gap.”
  • An automatic work authorization will be extended when the H-1B petition for change of status is timely filed before the OPT EAD work permit expiration date. For example, if the EAD expires on May 16 the employers should file for H1B and not wait for 90 days from the notification date.
  • Therefore, to receive H-1B cap-gap benefits, those chosen for the H-1B cap under the H-1B ERT will need to submit the H-1B change of status petitions before the current OPT or STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) OPT EAD work authorization expires


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