“Cap Gap” Travel Restrictions for Students with Optional Practical Training Who Are Selected in the H-1B Cap Lottery

Students in F-1 status with Optional Practical Training (OPT or STEM OPT) that is valid at the time of filing an H-1B petition under the FY 2024 H-1B cap, and which requests a change of status from F-1 to H-1B, remain work authorized under the “cap gap” rule.  This means that even if their OPT or STEM OPT expires before their H-1B status begins on October 1, 2023, such students may continue working during this period under “cap gap” work authorization, which will be valid through September 30, 2023.

An F-1 student may generally travel abroad and seek readmission to the U.S. in F-1 status during the cap-cap period if:

1) Their H-1B petition and request for change of status have already been approved before their departure;

2) They seek readmission to the U.S. before their H-1B employment begins (normally this is October 1); and

3) They have a valid F-1 visa and a Form I-20 that reflects the cap-gap benefit and has a travel authorization signature (no older than 6 months).

We strongly recommend that F-1 students who plan to travel during the cap-gap period first check with their Designated School Official (DSO) to confirm that their SEVIS account remains active. Cap-gap is not available to those on curricular practical training (CPT).