f1 cap gap opt stem opt h1b 2021
H1B Visa

Warning for Cap-Gap for OPT & STEM OPT vs New FY 2021 H1B Process

Warning: Talk to your Immigration Attorney about the impact of New H1B Visa Lottery Registration and How it impacts your OPT or STEM OPT Cap-Gap. 

You are used to reading about the regular H1B Visa lottery process. But things are new this year.

With the New H1B Visa process comes new changes for F1 Visa holders who will be on Cap-Gap between April 1 to Sep 30th.

So, watch out!

Let me post a screenshot from NAFSA’s Advisory for College DSO’s

Practice Advisory on H1B FY 2021 F-1 Cap-Gap OPT STEM


Based on my limited knowledge of the new H1B Visa Registration Process, there are a group of F1 Students who have to pay close attention to the following dates:

  • The student’s OPT start and end dates
  • The end date of the student’s 60-day grace period following OPT
  • The H-1B initial registration period (March 1 – March 20, 2020)
  • The petitioner’s designated filing period
  • The significance of April 1, 2020
  • The requested October 1, 2020 start date
  • The date the employer files the H-1B petition requesting a change of status

So, what’s the big deal?

  • First: Understand how Cap-Gap worked for previous H1B Visa Season
  • Second: Understand how Cap-Gap will work for FY 2021 (from April 1, 2020)

F1 Visa OPT and STEM Cap-Gap Today

Here is an example from Fairleigh Dickinson University on how long Cap-Gap I-20 will be issued based on timely H1B filing.

opt cap gap extension h1b visa pending no receipt notice

By the way, there is one more possible date (July 28) that is seldom used these days. (Source: NAFSA)

h1b cap gap extension duration june 1 july 28 sep 30

Are you with me?

Did you understand the significance of June 1?

If you applied for H1B Visa on April 2019 and if your OPT or STEM OPT Expires after April 1 and before June 1:

  • If your employer has filed your H1B petition
  • You haven’t received the receipt notice
  • THEN you are eligible for a preliminary cap-gap extension until June 1.

Irrespective of H1B Lottery Results, you would get a Cap-Gap extension till June 1.

Now, that’s changing!

With the New H1B Visa Registration, the lottery results should be out by March 31!

  • Registration Dates: March 1 to 20
  • Lottery Selection Announced: March 21 to 31
  • H1B Application Filed: Within 90 days of Lottery Notification Date

Not Selected in Lottery?

As per the Attorney and DSO, I spoke with, USCIS is yet to issue guidance on OPT and STEM OPT Cap-Gap.

Here’s what the NAFSA Advisory says.

If you are not selected in the lottery AND your OPT or STEM expires after March 31, there’s no cap-gap.

For Example:

If your OPT is set to expire on April 15th, you could have received a cap-gap until June 1.

But, that option is not there this FY 2021 (unless USCIS says anything different).

Selected in Randon Selection of H1B?

If your H1B petition is selected, you would have 90 days to submit the LCA and H1B Visa petition with USCIS.

90 Day Clock could start from April 1 (and run till June 30).

What if your OPT Expires say on April 15th?

Your Immigration Attorney or Employer should file your H1B Petition to USCIS before April 15th.

If you wait for a full 90 days, you can’t get the Cap-Gap.


To be eligible for the Cap-Gap, the H1B visa petition should be filed timely (before OPT Expires or STEM OPT Expires) with COS and start date of Oct 1.

So, you have to notify your attorney about OPT Ends Date and Attorney, and your employer should ensure, after selection in Lottery, they send the Package ASAP.

This year, with the H1B Visa New Registration process, you could know the H1B Visa results by March 31, 2020.

  • If Selected in Lottery = File H1B Petition Before OPT Expires.
  • If Not Selected in Lottery = No Cap-Gap After OPT Expires.

Here’s what I would do if I were in this OPT or STEM OPT and Cap-Gap situation.

opt stem opt expires after h1b filed pending

Questions About Cap-Gap?

  • Please post your question in the comments
  • Share this post with your friend who will have Cap-Gap issues.

Applying for H1B Visa? Read the Following Articles

  1. H1B Visa 2021 – Registration, Lottery, Process and Dates (+ 15 FAQs)
  2. Sneak Peek Into H1B Visa Registration Tool [with Screenshots]
  3. New H1B Visa 2021 Process vs Old Lottery [Visual Guide]
  4. The Best Feature of H1B Visa Pre-Registration Tool is the Reserve Pool (+ 5 FAQ)
  5. 11 FAQ’s About H1B Visa Lottery Registration Tool (with a Solution to Stop Multiple Filings)


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  1. Hello Raghuram,

    My question is regarding STEM-OPT expiration.

    My Situation- I’m currently on STEM- OPT and it expires June 25th, 2020. My H1-B got picked in this year’s lottery and received notification from my employer. I’m working on documentation work to submit the docs to USCIS before my STEM OPT expires.

    Here is my question- I’m looking forward to utilizing my CAP-GAP till Oct 1st 2020 being optimistic towards H1-B approval. At the same time dont want to take a chance so looking to get admission into day-1 CPT college for August-2020. Am I going in the right direction here or do I need to get day-1 CPT admit before itself without using the CAP-GAP is my question ?

    Dilip Kolluri

  2. Hi, my STEM OPT extension expires on 5/31 but I found out that my h1b was selected in the lottery and received the i-797 form from my employer. What steps/documents are required to file cap-gap in this case? Thanks!

    1. Your attorney should file the H1B before STEM expire to get Cap-Gap. There’s nothing you can do, but send all the required docs as soon as you can.

  3. Hello Raghuram, As mentioned on the comment of 28th January that waitlists are no longer for 2021 then what happens to the candidate who are still in “submitted” state and have their stem extension expiring in April? Will we get any cap gap until the status is change?

    1. The submitted state will remain there. If any slots open (withdrawal, duplicate, etc) they could allocate to those in the submitted state. How that will be done is unknown.

  4. Hey, I have a question. What if OPT expires before 31st March. For eg., if OPT expires on 22nd March and company file my H1B. what can be done in this case? Will I be eligible for H1B document submission if I get selected in the lottery?

    1. Read about Grace period and what can be done during the grace period. When you apply for OPT, you have take this into account (when OPT will end, which is better if it’s after April)!

  5. Hello Raghu,

    I have question here.
    (This will be the case where STEM OPT is expiring this year)

    After the first lottery is over and I did not get picked in the lottery. Lets say I am under the wait list. For example on July 15th, there are still 6000 seats left and wait listed candidates gets picked. And now If I get picked, but my visa expires in June 5th. Then I can’t wait till July 15th right ?

    Our OPT should be extended till the wait list lottery is done right ?

    Is there any info about this ?

  6. What if the student gets wait-listed? Wont the STEM extend to July 28th? Need proper information on F-1 students who do not get picked in the lottery and are wait-listed. How does a student know whether he/she is wait-listed?

    1. I read that wait-listed is for legacy H1B. They used to have a waitlist and notify the applicants. It’s not there any longer.

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