How to Renew Driver’s License during OPT Cap-Gap?

Some states in America will issue driver’s licenses to international students only until their I-20 expiry dates. Such students’ driver’s licenses will expire on I-20 expiry date.

In order to get a driver’s license renewed during the OPT cap-gap, the US Immigration and Customs have released a fact sheet on how to get driver’s licenses renewed.

The following is an excerpt from the original document:

Renew Driver’s License during OPT Cap Gap

A student on the cap-gap extension should present an updated Form I-20 that shows the extension of stay.

If eligible for the cap-gap extension, a student’s SEVIS record should be updated with the extension (either through an interface with a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) database or by a DSO) when a cap-subject H-1B petition is filed on the nonimmigrant student’s behalf.

Once the SEVIS is updated, the DSO can print the updated Form I-20 and provide it to the nonimmigrant.

If the nonimmigrant has received an extension of F-1 status and OPT, the updated
Form I-20 should contain the following language on page 3:

“F-1 status and employment authorization for this student have been automatically extended to [extension end date].
The student is authorized to remain in the United States and continue employment with an expired employment authorization document.
This is pursuant to 8 CFR 214.2(f)(5)(iv) and 8 CFR 274a.12(b)(6)(iv), as updated April 8, 2008, in a rule published in the Federal Register (73 FR 18944).
Additional information about the automatic extension can be found on the Student and Exchange Visitor Program Web site at www.ice.gov/sevis.”

The DMV will use the information on page 3 to validate the student’s duration of status through   the end of the cap-gap extension.

When the student receives the approval notice for the H1-B petition, he or she should return to the DMV to present the Form I-797, Notice of Approval, and request that the DMV extend the driver’s license expiration date for a period of one year.

The student must return to the DMV every year to extend his or her license for the period of stay in the United States, unless otherwise stated by the DMV office.

For additional information on the cap-gap extension, please see SEVP’s guidance titled, "SEVP
Policy Guidance for DSOs on the OPT Extension."

Source: Applying for Driver’s License Fact Sheet.

33 Comments

  1. Harshali on June 11, 2018 at 1:35 PM

    I went to 2 different offices. Both of them couldn’t do it for me. The lady at the office showed me her screen. She mentioned even if she wanted to, she wouldn’t be able to issue me the license because the system doesn’t let her proceed to the next step.

    She didn’t have a solution to it. I don’t know what else to do!

    • Laksh S on June 18, 2018 at 1:05 AM

      I have the same issue, Went to 2 different offices, They couldn’t do anything. The best bet is, As Chetan said, we gonna have to use the expired EAD card no and ask them to send a verification letter to your mailing address, and it takes 5 business days and then you will be able to use that document to renew the license. I am still waiting for that letter.
      Thanks

  2. Prasanth on December 27, 2017 at 12:04 AM

    Hi,

    I have completed my Master’s just two weeks back. My opt will start in January 2nd week. My license will expire on February 12th. Right now I only have my OPT recommended I20. Can I submit my EAD card for renewal?

  3. vinith on November 9, 2016 at 3:38 PM

    My 12 month OPT has expired and so has my Drivers License on the same date. I have applied for the OPT STEM extension and the status shows Initial review. I have received my new I-20 stating completion of 1 year OPT and request for 17 month extension. Now the license issuing officer in Seguin, Texas (where I am currently residing), is not accepting the I-20 because it says OPT extension ‘requested’ and not ‘approved’. However the 3rd page on my I-20 does say that I will be working until January 2014. What do I have to do to get my driver’s license till the point I get my updated EAD card and corresponding status on I-20?
    Any guidance and help on this matter will be appreciated.
    Thanks.

  4. Imy on February 16, 2016 at 8:10 PM

    Right now I’m facing the same situation… I told DMV staff to request for SAVE program but they refused to do that. I’m thinking to contact congress man or senator’s office.

    • Raghuram Sukumar on February 17, 2016 at 7:14 AM

      Yes, you should do that. Or try different DMV.

  5. CHETAN VAHANESA on January 14, 2016 at 8:26 PM

    Here is my situation and how I solved this.
    – Post Completion OPT (Initial 1 year of OPT ) ends on Jan 25,2016. Current driving license(paper copy) expires on Dec12, 2015. DMV refused to extend my license or to issue a new license because the gap between those dates is less than 60 days. I had applied for the OPT STEM Extension so I talked with DMV supervisor, explained about the 180 days automatic extension we get (still, we do not have any documented proof for that fact apart from the government website which says the information is old and may be expired because of the court ruling out OPT Extension matter) while OPT Extension application is pending even after Post completion OPT ends. I showed my OPT Extension case acceptance Notice as well but they wanted some documented proof for my immigration status.
    Solution:
    I asked DMV the S.A.V.E. form. (“The SAVE Program will provide timely customer-focused immigration status information to authorized agencies in order to assist them in maintaining the integrity of their programs”. ). I emailed the filled form and required documents to S.A.V.E. program coordinator. Once they verified all the documents, within 7 business days, they emailed me a verification letter which contains information on my official immigration status. More specifically, they mentioned a date by which my immigration status is valid ( they did consider that 180 days automatic extension) so that DMV can put the same date as expire date on my license. This letter is particularly written in attention to DMV. I visited my DMV with this letter and the other documents needed for the driving license and they issued me a new license.

    • Raghuram Sukumar on January 15, 2016 at 7:09 AM

      Thanks Chetan. I think this is the best solution ever. I will email you for a quick chat to learn more about you 🙂

    • Debasish Guha Thakurta on July 20, 2017 at 6:17 PM

      Hi CHETAN,

      Thanks a lot for this informative post. Could you please let me know how to take advantage of the SAVE program. Where to get the forms & who to send it to?

  6. Chetan on May 14, 2015 at 2:35 PM

    I have my both H1-B ApplicationLetter (Cap-Gap) and Approval letter.
    So can i directly renew my license for 1 year from October 1st instead of visiting them twice (One for the Cap-Gap Time & again for 1 year H1-B Approved time) ?
    What if i show both my letters asking them to process them together ?
    Or maybe directly ask them to process only the Approval Letter for the next 1 year ? If yes, then when will my Licence becomes valid ? From Oct 1st or including the Cap-Gap Period ?

    • Raghuram Sukumar on May 14, 2015 at 3:14 PM

      Was your H1B approved just for 1 year? I would show the approval letter and get DL renewed till H1b approval date, but carry other document as well.

      • Chetan on May 18, 2015 at 8:10 PM

        I got a 3 year approval. So you mean we could get it approved for the next 1 year instead of only till October 1st even if i go right now. Is that correct ?

        • Raghuram Sukumar on May 18, 2015 at 8:13 PM

          Take the 3 year H1B approval and you should be able to get DL till end of your H1B expiry.

  7. Cathy on July 31, 2014 at 1:31 PM

    I went to DMV in NJ today. They refused to renew based on H1B approval letter. What an unfair situation!!!

    • Raghuram Sukumar on August 2, 2014 at 1:24 PM

      Try another DMV. If not, contact you Congress Member. They can help move things along.

  8. Ruthwick on June 3, 2014 at 9:11 PM

    My case is same as yours, when i went to renew my drivers licence with capgap I-20 they say that their system didn`t show my status. But I am in Texas, could you help me with procedure and links to get through this.

    • Neha Nayak on July 24, 2014 at 1:00 PM

      Hi! I am in the same situation as you. The DMV in Houston Texas did not accept my cap-gap I20 and asked me to get a letter from Homeland Security to prove my lawful presence. They say that since my H1B is pending (and that’s the only thing that shows up in their system) they can not help me without the letter. Were you able to renew your license? If yes, please share what did you do. Thanks a lot!

        • Neha Nayak on July 24, 2014 at 2:00 PM

          Yes. I have that on my I20 and tried to show that to the DMV lady. She did not care for it all. I’m going to another office today. Were you able to get yours based on the information on page 5?

          • Raghuram Sukumar on July 24, 2014 at 2:16 PM

            Neha – I’m the author of this blog :).

            Try different DMV. If they give the same answer, ask to speak to a supervisor. Take the print out of the document.



          • Neha Nayak on July 24, 2014 at 2:18 PM

            ohh! Got it! Thanks (0:



        • Anu on May 21, 2018 at 9:30 AM

          Thank you!

  9. Jay on February 10, 2013 at 2:46 AM

    I am also in the process of waiting for my OPT STEM Application (Still showing status as “Initial Review”) and I also haven’t been given an extension on my drivers license. Simply put, I am eligible to work and live in the USA but I am not able to drive my car. I’m located in San Jose, CA.

    • Vito on May 2, 2013 at 3:22 PM

      Hi I meet the same problem, I have my stem I-20 in hand but still wait for my OPT STEM EAD get approved, are you able to get you drivers license renewed now?

  10. Kedar on August 20, 2012 at 8:08 AM

    My 12 month OPT has expired and so has my Drivers License on the same date. I have applied for the OPT STEM extension and the status shows Initial review. I have received my new I-20 stating completion of 1 year OPT and request for 17 month extension. Now the license issuing officer in Seguin, Texas (where I am currently residing), is not accepting the I-20 because it says OPT extension ‘requested’ and not ‘approved’. However the 3rd page on my I-20 does say that I will be working until January 2014. What do I have to do to get my driver’s license till the point I get my updated EAD card and corresponding status on I-20?
    Any guidance and help on this matter will be appreciated.
    Thanks.

    • vinith on November 9, 2016 at 3:37 PM

      Hi Kedar,

      How did you solve your issue??
      I’m facing the same issue.

      Can you please suggest me what to do?

  11. Sam on July 3, 2012 at 9:57 PM

    Hello,
    My STEM OPT expired on 1st July as well as my Drivers license. I haven’t received my cap gap i20 as yet but my H1 was approved on 30th June and it’s valid for 1 year from 1st October. So can I renew my drivers license now? What will it be it’s validity? From 1st October or from today?

  12. P.Meow on June 9, 2012 at 1:02 PM

    Hello, I just went to the local BMV today to renew my driver’s license. I’m currently in OPT CAP GAP. The BMV refused my request, the director of the local branch told me they can only renew my DL to the date on my EAD card. I-20, doesn’t count. My EAD card and DL both expire by next week…the director said: “Sorry, not our problem!” And, guess what…even if I can get my H1B approval next week (which is very unlikely), I will have to pay $20 late fee because my DL will be expired by then! Again, the director said: “Sorry, but that’s the LAW” Yea, law, you win. FML. (I’m in OHIO by the way.)

    • Navin on August 6, 2012 at 1:48 PM

      I have the same problem as you had. Did you have any luck renewing your license before your H-1b approval? I am in North Dakota.

    • Mat on June 22, 2017 at 2:18 PM

      Hello, do you get any way to it? I need your advice, please.

      • zee on July 19, 2017 at 3:53 PM

        Same issue with me any luck sir?

    • sai on February 16, 2018 at 3:01 PM

      hi my opt will expire in 3 months and dmv say i need to have a minum stats of 6 months to get my license renewed

    • Anonymous on July 3, 2018 at 8:04 PM

      Hi P.MEOW,

      Its the same with me.

      I am in Texas. My license is about to expire in 2 weeks. I still didn’t get the approval for OPT extension nor the H1B approval. They refused to accept most updated I-20 (with the possible extension of OPT for 2 years and H1b Cap gap too). They strictly said that unless you bring the OPT card with an expiry date on that or an I-797 approved form. We do not renew your license.

      And also, I am changing my license from Michigan to Texas, so I do not have a previous texas license ID. If I couldn’t submit the required documents for renewal and change of state Drivers License, guess what I should rewrite the test and retake the Driving test in Texas.

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