What if an F-1 student must travel outside the U.S. during the cap-gap period?

OPT employment authorization and Duration of Status (D/S) are extended automatically for an F-1 student who is the beneficiary of a timely filed H-1B petition requesting change of status with a start date of October 1st. This permits an F-1 student to remain in status and continue working until the H-1B is approved and the H-1B employment begins. If the H-1B petition is denied, rejected, or withdrawn, the cap-gap extension terminates.

If a student must travel outside of the U.S. during the cap-gap period, he or she should have a valid EAD (Employment Authorization Document), along with a valid passport, F-1 visa, signed I-20, and employer letter to present upon re-entry. Entry into the U.S. will not be granted based only on the cap-gap extension if the EAD is expired.

Whenever an individual seeks admission to the United States, admissibility is determined at the time the individual applies for admission at a port of entry. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) makes such determinations after inspecting the applicant for admission. If an individual must travel during the cap-gap extension period, he or she should be prepared to apply for an H-1B visa outside the U.S. and adjust return travel plans accordingly. Under the H-1B regulations, entry to the U.S. is permitted only up to 10 days prior to October 1st.