F-1 students who have an H-1B petition that remains pending after October 1, 2018, risk accruing unlawful presence if they continue to work on or after October 1, 2018 (unless otherwise authorized to continue employment), as their “cap-gap” work authorization is only valid through September 30, 2018. Due to increased demand for immigration benefits, resulting in higher caseloads as well as a significant surge in premium processing requests, USCIS has not been able to adjudicate H-1B change of status petitions for all F-1 students by October 1, 2018.
USCIS regulations allow an F-1 student who is the beneficiary of a timely filed H-1B cap-subject petition requesting a change of status to H-1B on October 1, to have his or her F-1 status and any current employment authorization extended through September 30. This is referred to as “cap-gap,” meaning the regulations provide a way of filling the “gap” between the end of F-1 status and the beginning of H-1B status that might otherwise occur. The “cap-gap” period starts when an F-1 student’s status and work authorization expire, and they are extended through September 30, with October 1 being the requested start date of their H-1B employment, unless otherwise terminated or the H-1B petition is rejected or denied prior to October 1.
While the temporary suspension of premium processing of certain types of H-1B petitions has allowed USCIS to allocate additional resources to prioritize the adjudication of these cap-gap cases, if a cap-gap H-1B petition remains pending on or after October 1, the F-1 student is no longer authorized to work under the cap-gap regulations. However, the F-1 student generally may remain in the United States while the change of status petition is pending without accruing unlawful presence, provided they do not work without authorization. If an F-1 student with a pending change of status petition has work authorization (such as an I-765 with valid dates) that extends past September 30, they may continue to work as authorized.
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